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Up to 70 Mennonites in Ontario exposed to COVID-19, officals warn

Up to 70 Old Colony Mennonites in southwestern Ontario may have been exposed to COVID-19 at a recent prayer service and funeral, health officials say.

Members of the Old Colony Church in Aylmer may have been exposed at a recent prayer service and funeral

The source of the outbreak has been traced to the Old Colony Mennonite Church in Aylmer following a funeral service. (Provided by Google)

Up to 70 Old Colony Mennonites in southwestern Ontario may have been exposed to COVID-19 at a recent prayer service and funeral, health officials say. 

Southwestern Public Health says the recent gathering for a deceased member of the Old Colony Church in Aylmer happened late last week. 

The person who died was that region's only reported death from COVID-19 last week, said Dr. Joyce Lock, the medical officer of health for Southwestern Public Health. 

"Additional exposures may have happened prior to these events, particularly among family members," Lock told doctors in a "high priority health alert" sent out across southwestern Ontario on Tuesday.

"Health care providers are urged to be on high alert for symptoms consistent with COVID-19 in members of the Old Colony Church." 

Such a high priority health alert has been sent to family doctors before about diseases such as measles, but this is the first of its kind about COVID, Lock told CBC News. 

It was sent so doctors can be on the lookout for people who may come in with mild coronavirus symptoms, she said. Contact tracing was also performed by health officials. 

Health care providers are asked to test any Old Colony Mennonites without requiring proof that they are at risk, and without directing them somewhere else to get tested. 

Southwestern Ontario has several large Old Colony Mennonite communities in the Aylmer and Tillsonburg area. 

Some members of the Old Colony congregation speak low German, and the health unit is able to communicate with them as well, Lock said. 

"There is certainly not an outbreak in this community; there was just this one person who passed away," she said. "The community is working with us cooperatively to make sure that this doesn't go any further. No one needs to be concerned at all about this community." 

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