A Barrie man infected with COVID-19 may be the first death related to the respiratory illness in Ontario, officials say.

The 77-year-old, who died at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre in Barrie on March 11, wasn’t tested for COVID-19 until after he passed away and officials say it is not yet clear if the virus is responsible for his death.

“We have asked for the assistance of the coroner’s office to do a complete examination and investigation to determine whether this person died because of COVID or with COVID,” Health Minister Christine Elliott told CP24.

The province’s top doctor has confirmed that more will be known about the man’s “specific” cause of death “in the days ahead.”

"It brings me great sadness to report a death in Ontario that is potentially related to COVID-19,” Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said in a news release.

“I know all Ontario families join me in extending our heartfelt condolences to his friends, family and loved ones. I would also like to thank all the staff who provided him excellent care.”

Dr. Charles Gardner, of the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, told reporters on Tuesday afternoon that prior to his death, the man had spent time in “closed spaces” with another man in his 70s from Alberta who subsequently tested positive for the virus.

The health unit confirmed Sunday that the man from Alberta stayed at the Hampton Inn in Barrie between March 5 and March 11, but on Tuesday, Gardner would not say if the 77-year-old was also at the hotel during that time.

Officials said the deceased was admitted to the hospital due to his “complex medical background” and died about 20 hours later. Sometime after he died, Gardner said, health professionals suspected that he may have contracted COVID-19.

Gardiner said he does not believe the two COVID-19 cases could be classified as “travel-related,” adding that officials haven’t traced a “clear line of infection back to a source.”

“It is possible now we are seeing some community transmission happening,” he noted.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit said that the Barrie hospital “carefully tracked the patient’s movements throughout the health centre” and has notified staff “as appropriate.”

Man could be 1st COVID-19 related death outside B.C.

The 77-year-old could be Canada's first COVID-19 related death outside of British Columbia, which has seen four virus-related deaths since the outbreak began.

The four deceased patients were all residents of a long-term care facility in North Vancouver.

The news of Ontario’s first potential virus death comes just hours after Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency in the province, calling for the closure of libraries, private schools, licensed child care centres, theatres, cinemas, concert venues, and bars and restaurants that do not offer takeout or delivery.

Ontario reported 12 new cases of the virus on Tuesday, bringing the province’s official total to 189 confirmed cases, including five recoveries. But local public health officials in Waterloo Region independently reported one more cases that was not included in the provincial total.