Five more cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Ontario, raising provincial total to 42
TORONTO -- Ontario health officials have confirmed five more cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), including four patients in the Greater Toronto Area and one in Ottawa, which brings the provincial total to 42.
Four of the new cases were announced on Wednesday morning and another was reported that evening just after officials provided an update into the province’s response to the spread of the virus.
While COVID-19 has not begun circulating locally in the province, the “global circumstances” are making it “inevitable,” Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe said on Wednesday afternoon at Queen’s Park.
“There have been a number of new cases reported in Ontario – some with some unique characteristics,” she said. “Certainly in the last 24 hours there has been an uptick in the number of cases and cases with different characteristics than before.”
“It’s concerning – we are very carefully monitoring it.”
The new patients in the province include a woman in her 30s, who recently travelled to Egypt. She presented herself to Mackenzie Health Hospital in Richmond Hill and now remains at home in self-isolation. York Public Health is monitoring her situation.
Two of the other patients are a man in his 30s and a woman in her 30s, who both recently travelled to the United States. The man sought care at Toronto Western Hospital and the woman attended Hamilton Health Sciences.
Toronto Public Health is monitoring his situation, while Halton Public Health is monitoring hers. They both remain at their homes in self-isolation.
The woman who sought treatment in Hamilton on March 9 is a doctor at the hospital’s Juravinski Cancer Centre. She was working at the hospital on the afternoon of March 9, seeing patients and interacting with colleagues and staff.
The fourth patient confirmed on Wednesday is a man in his 40s, who recently travelled to Austria. He was treated at The Ottawa Hospital before being released to self-isolate at home. He is being monitored by Ottawa Public Health.
The fifth patient is a woman in her 40s who was seen at the St. Joseph's Health Centre in Toronto. Officials said she had a recent history of travel to the United States. She is now in self-isolation and Toronto Public Health is monitoring her situation.
Five of the province’s 42 cases of COVID-19 have since recovered, officials said.
All of the recovered patients have had two consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart.
Concern of local spread
On Wednesday, health officials in Sudbury, Ont. said the province’s 37th confirmed case of the virus, a man in his 50s, did not travel internationally before becoming ill.
Officials said the man, who attended a Toronto mining conference on March 2 and 3, went to the emergency department of Health Sciences North on March 7. He remains at home in self-isolation.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Federal Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan were also in attendance of the conference.
On Wednesday, Yaffe said “this is not a case of community transmission.”
“To me a case of community transmission would be a case where there’s no travel history and you don’t have any epidemiological link to another case,” she said. “That is you don’t have any idea where they got it.”
“With this person… it is likely he acquired it at that conference – there were 23,000 people from many countries.”
Yaffe added that “although the risk in general is low, it seems that’s probably where he got it.”
Canada’s first apparent case of community transmission was reported in British Columbia on March 5.
Attendees of large events reminded to monitor health
Going forward, Yaffe said that prior to hosting any large events in Toronto or anywhere else in Ontario, organizers should reach out to their local public health unit to see what the risk is.
She said there are “a number of factors” that need to be considered in each circumstance.
“It’s not a yes or no answer, it’s a consider this and that,” Yaffe said in response to being asked if large events in the province should be called off for the time being.
A number of major events that were set to take place in Toronto in the coming weeks and months have recently been cancelled or postponed, including a major technology conference, a Shopify convention and multiple concerts.
Ford announces $100M to help fight COVID-19
On Wednesday afternoon, Ford announced that the government would be setting aside $100 million to help fight COVID-19 in the province.
The funding would be in addition to the province’s cut of the $1 billion promised by the federal government to help mitigate the impacts of the virus.
Ford said the additional money is for a “contingency plan” and further details will be rolled out at a later date.
“As this rolls forward we have 41 confirmed cases, you see how quickly this is moving,” he said. “As it changes, our plans are being tweaked.”
Ontario’s Minister of Health Christine Elliott said that the province is ready if the outbreak grows past the “containment phase” and becomes community spread.
“We are ready. We are very nimble. We are ready to take action with whatever presents itself.”
Ford is scheduled to travel to Ottawa on Thursday to meet with other premiers, as well as the prime minister’s office, to discuss the outbreak.
“This isn’t the time for politics, it’s a time that we stick together, stick together as a province, we stick together as a country and we help each other out,” Ford said.
There have been 110 cases of the virus reported in the country thus far. One of those patients, a man in his 80s, died as a result. Officials noted that the man, who was a resident of a care home in North Vancouver’s Lynn Valley, had a number of underlying health issues.