Wellington County has had its first confirmed case of COVID-19, but the novel coronavirus has not yet touched the City of Guelph. The announcement came Sunday afternoon that one of the news cases of COVID-19 was diagnosed close to home, and the 66-year-old man who was diagnosed with it, and is now recovering at Louise Marshall Hospital in Mount Forest, has no history of travel, or contact with a known case.
“This is evidence that the COVID-19 virus is circulating in our community and you can get it from another person.’ said Dr. Nicole Mercer, Medical Officer of Health and CEO of Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, in a statement. “It is very important for individuals to maintain social distancing. That means staying two arm lengths or six feet from anyone except immediate family.”
Public Health is renewing its call for everyone to observe the basics to prevent the further spread of COVID-19: social distancing, frequent hand washing, and staying at home if you if you have symptoms like a cough, fever, or respiratory distress. They’re also asking the public to keep excursions outside to a minimum, and only when it’s necessary like a trip to the grocery store or the doctor’s office.
This is the second confirmed case of COVID-19 in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health’s coverage area. The first was almost a week ago with the case of a man in his 40s who returned home following a trip to Atlanta, GA. He was diagnosed at the Headwaters Health Care Centre in Orangeville, where one of WDGPH’s two COVID-19 assessment centres is set-up.
This news comes on the same day as Toronto Public Health announced the first death of someone from COVID-19 in that city, a man in his 70s who recently returned home from the United Kingdom. The total number of fatalities from COVID-19 in Ontario so far is five.
As of Sunday night, the total number of confirmed positive cases in Ontario is 412. Another 8,361 cases are currently under investigation, and eight have been resolved.
Closer to home, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Waterloo Region went up to 15 on Sunday with a male in his 20s catching the virus after being in close contact with someone who was already infected. He was diagnosed at Grand River Hospital.
Meanwhile, down the road from Grand River Hospital at St. Mary’s, President Lee Fairclough confirmed that over 50 staff members were at risk of potential exposure on Thursday March 19. Six members of St. Mary’s staff have already been referred to Waterloo Region Public Health for fast tracking testing.
“A field visit by the Ministry of Labour at St. Mary’s occurred on March 12 to assess the organization’s preparedness for COVID-19 infection prevention and control,” Fairclough said in a statement. “This visit included an administrative review of St. Mary’s measures and procedures for COVID-19, which included personal protective equipment and appropriate access to it. The Ministry was satisfied with our preparedness.”
The Ontario Nurses Association raised a red flag on Saturday when they released a media statement saying that St. Mary’s was not taking all the proper precautions to protect frontline workers.
“This is a clear example of what should never happen in health care,” said ONA President Vicki McKenna,. “This province cannot afford to take chances with the health of our front-line nurses and health-care workers – patients will need them more than ever in the coming weeks.”
Fairclough said that she reached out to McKenna, and assured the head of the ONA that the safety of nurses and hospital staff was the foremost priority.
“We continue to take this matter very seriously. It is an understandable time of worry for all involved, particularly health care workers, and our approach has been to communicate, support their training as needed, and ensure we’ve got the right policies and practices in place for their safety,” Fairclough explained.