2 cases of COVID-19 community transmission reported in Waterloo region

The region is reporting the first two cases of community transmission of COVID-19, a woman in her 20s with no history of recent travel or contact with someone who has the coronavirus.
This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, orange, emerging from the surface of cells, green, cultured in the lab. The Region of Waterloo announced Thursday the first confirmed case of community transmission of the virus. (NIAID-RML/The Associated Press)

There are two new cases of COVID-19 in the region and both are suspected to be community transmission, Region of Waterloo Public Health says.

The confirmed cases are the region's 11th and 12th.

The region's 11th, is a woman in her 20s. She does not have any history of recent travel or contact with a confirmed case, the region said in a release Thursday.

She developed symptoms on March 11. She was tested at St. Mary's General Hospital on March 13. She is now self-isolating at home.

The woman is an employee at the hospital but did not have contact with patients. The woman had symptoms while at work on March 13.

Region of Waterloo Public Health says it's working with the hospital to identify anyone who may have been in close contact with the woman while she was symptomatic and before she went into self-isolation.

Lee Fairclough, president of St. Mary's General Hospital, said the hospital has started screening staff as they arrive at work. Local hospitals are also now restricting visitors except in exceptional circumstances.

The region's 12th case is also a woman in her 20s who was tested at an assessment centre in Toronto. She is also self-isolating at home. Few other details were available about this case.

Community spread expected

Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, Region of Waterloo's acting medical officer of health, said they have been anticipating community transmission.

"We will see more cases in the coming days and weeks," Wang said, but added measures being taken to keep people away from each other will help slow transmission.

She said residents are still at a low risk of contracting COVID-19 from community transmission, but she expects that will change.

She asked residents to continue to help "flatten the curve," which includes following travel advisories, avoiding large gatherings of 50 or more people and, even within gatherings of less than 50 people, to practise social distancing as much as possible.

603 people tested

As of noon on Thursday, Wang said there have been 603 people tested for coronavirus, there are 12 confirmed cases, 356 have come back negative and 235 people are awaiting test results. Wang said results of tests are usually known 24 to 72 hours after the samples are sent in.

As well, public health is actively monitoring 247 people.

Of the 12 confirmed cases, Wang said there is one person in hospital, and that's the region's third case, a man in his 40s who developed symptoms after travelling to the U.S. One person who was previously hospitalized is now at home and the other 10 cases are self-isolating at home.

Wang says she knows there are long waits to talk to the province's Telehealth and the region's public health phone operators. She asks people who are experiencing mild symptoms to take care of themselves at home.

Case at Toyota Cambridge

Toyota Cambridge says a worker at the plant tested positive for COVID-19. The employee worked their last shift March 12.

The company announced Wednesday the plant will suspend production as part of a wider closure of Toyota plants across North America. 

The case at the plant was brought to the attention of Region of Waterloo Public Health by Hamilton Public Health because the worker is from Hamilton, Wang said. Hamilton Public Health is also advising Toyota on next steps.

Changes to Grand River Transit

Starting immediately, people boarding Grand River Transit buses will do so at the back doors unless they need an accessible entrance, the region announced Thursday.

"You do not need to tap your fare card on the farebox," the Grand River Transit website says.

"As an extra precaution, we have increased our cleaning of frequently contacted surfaces in the buses and trains with disinfectant."

Riders on buses are asked to stay behind the yellow line to not come into contact with drivers. 

On the LRT, trains are running every 15 minutes and doors should automatically open so people don't have to press any buttons to board.

The region is also asking people to make changes to how they deal with their garbage to protect waste collection workers from contracting COVID-19. Any items that touch your face, such as tissues or bottles and cans, should go into the garbage, not recycling or green bins.


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