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Toronto confirms first COVID-19 death; York Region reports death; at least 13 frontline workers test positive; Ontario COVID-19 cases up 47 to 424


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Toronto Public Health (TPH) says a man in his 70s is the first person in the city to die from COVID-19 since the coronavirus outbreak began.


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In a statement released Sunday afternoon, officials said the man recently travelled to the United Kingdom.


“He was tested at a hospital in Toronto and immediately began self-isolation at home,” the statement said.


“He was reported to TPH by the hospital and a case investigation was completed.”


However, the department said the man went to Trillium Health Partners – Mississauga Hospital for follow-up care on March 14. He died on Saturday.


As of Sunday, there were a total of 220 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Toronto. Across Ontario, there were a total of 424 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Before the announcement Sunday afternoon, the province said there were three deaths connected to COVID-19.


Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, reiterated the plea for people to restrict their interactions with others.


“Today is a very sad day for us and especially the family and loved ones of the man who passed away,” she said in the statement while extending her condolences.


“I’m asking everyone again to make every effort and take every opportunity to practice social distancing. Please stay home, stay safe and take care of each other.”


BREAKING: York Region reports first death due to COVID-19

Coronavirus outbreak declared at Markhaven Home for Seniors. 'Signals local transmission is occurring': Chief medical officer of health


A woman in her 70s is York’s first COVID-19-related death, according to a statement issued by the Region of York late Sunday.


The City of Markham resident returned from international travel on Saturday, March 21 and died shortly thereafter.


“York Region extends their deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of the individual,” said Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region’s Medical Officer of Health. 



“This case speaks to the seriousness of the current situation and how as a community we need to continue working together to protect one another.”


York Region also reported seven newly-confirmed cases of COVID-19 earlier today, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 44. This total count includes yesterday’s announcement of the confirmed case of a resident living in Markhaven Home for Seniors.


As part of the ongoing investigation and based on the expert advice from Public Health Ontario, a COVID-19 outbreak at the Markhaven Home for Seniors in the City of Markham has now been declared, which means anyone with symptoms at the facility is assumed to be a positive case of COVID-19.


York Region Public Health continues to work closely with the staff and residents at Markhaven, and all long-term care centres in the Region.


“We now cannot rule out local transmission in York Region,” added Dr. Kurji. "These unfortunate signals are indications of progression of the virus in our community. Local transmission is defined as individuals who did not have close contact with a travel-related case or any known case of COVID-19.”


To prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to protect our community, York Region Public Health encourages residents to avoid crowds, stay at home when possible and practice social distancing and maintain good hand hygiene. Even with newly confirmed cases, these measures will help slow the spread of COVID-19.


At least thirteen Toronto health care professionals — doctors, nurses and long term care workers — have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Toronto Public Health.


Tied in to this revelation is a new testing directive in Toronto where public health is focusing its testing efforts on people who work in healthcare settings, homeless shelters or other places where the nature of their job puts them in contact with large groups of people.


“At this time there have been approximately 13 healthcare workers who have tested positive for COVID-19,” said Dr. Michael Finkelstein, Toronto’s Acting Director of Communicable Disease Control and Associate Medical Officer of Health.



Finkelstein released the information to the Star in response to questions related to the high risk of health professionals during the pandemic.


“It is important to note that as the situation evolves, it is expected that this number will continue to change daily,” Finkelstein said.


Toronto Public Health will not say how many are doctors, how many nurses, and how many are personal support or social workers in health care settings. All thirteen Toronto healthcare professionals are self isolating, according to Toronto Public Health. Officials would not say if any had to be hospitalized.


Finkelstein said it is vital that “all healthcare workers should track how they feel closely.” He said they need to “diligently monitor themselves for signs of illness over the course of the pandemic” and sell their manager if they feel unwell.


Healthcare workers on the frontline of the epidemic take different precautions depending on where they work. Doctors and nurses seeing patients in an office do not typically have the same precautionary equipment as, for example, doctors and nurses working in public health or hospital settings.


At one large hospital in Toronto, a patient told the Star that she was met by a nurse in “full protective gear” and taken to an assessment room for the COVID-19 test, which typically involves a nose and throat swab. As soon as the patient left the waiting room, another person in protective gear came and wiped down the chair the patient was sitting in.


Toronto Public Health’s Dr. Finkelstein reiterated the importance for all people — health care professionals and non health care professionals — to “limit their social interactions as much as possible.”


Corresponding with the concern over healthcare professionals who are on the front line, Toronto Public Health has made a change in its testing regime. This relates to the COVID-19 tests that are done at the assessment centres in Toronto.


“Due to evidence of community spread of COVID-19 in Toronto, the assessment centers in the Toronto Region will be shifting their focus to people who are at risk of transmitting COVID-19 to large groups of people,” says a directive by Toronto Public Health issued Friday. “Everyone else, even those with mild symptoms who have returned from travel, do not need testing unless they get sick enough to go to an emergency department.”


Medical sources have told the Star this shift is due to the current scarcity of testing kits and the fear that submitting too many tests into an already overburdened testing system will create an even bigger backlog. Public Health Ontario and hospitals are working on ramping up their testing ability in the province to handle 5,000 tests a day, a goal that is still two weeks away.



In its new directive from Friday, Toronto Public Health states that people with “mild” COVID-19 symptoms who are not at high-risk of transmission to larger groups” shoul dnot go to one of the assessment centres for a test. Instead they should self-isolate for 14 days.


Toronto Public Health defines “mild” symptoms as “mild symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection (cough, sore throat, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, runny nose, and joint aches, and may also include nausea, diarrhea and stomach pains) OR fever.”


But if people have these “mild” symptoms and work in any healthcare setting (hospital, long term care, retirement home, paramedics etc) or in settings that include homeless shelters or correctional facilities), Toronto Public Health states they should visit an assessment center.


As for the general public, Toronto Public Health states that if their mild symptoms are accompanied by unusual shortness of breath, chest pains, lethargy or drowziness they should go to emergency.


As of Saturday, Toronto Toronto Public Health has had 193 cases of COVID-19 reported in Toronto. Ten of these people are hospitalized and of these, six are receiving care in the Intensive Care Unit. To date, there have been four other people diagnosed with COVID-19 who have recovered from their illness.


The daily briefing does not provide detail on the professions or the specific location where the person was believed to have been infected.


Ontario has confirmed 48 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of people to test positive for the virus province-wide to 425.


The increase comes after the province confirmed a record 60 new cases on Friday and 59 on Saturday.


The number of recoveries has increased from six to eight in the latest data while the number of fatalities involving people who have tested positive rise to five after Toronto Public Health and York Region Public Health reported their first COVID-19 deaths on Sunday afternoon.


Few details are known about the new cases at this point as the vast majority have their location and means of transmission listed as “pending.”


Of the seven cases with some information provided one is in Toronto, one is in Peel Region and one is in Hamilton.


A means of transmission is only listed for three of the cases. Two of those cases involve people who recently returned from travelling to the Caribbean while another involves a “close contact” of someone who had previously tested positive for COVID-19.


Of note, the number of tests for which the results are still pending continues to rise. The province says that 8,361 people are still under investigation, up 1,122 from one day previous.


The total number of cases across Canada now stands at 1,384, including 21 deaths.








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