Hamilton

Second confirmed case of COVID-19 in St. Catharines is 55-year-old woman

An update from the province noted the woman's infection was related to travel in Egypt and that she is self-isolating.

The 55-year-old woman is said to have travelled to Egypt and contracted the virus

A man in his 80s has been confirmed as the Niagara Region's first official case of COVID-19. (Niagara Region Public Health and Emergency Services)

A 55-year-old St. Catharines woman has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, marking the second confirmed case of COVID-19 in the Niagara region.

Dr. Mustafa Hirji, the region's acting medical officer of health told CBC News the woman travelled to Egypt by plane in late February and returned in early March.

Hirji said Niagara Region Public Health (NRPH) belive she contracted the virus while in Egypt and reported experiencing symptoms on March 11 after being home in St. Catharines.

"[She] stayed at home [and] did not expose anyone else beyond a family member," Hirji said.

"When she decided she needed to be assessed and tested, she called ahead to her family doctor and so everything was arranged for her to go get tested without exposing anybody else and so I think everything was done appropriately in this case."

She was seen that afternoon and her positive results came in early Sunday morning.

Hirji said the woman and her family member are in self-isolation. The woman's situation is "relatively mild" and there's no word on if the family member is infected. Hirji said they both live in a residence where they are able to self-isolate themselves without exposing others.

The risk of transmission within the Niagara region, he added, is low.must

"We've seen a large number of cases in Ontario over the last week or so, almost all of them are linked to someone who travelled or was in contact with a family member who travelled and this fits that pattern directly," he said.

"We're not seeing the virus actually circulating among the public in Niagara and that means are risk is low."

This follows St. Catharines' first confirmed case that came Thursday.

The 84-year-old man is also believed to be the first case in Ontario with a direct link to a long-term care home.

Positive COVID-19 case has led to drop in nursing home staff

The man stayed at Ina Grafton Gage Village in St. Catharines.

Patrick O'Neill, Ina Grafton Gage Village CEO, told CBC News it has upwards of 400 people in different buildings on a 15-acre site, but the positive case caused the facility to lose 12 personal support workers, forced managers to cancel vacations and had non-union staff fill in for those in self-isolation.

"We could use more because we're good right now, today, tomorrow, early into next week, but we don't know how long we can sustain this," he said.

"I don't want to scare people out there, but if you're in business or if you have a nursing home or senior's complex, you could be in a huge mess ... I've lost 20 per cent of my employees."

WATCH | Niagara Region Public Health investigating the first confirmed case of COVID-19

While the man lived in a building for independent living and didn't need much assistance, NRPH began contact tracing with a separate team because of all the people the man potentially came in contact with.

"The health and well-being of Niagara residents is our top priority," Hirji said.

"There continues to be no evidence of local circulation of the virus in Niagara ... therefore the risk to Niagara residents remains low."

Multiple fatalities and infections have been linked to a single nursing home in Washington State. Faria Ali, director of Three Links Care Society in Vancouver, says there are lessons for care facilities in Canada.

O'Neill also said NRPH made Ina Grafton Gage adhere to a detailed screening test for letting people in and out of the building, which includes keeping close track of visitors and making them undergo a questionnaire before seeing patients. 

"If they say yes to any one of them, they are not allowed in."

The best way to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including COVID-19 is to:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or with alcohol-based hand rub
  • Stay home if you're sick
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or sleeve
  • Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces daily. Use a disinfectant and follow manufacturer's instructions.
  • Call ahead if visiting your health care provider for infectious symptoms so they can plan to protect others from spread

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bobby Hristova is a journalist with CBC Hamilton. He reports on all issues, but has a knack for stories that hold people accountable, stories that focus on social issues and investigative journalism. He previously worked for the National Post and CityNews in Toronto. You can contact him at bobby.hristova@cbc.ca.

With files form Sebastien St-Francois

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