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Bendigo Catholic education boss 'unsettled' as COVID-19 cases see diocese close Bendigo schools

ABC Health logo ABC Health 30/07/2020 By Beth Gibson, Fiona Parker and Tyrone Dalton
a sign on the side of a building: Three Catholic colleges have closed across Bendigo after a student and a staff member tested positive to coronavirus. (ABC Central Victoria / Tyrone Dalton) © Provided by ABC Health Three Catholic colleges have closed across Bendigo after a student and a staff member tested positive to coronavirus. (ABC Central Victoria / Tyrone Dalton)

The head of Catholic colleges across Bendigo forced to closed due to coronavirus infections says he is worried over the lack of communication from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) about contact tracing.

A student at Catherine McAuley College and a teacher at St Joseph's Primary School in Quarry Hill both tested positive.

Paul Desmond, the director of Catholic education Sandhurst, told ABC Central Victoria Breakfast he was "unsettled" by the lack of contact tracing taking place on Thursday morning.

"I'm feeling a little bit unsettled by it, but I'm remaining hope filled. If I heard today how those things were being attended to then I would feel better," he said.

"The immediate reaction [by DHHS] was ideal, the follow-up I can't comment on because to the best of our knowledge there hasn't been a follow-up as yet."

Mr Desmond said it would be almost impossible for the school to do its own contact tracing.

"I'd be more likely once the phone ticks past 9, to be on the phone to DHHS to ask them what they are doing so I can keep these communities informed and calmed," he said.

"I'd like to be able to reassure parents that contact tracing has been deemed essential and has commenced."

Holy Rosary Heathcote has also been closed as a precaution, due to a link with one of the cases.

The health department has been contacted for comment.

Mr Desmond said the people who tested positive left school when they began feeling unwell but were likely at school when they had had COVID-19.

The schools will remain closed until August 5 while deep cleaning and contract tracing is undertaken.

A positive case has also been linked to Girton Grammar's senior college in Bendigo. A family member of a student has tested positive, but the school will remain open.

Communication a problem

A worker at Royal Freemasons aged care home in Kangaroo Flat has also tested positive. Management said the person last worked at the site last Thursday.

Jan Clarridge's mother is a resident at the aged care home, and she said her heart sank when she was told by the media that there was a COVID-19 case.

She said a lack of communication was an issue and families had not been given a plan to say what would happen if there were a positive case.

"It was very distressing to know that something was going on and it was quite a number of hours later (before I was told)," she said.

On Thursday, Bendigo Health chief executive Peter Faulkner said there were two patients being treated in hospital for COVID-19.

He said if a person tested positive at the hospital, the hospital would do the contact tracing.

Another Department of Education employee who worked at the Malmsbury Youth Justice Centre has also tested positive to the coronavirus.

It brings the total number of positive cases associated with Malmsbury to eight.

The Department of Justice said the centre remained in partial lockdown, with some young people still locked in their rooms.

An outbreak linked to the Don KR at Castlemaine remained at 10 and the company said 800 of its 1,300 workers had now tested negative.

The official health department numbers for Central Victoria were expected to go up tomorrow to reflect the new cases at schools and Freemasons Bendigo.

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