Public Health, business owners address COVID-19 outbreak at Kingston nail salon

The lineup of those awaiting COVID-19 tests in Kingston stretched around the Memorial Centre and down Alfred Street on Thursday, Jun. 25, 2020. Photo by Lucas Mulder.

At least 10 people have become infected with COVID-19 as the result of an outbreak at Binh’s Nail and Spa in Kingston’s west end.

At a press conference held on Skype on the afternoon of Thursday, Jun. 25, 2020, Dr. Kieran Moore, the Medical Officer of Health for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health addressed the media about this current outbreak, explaining how Public Health was able to link new cases of COVID-19 to the business. According to Moore, that tracking all began on Friday, Jun. 19, 2020, when a healthcare worker with Kingston Health Sciences Centre tested positive for the virus.

“Clearly, any time we get an indication of a healthcare worker that has tested positive, we get concerned about the risk within the work setting, and we worked diligently with Kingston Health Sciences Centre to try to get information regarding any risk from the work setting,” Moore said, noting that KHSC did rapid testing of all patients in that environment, and also tested any other associated staff.

“All tests in that environment were negative. That clearly led us to continue our investigation to look at any risk for this individual to acquire the infection in the community,” he continued.

“At the same time that we had that one individual test positive, we had a number of positives this week. And our nurse detectives working with our public health inspectors investigated a case of a young child that had COVID-19, as well as a couple who came down with COVID-19.”

Through that investigation and asking those people if they had been in any personal service settings, Public Health workers were able to find an initial connection between two of the individuals, which led them to investigate Binh’s Nail and Spa.

“We sent inspectors immediately with nurses to that workplace, and we tested all workers in that environment,” Moore said, noting that the tests were actually done on site at the nail salon. “This morning we received three positive cases from workers in that environment.”

That confirmed that there was a link between the members of the community who were testing positive and the nail salon, Moore explained, and since then, Public Health has found that at least three individuals who visited that spa who tested positive, and two individuals who had contact with those people have also tested positive.

“The total number of cases linked to the venue is 10 at present. So that’s a pretty significant outbreak from our vantage point,” Moore said. “This investigation is very much active and ongoing.”

Public Health stated over 500 customers visited the nail salon between Friday, Jun. 12 and Wednesday, Jun. 24, 2020. A total of 10 people work in the salon.

Moore explained that Public Health did find some deficiencies in the business, including a lack of adequate hand hygiene, incomplete record keeping (including a lack of phone numbers for past clients), and some issues with physical distancing throughout the nail salon.

“We thought they could have done better with physical distancing within their venue,” Moore said, adding that screening of employees wasn’t taking place before each shift.

“We want active screening, we want passive screening, when you arrive there should be signage [that] no one should enter this workplace without being asked if they’ve got signs or symptoms compatible with COVID-19,” he continued. “When you go into these venues when you can’t physically distance, you must wear a mask to separate yourself and decrease the risk.”

Moore explained that Public Health has closed Binh’s Nail and Spa, and that it will not be reopened without meeting Public Health’s recommendations on infection prevention and control, and the correct policy and procedures with its staff.

Moore noted that it is unknown at this point how COVID-19 got into the nail salon, and said that Public Health is currently questioning those who work to understand their travel and contact history. He also noted just how busy Binh’s Nail and Spa is, explaining that, since the notification of the outbreak was sent out early on Thursday, Jun. 25, 2020, a number of healthcare workers, workers in long-term care or retirement homes, and members of the local police force have been sent home to self-isolate having been in the salon.

Moore said that at least 250 people in Kingston were tested for COVID-19 today.

“Hundreds of people are being tested that could be associated with this site,” he said.

Although Public Health inspectors were not proactively investigating nail salons and similar businesses prior to this outbreak, they may begin to do so now, Moore said. He also emphasized that there is responsibility to be taken on the part of the customer, as well.

“Right now, it really is dependent upon the business to take this seriously. If you are a client going into a venue where people aren’t masked, where you aren’t seeing adequate physical distancing, where you’re not seeing good hand hygiene, you should walk out and leave. You can report that business to us at KFL&A Public Health,” he said, noting that Public Health has begun to fine businesses that are not in compliance with current guidelines and restrictions.

“We work now with Kingston Police and Ontario Provincial Police and City and Bylaw officers and our own inspectors to enforce the Civil Protection Act, as well as the inspection of these businesses. And we’re doing so actively and aggressively,” he said.

Moore concluded by expressing that we, as a community, must continue to be both compassionate and proactive, and that we must learn from this experience. “This is a second wave for us,” he said, adding that the KFL&A area will see more waves in the weeks and months to come. “We must learn from this experience and move forward together.”

Business owners address the community

In the meantime, the owners of Binh’s Nails have reached out with a message for the people of Kingston.

“We apologize for this, and would like all our customers to get tested,” said Harold Hemberger, husband of Binh Nguyen.  

Nguyen herself has tested positive for COVID-19. Hemberger is awaiting the results of his own test from this morning. He noted that the salon had installed plexiglass as a precautionary measure prior to re-opening the salon.

“From what we understand, it came from a mother and daughter. We would like to tell all of our customers from June 12th on to get tested.”

Hemberger said Nguyen is personally going through her appointment book, to call everyone that came through the salon. 

KFL&A Public Health has also requested that all clients who have sought services at this salon between June 12 and June 24, 2020 self-isolate and to get tested. Once tested, clients are required to quarantine for 14 days from the date of their appointment, regardless of test results.

With files from Samantha Butler-Hassan.

One thought on “Public Health, business owners address COVID-19 outbreak at Kingston nail salon

  • I am going to honestly lose my mind if a second wave is created but a bunch of vane people having their nails done in an obviously unsafe environment during a pandemic. Why is a nail salon open when indoor seating at restaurants and Gyms are still forced to stay closed? I have been waiting for orthopedic surgery since November (that will allow me to live and walk normally). I’m told if a second wave comes, the wait could continue indefinitely. Obviously you cannot “legislate” common sense and intelligence, but what message were the Mom’s in this story sending to their kids. We may get really sick and spread it to our family and friends, but our nails will be pretty…….. OMG!!

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