Coronavirus: Simcoe Muskoka health unit confirms first local COVID-19 case

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Speaking to reporters at Queen's Park on Wednesday following his meeting with NDP leader Andrea Horwath, Ontario Premier Doug Ford struck a message of national unity when he said all Canadians should come together to help combat the spread of COVID-19. – Mar 11, 2020

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit is reporting the region’s first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, in a local resident who had recently travelled to Germany and Spain.

According to the health unit, the individual is self-isolating and is recovering at home.

The man in his 40s was tested at the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre in Barrie, Ont., on Monday.

“We are now assessing potential community contacts,” the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s medical officer of health, Charles Gardner, said in an interview with Global News Thursday.

“There certainly were household contacts, family contacts, so we’re assessing that.”

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Gardner said there’s no evidence of community transmission in Simcoe County and Muskoka at this time.

“The risk could increase very quickly over time,” he added.

Gardner said the health unit has been giving advice to family practice leaders and hospitals about setting up assessment centres, so that people can get tested more readily once COVID-19 becomes more established in the community.

“I’ve actually seen seven sites listed,” he said. “All of them would need better access to personal protective equipment and funding to be able to operate.”

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RVH president and CEO Janice Skot said in a statement that the hospital is safe for patients and visitors.

“Our health centre remains open, and clinics and procedures continue to operate as normal,” she said.


Within the city of Barrie, staff are ensuring increased sanitation practices on all common touch points and public spaces at city facilities and on Barrie Transit buses, Scott LaMantia, Barrie’s senior communications adviser, said in an email to Global News on Thursday.

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“The public are being asked to stay home if feeling unwell,” LaMantia said, adding public education focusing on handwashing and cough etiquette is also being increased at all city facilities and buses.

“The city is working closely with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit and monitoring the global situation in order to respond,” LaMantia added.

“We will follow the operational recommendations of the health unit regarding events and public gatherings. At this time, there are no cancellations planned and our city facilities remain open.

On Thursday, the Ontairo government ordered all publicly funded schools to be closed for two weeks after March break due to concerns surrounding COVID-19.

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“We’re very happy about that because respiratory infections, viruses can be propagated through our schools and then affect the whole community,” Gardner said.

“We’re happy that venues are starting to be closed on their own. We are starting to position that venues should be closing on their own.”

On Thursday, Ontario announced 17 confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the province’s total to 59. As of March 12, there are 140 confirmed cases in Canada.

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