Toronto man rode TTC, GO and MiWay before testing positive for COVID-19
Chris Herhalt, CP24.com
Published Friday, March 6, 2020 7:42AM EST
Last Updated Friday, March 6, 2020 10:02PM EST
Local health officials say a man who arrived in Toronto from Las Vegas late last month rode public transit in Mississauga and Toronto for three days before reporting to a hospital and testing positive for COVID-19, as no one at the time was aware he had returned from a region where the virus was already present.
Toronto Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said the man in his 40s landed in the city on Feb. 28, and rode the TTC, GO and MiWay to and from work on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
She said the man rode the subway from Bathurst to Islington stations on March 2, March 3, and March 4 at about 8:50 a.m., before transferring to the 108 Mississauga MiWay 108N express bus from Islington Station at around 9:10 a.m. He exited at Financial Drive.
The man returned home using the 27 Milton GO bus, boarding on Syntex Court at Financial Drive, to Yorkdale TTC Station about 6:10 p.m., and then headed south on the subway to St. George Station by 6:45 p.m. He then headed west to Bathurst TTC station at around 7:16 p.m. He then boarded a 7 Bathurst TTC bus about 7:20 p.m.
De Villa said he also rode a 511 Bathurst Streetcar from Bathurst Station at around 7:20 p.m. and again around 10:15 p.m. heading back to Bathurst station on March 4.
“We’re working through with the individual with respect to getting very specific information,” de Villa said.
The diagnosis of an Ontario resident with a travel history to Las Vegas suggests there is some spread of the virus in that city, but health officials there had only confirmed one case as of Thursday.
De Villa said officials only learned the man tested positive on Thursday night and were still tracing his contacts and movements in Las Vegas. As of March 3, state officials there had tested 14 people for infection, and another 208 were under observation.
De Villa said the man’s only symptom during this time was a mild cough. He is now in self-isolation.
She also said another Toronto man, in his 50s, who landed here from Iran on Feb. 27, went to North York General Hospital’s emergency room on March 3 and is now in self isolation.
Meanwhile, the wife of a man who returned to Peel Region after a cruise aboard the Grand Princess Cruise Ship off San Francisco has also been diagnosed with the virus.
Public health officials said the couple flew home from Phoenix to Toronto on Westjet Flight 1199 on Feb. 28 and went to hospital on March 4 complaining of symptoms.
Both are now in self-isolation. Peel Public Health is asking anyone who sat in rows 18-22 of that flight to go into self-isolation immediately and contact them.
Everyone else on the flight is asked to carefully monitor themselves until March 13.
The cruise ship they were on is now being held off San Francisco’s coast, with tests underway on passengers suspected of COVID-19 infection.
De Villa stressed that she and her family would continue to use public transit, and she was providing the Las Vegas patient’s history of transit use only out of an abundance of caution.
“Public transit use in this particular circumstance and the exposure with respect to public transit is considered low risk,” she said.
Dr. Jessica Hopkins, Peel Region's Medical Officer of Health, said people on the MiWay bus who are feeling well, with no symptoms, should continue to go about their lives and not call public health.
“It’s important to know that not everyone on the bus would have had close contact with the individual. However, the individual was symptomatic and if you are developing symptoms consistent with COVID-19, we’d ask that you self-isolate and call Peel Public Health as soon as possible,” said Hopkins.
On Friday afternoon, a new case of the virus was reported in Richmond Hill. Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region's Medical Officer of Health, said a 64-year-old woman tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday after returning to Canada from Iran on Monday.
Kurji said the woman has been in self-isolation since returning home.
"I want to reassure you again, unlike many countries in the world, we have avoided community transmission and the risk remains low," he said, adding that all the cases are travel-related.
Kurji said York Region has now a total of seven coronavirus cases -- four came from Iran and three from Egypt. He said the cases from Egpyt were a cluster associated with a boat tour.
Provincial health officials said Friday evening another positive case of the virus has been confirmed. A man in his 20s returned from Italy on Tuesday and presented himself at Mount Sinai Hospital.
"The hospital took all necessary precautions and followed standard operating procedures, including testing and assessment," officials said in a news release. "The patient was discharged home the same day where he remains in self-isolation."
TTC workers want to wear masks on the job
Meanwhile, unionized TTC workers said Friday they would embark on job action if they were not provided with masks and other protective equipment.
“Until COVID-19 is contained, the TTC and public health officials need to do everything they can to protect TTC workers and riders," a statement from ATU Local 113 read.
"With a COVID-19 case confirmed on the TTC system, ATU Local 113 calls on TTC management to allow workers to protect themselves by wearing masks on the job. The TTC should focus less on public perception and more on public health. Transit workers have the right to protect their health in the same way TTC riders do by wearing masks."
The union went on to say that it would back members "110 per cent" if they choose to "protect themselves by wearing a mask at work.”
TTC CEO Rick Leary said he is following local and federal health advice that masks are not necessary.
“We are really working with Toronto Public Health on their recommendations and their suggestions and at this point that (masks) are not a recommendation.”
He said that since January, TTC vehicles have been undergoing thorough disinfection procedures every night.
MiWay Transit is working with Peel health officials to ensures passengers are protected. Mayor Bonnie Crombie said in a statement that Mississauga was already in the process of rolling out enhanced cleaning measures on their transit fleet.
“We are taking all the steps necessary to ensure the safety of both the public and our staff. It’s important to remember that the risk to the public of the spread of the virus remains low. Public transit remains safe and I encourage people to continue to use MiWay for their commute and daily travels," Crombie said in a news release.
Friday’s announcement takes Ontario’s total coronavirus case count to 28 cases, with four recoveries.
Seventy-two other people remain under investigation in Ontario for possible COVID-19 infection.
The news comes as 129 Canadians who were aboard the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship last month exited a 14-day- quarantine period at the NAV Canada facilities in Cornwall, Ontario.
The Public Health Agency of Canada says all of those quarantined showed no symptoms of the virus.
Meanwhile, officials in British Columbia have confirmed eight new cases, including Canada's first example of "community spread," where the patient has no recent travel history to an impacted region of the world, or any close contact with a known infected person.
Canada now has 53 total cases of the novel coronavirus.