Health officials in Halton Region say Ontario’s second coronavirus-linked death, a Milton man in his 50s, is a case of community transmission.
“At this time what we know is that the individual did not travel outside of Canada recently nor was he a contact of a known case of COVID-19,” Dr Hamidah Meghani, Halton’s medical officer of health, said at a news conference on Thursday.
An additional 44 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Ontario on Thursday, bringing the provincial total to 258 including two deaths and five resolved cases. Of those confirmed cases, 22 are currently hospitalized. The province remains under a state of emergency.
Meghani said the man had an underlying health condition, and that he had initially been treated at Milton District Hospital, but was transferred yesterday to Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital where he died the same day.
“We need to act now, this is the tragic proof that we need to work together to slow down the spread of COVID-19, not only as individuals but as a community, we need to take this seriously,” Meghani said.
“Gatherings and parties can wait, play dates can wait, some of your errands can also wait, allow your life to pause. Focus on what is important.”
Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province’s coroner will investigate to confirm whether or not coronavirus was the main cause of the man’s death.
Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, confirmed Thursday the death was COVID-19-related. She said so far they have not identified a connection to the case with travel, but cautioned that they are not finished with the investigation.
“It’ll take a few days and they may or may not be able to determine where he got it,” Yaffe said.
Most cases come after travelling internationally
Of the confirmed cases in Ontario, 80 per cent of the patients have travelled outside of Canada. Of those cases, 28 per cent returned from the U.S. and 26 per cent travelled in Europe, Yaffe said.
The most common U.S. states infected patients have travelled from are New York, Colorado, California, Nevada and Massachusetts.
Fifteen per cent of all cases in Ontario come from close contact with an infected individual.
Cases in the province are expected to rise as thousands of Canadians continue to return home from abroad, said Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical health officer.
“The 45 [new cases] today seems surprisingly low with the flow coming in, but I won’t be surprised if it goes up,” Williams said.
Hospitals see same screening as long-term care homes
Hospitals in the province are now rigorously screening visitors in the same way long-term care homes have been. Anyone who has travelled in the last 14 days or has come into contact with someone who has will be turned away.
“If you’re ill you should not be visiting,” Williams said.
However, if someone is there to see a loved one they may be able to negotiate with the facility on a case-by-case basis. They may be asked to take special precautions, like wearing protective clothing and masks.
Concerns over waits for test results
The number of cases under investigation in the province stands at 3,972. Health professionals told CBC Toronto on Wednesday that the wait period for test results in the province is currently between five and seven days.
This means the new infection numbers being reported each day actually represent the spread of the virus several days ago, raising questions about the actual current rate of transmission.
One of the new Ontario patients, a man in his 80s in Durham Region, is hospitalized.
But information on whether people are self-isolating or hospitalized, their ages and regions, as well as how they were infected, is listed as “pending” for more than half the new cases.
Updated numbers are expected from Ontario Public Health again at 5:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, Elliott announced that following technical difficulties with the Telehealth Ontario line, the province has added an additional 1,300 lines. There are now more than 2,000 lines available at the service.
Emergency bill passes unanimously
The provincial legislature passed emergency legislation Thursday aimed at protecting workers who are forced to stay home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Premier Doug Ford promised the bill earlier this week and said it applies to employees under investigation, supervision or treatment for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Workers in isolation or in quarantine and those who need to provide care to a person for a reason related to COVID-19, including for a school or daycare closure, will also be protected by the bill. And employees are now exempt from needing to show a doctor’s note to get time off.
The measure is retroactive to Jan. 25, 2020 — the date the first presumptive case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the province.
At the news conference with Elliott, Ford said that other measures the…
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