Thunder Bay District Health Unit confirms first case of COVID-19 in the city
Man in his 60s becomes first person to test positive for COVID-19 in Thunder Bay area, spouse is probable case
The Thunder Bay District Health Unit (TBDHU) has confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in the Thunder Bay region.
According to the public health agency, a man in his 60s who lives in Thunder Bay has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.
The TBDHU said in a statement Friday that his spouse is considered a probable case as well, and that the couple had recently returned from a week-long stay in Florida.
"Upon their return, they remained in isolation at home. Subsequently, both developed symptoms and phoned the TBDHU. They were tested the following day at the COVID-19 Assessment Centre operated by the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre," the health unit stated.
The man's test result was received by TBDHU overnight on March 26. The spouse's results are still pending and have been expedited.
TBDHU said both people have remained in self-isolation at home, following public health guidance and that the couple will stay in contact with the agency.
According to TBDHU, all appropriate precautions were taken and further spread of the virus is unlikely.
"Travellers returning to the Thunder Bay District from other countries, including the United States, pose a risk in that they can bring the COVID-19 virus back to this area," said Dr. Janet DeMille. "All returning travellers must take the appropriate precautions to ensure that they are not spreading the virus to others when they return to the Thunder Bay District.
Under the federal Quarantine Act, an order issued this week by Patty Hajdu, the federal minister of health, directs all returning travelers to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return to Canada and provides for significant penalties if this is violated.
In a news conference Friday, Dr. Stewart Kennedy, COVID-19 incident manager for the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC), said this case proves the efficiency of the protocols put in place surrounding self-isolation.
"I want to emphasize, the process worked," he said. "This individual came back from the United States, self-isolated right away, contacted Thunder Bay District Health Unit as we're told, then came to the assessment centre with an appointment... when he came to the assessment centre everything was in place."
Kennedy said he and his colleagues are proud of the individual for taking proper precautions and believe those actions will be effective in limiting community spread.
"We certainly are going to try to do our best to keep this out of the hospital and that's why you noticed the enhanced restrictions we have that restricted visitors today except for essential partners," he added.
Kennedy said the next steps for the positive case involve the TBDHU tracing the man's possible contacts, though it is believed there has been no community spread from the individual.
Kennedy added that the hospital is seeing presumptive cases everyday in the emergency department, and precautions are exercised as soon as an individual notifies staff of positive travel history, or is symptomatic with a cough or fever.
"They come into our emergency department, they're...put into an isolation room to create less exposure to visitors, less exposure to staff, our emergency personnel... a number of cases have been admitted to the hospital over the past three or four days," he said.
DeMille added that a number of individuals have been sent to the assessment centre for testing who have the possibility of being positive cases.
"Our number one risk is people traveling back to this area, to the Thunder Bay District area, and bringing the virus with them because they've acquired it somewhere else," she said.
"So I'm just wanting to remind people of the importance, and for returning travelers of the importance, that they self-isolate at home and that they call us if they have any symptoms and we can refer them for testing."
Iindividuals in self-isolation develop symptoms should contact the Thunder Bay District Health Unit at (807) 625-5900 or toll-free: 1-888-294-6630.
To reduce the spread of viruses, including the flu and the COVID-19, the TBDHU recommends that you:
- Wash your hands frequently for at least twenty seconds with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
- Cover your cough and sneeze with a tissue or into your arm, not your hand
- Stay home if you are sick
- Practice social (physical) distancing by avoiding close contact with other people. This means staying at least 2 metres (6 feet) apart from others.