Case of Sudbury man who picked up COVID-19 in Toronto not community spread: officials
Chris Herhalt and Joshua Freeman, CP24.com
Published Wednesday, March 11, 2020 8:02AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, March 11, 2020 6:35PM EDT
Health officials said Wednesday that they are not yet treating the case of a man who likely picked up COVID-19 at a Toronto mining conference last week as an instance of community spread.
The man attended the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) conference at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre March 2-3. He later returned to his home in Sudbury and came down with a cough and shortness of breath.
His COVID-19 diagnosis was announced late on Tuesday.
Speaking with reporters Wednesday, Ontario’s Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe said officials are not considering the man’s illness as community spread because they can likely trace his infection to the conference.
“To me, this is not a case of community transmission,” Yaffe said. “To me a case of community transmission would be a case where there is no travel history and you don’t have any epidemiological link to another case; that is you don’t have any idea where they got it.
“With this person, it is likely he got it at that conference. There were 23,000 people from many, many countries. Although the risk in general is low, it seems that’s probably where he got it. We can’t say exactly from whom, but to me it’s linked to a particular activity at a particular site, so it’s not a community transmission.”
Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, also spoke with reporters at the news conference and said Toronto Public Health is investigating to try and determine who the man had contact with during his trip.
“We have been in direct contact with our colleagues at Public Health Sudbury and District and we are actively engaged in investigating this person's potential exposures in Toronto,” de Villa said.
Ford, Trudeau attended conference
Premier Doug Ford said Wednesday that he is healthy with no symptoms of COVID-19 after attending the same conference last week along with other dignitaries, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“Premier Ford is in good health and has experienced none of the symptoms related to COVID-19,” spokesperson Ivana Yelich told CP24 on Wednesday. “He remains vigilant and encourages all Ontarians to do the same by taking the preventive actions recommended by our incredible health officials.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he hasn't been tested for coronavirus but he is being monitored as a precaution.
“I haven’t had a test, I am following Dr. (Theresa) Tam’s recommendation in order to keep myself safe and my family as well.”
Ford told reporters later on Wednesday that he's not concerned about himself.
"I don’t have any concerns. But again, anyone who has been in contact with this person… if they are feeling symptoms, they should get tested," Ford said. “I wasn’t (in contact with this person).”
“I’m honestly… not worried about myself, I’m worried about everyone else.”
Ford and Greg Rickford, Minister of Energy, Mines, Northern Development and Indigenous Affairs were at the PDAC conference on March 2, along with two prominent Indigenous chiefs from Marten Falls and Webequie First Nationsto sign an agreement to begin development of a Ring of Fire access roadway.
They all shook hands for the cameras and signed documents authorizing the start of roadway construction.
Trudeau gave a speech at the conference on March 2.
Also at the conference was federal Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan.
Yesterday, he tweeted that he has had "a persistent head cold for a few days," so he is in self-isolation.
Minister O'Regan's spokesperson says the minister has been tested for COVID-19 and is awaiting results.
A spokesperson for Ford said Sudbury public health officials have not yet contacted the premier during their case tracking process.
Conference attendees being asked to self-monitor
The man who contracted COVID-19 is an employee of Ontario's Ministry of Northern Development and Mines. As a result, the Ministry's office in downtown Sudbury has been locked down.
He does not have a recent history of foreign travel or close contact with another known positive coronavirus case.
Sudbury’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Penny Sutcliffe said the lack of a travel history or identified close contact in this instance is “concerning,” but she insisted the provincial health system is ready.
As a precaution, the province is asking everyone who attended PDAC, more than 23,000 people from around the world, to self-monitor for respiratory and other flu symptoms.
Health officials continue to investigate the latest case’s travel and close contacts.
Yaffe and de Villa said that people slated to hold or attend large gatherings should refer to the guidelines sent out this week by the federal government for assessing whether or not to continue with or modify an event.
Decisions around event attendance and travel should still be made on a case-by-case basis, they said.
They stressed that no matter what your plans, everyone should practice frequent hand-washing, cover their mouths if they sneeze and stay home if they feel ill.
While people are being advised to contact Telehealth Ontario if they believe they have symptoms, Yaffe acknowledged that there have been long wait times and said the province is working to fix that.
“We are aware of some of the wait times being longer at telehealth, which is unacceptable and we are putting more resources into that situation,” she said.
Ontario now has 42 cases of novel coronavirus infection.
-- With files from the Canadian Press.