A couple in their 50s who likely acquired COVID-19 from contact aboard a cruise ship are Grey-Bruce’s first two confirmed cases of the virus.
The Grey Bruce Health Unit announced in a news release early Sunday afternoon that it had received laboratory confirmation of the two cases.
The cases are a related couple, a 58-year-old man and a 58-year-old woman, who are residents of Grey-Bruce. They were notified as part of contact tracing from a confirmed case on a cruise ship, and presented to a local health-care facility where testing was ordered, the release said.
Hospital staff took all the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of the staff and other patients. The man and woman continue to self-isolate at home, the release said.
The health unit is investigating any contacts they may have had.
Later Sunday, Grey Bruce Health Services issued a release stating that one of the individuals works at the Owen Sound hospital and that the person is at home and feeling well.
“This individual does not provide patient care, and was not experiencing any symptoms while working at GBHS,” the release said. “The GBHS family is sending their best wishes to the couple for a full recovery.”
A public health spokesperson said they would not be identifying what part of Grey-Bruce the couple is from or which hospital they went to. Drew Ferguson said the cruise ship related to the couple was the Celebrity Summit, which visits Carribean destinations.
As part of an escalating response to safeguard the health of the community, the health unit has enhanced its infectious disease response capabilities to prevent or decrease further transmission of the virus in Grey-Bruce.
Medical Officer of Health Dr. Ian Arra said Monday the reason for not identifying the community the couple is from is because it wouldn’t change the risk presented to the public because investigation of the contacts with others would be rigorously followed up regardless where they’re from.
“If they have symptoms it will be self-isolation right away and testing. And if they have no symptoms it will be self-monitor, be aware of this. And to my delight, most of these contacts that we are following up or potential cases in general not related to this are doing the right thing,” he said.
“Again, I would not worry about the risk of the cases that are identified. This is the easiest part for containment.”
He added that when small, local communities are involved, saying someone’s been on a cruise could tend to identify the people.
“As appropriate infection control measures were followed, this first case does not change the overall low likelihood of individuals in Grey Bruce catching the virus,” Arra said in the release on the weekend. “Residents should continue to protect themselves and others around them from the spread of germs and viruses by taking the usual precautions including frequent hand washing.”
The health unit has been working closely with healthcare, municipal and private sector partners to support their response. As well, the health unit continues to work closely with provincial and national partners to monitor and detect any cases of COVID-19 in the community.
Arra said Sunday afternoon that the positive cases are not going to change much in the bigger picture.
“It is expected, it is not surprising that it happened and I would be surprised if didn’t happen at some point,” Arra said.
“When are we going to pull the trigger and tell everyone to stay home? We might get to this in a few weeks,but not now.”
Officials have so far been focusing on containing the virus, Arra explained
The next stage of their efforts, mitigation, which is flattening the curve of cases, will come when the disease starts to be spread in the community, similar to when influenza arrives in the community, Arra said.
“In the bigger picture, this is heading to community spread, no question,” Arra said. “Today, tomorrow, in a few days, in a few weeks, it is going to happen.”
He applauded the steps already taken by the province to close schools for two weeks, stopping social gatherings of more than 250 people, and lowering traffic to nursing homes and hospitals, where those most vulnerable to the virus are.
He also commended local organizations and municipalities for cancelling events and activities. And Monday he added, through health unit spokesman Drew Ferguson, that bars should refrain from having St. Patrick’s Day festivities to avoid encouraging large groups of people mixing together.
Arra repeated the message that people need not panic and asked them to remain calm.
“The sky is not falling. I know we have really good health-care providers, we have public that is aware and media that are sending the right messages,” Arra said.
Residents who have returned from recent international travel and become ill with respiratory symptoms such as a cough and fever should report their travel history to any health professional, or any emergency room before they visit. People are asked to contact Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 for questions specific to an individual health concern.
People are encouraged to connect with trusted sources for information, including canada.ca/coronavirus
They can also visit Ontario’s ontario.ca/coronavirus to learn more about how the province continues to protect Ontarians from COVID-19.
To prevent the spread of the virus people are being told to wash their hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer, cough and sneeze into a sleeve, avoid touching ones eyes, nose and mouth, avoid people who are sick and to stay out of large groups.
People were also being asked to disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces and to stay home if they are sick.
The Ontario government has also created a website to help people self-assess for the virus. It can be found at www.ontario.ca/page/2019-novel-coronavirus-covid-19-self-assessment
On Monday, the province confirmed 172 cases of the virus province-wide, including five who had recovered. The Ontario website also said more than 10,000 patients had been approved for testing, with just about 8,400 tests coming back negative. More than 1,500 were still under investigation.