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'It is possible we are now seeing some community transmission happening'

Earlier today, we learned Ontario's first suspected death related to COVID-19 was a Barrie man who died at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) six days ago.

It brings to four the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Simcoe Muskoka.

The victim, a 77-year-old Barrie man, was being treated at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) for pre existing medical conditions. The relationship between his death and infection is under investigation. 

It was previously reported that the man had contact with a man, in his 70s, who was visiting from Alberta.

Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit's medical officer of health, Dr. Charles Gardner, said the two men knew each other but, due to privacy concerns, could not divulge their relationship.

“These individuals had contact out of the hospital, much more so than in the hospital,” said Gardner at an afternoon news conference in Barrie. “As yet, we have not been able to identify the ultimate source of infection beyond these two indviduals and we will continue our investigation.”

Gardner said the man visiting from Alberta traveled at a time when he would not have been infectious to the community. 

The Hampton Inn had been mentioned as a place of concern as the Alberta traveler had stayed there between March 5 and March 11. Gardner said the hotel is completely safe and not a point of concern any longer.

The deceased man passed away on March 11 and Gardner explained why the information came out today, six days later.

“The index of suspicion about the potential for the person who died, in part, was related to the identification of the other case. As soon as that was suspected, all action necessary to investigate properly was taken,” said Gardner.

The region’s other cases have been linked to international travel. A 40-year old woman from Bradford had a history of travel to Ecuador and a 40-year-old Barrie man had just returned from Europe. Both tested positive for COVID-19 and are self isolated at home.

Gardner said this situation is a little different.

“I don’t think we can call this a travel-related case, there wasn’t international travel involved,” said Gardner. “Although we are continuing to investigate, it does beg the question is this community acquired and is this some evidence of transmission in our community?”

“It is possible we are now seeing some community transmission happening and people need to take the precautions,” he warned.

The investigation into the deceased man’s contact with hospital staff has been investigated.

RVH president/CEO Janice Skot said that every precaution has been made to track who the deceased man had been in contact with at the RVH and steps taken to mind the health and safety of staff.

"The patient was with us for less than 20 hours, to put this in perspective," said Skot. "But he does have a long history with us as an ambulatory patient and so for any staff who has been in contact with him directly, we've asked them to stay home and self-isolate."

Shawn Gibson

About the Author: Shawn Gibson

Shawn Gibson is a staff writer based in Barrie
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