What we know about Ontario's 1st death linked to COVID-19
Coroner investigating whether virus caused death of Barrie man, 77
An Ontario coroner is investigating the death of a 77-year-old Barrie, Ont. man to determine whether he died of COVID-19.
The patient's death is believed to be the first in Ontario potentially related to the novel coronavirus.
Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU), told reporters on Tuesday that the man died at the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) in Barrie on Wednesday, March 11.
After his death, post-mortem samples confirmed he had COVID-19, but officials have not confirmed that the virus killed him. Gardner said the man was admitted to the hospital because he had a "complex medical background" and he had pre-existing medical conditions.
Officials said the coroner would know the man's exact cause of death in the coming days.
According to the Ontario government's novel coronavirus website, the man is case number 186. Under this case, the transmission of the virus is listed as close contact.
Deceased was in close contact with region's 3rd case
Gardner said the man who died had contact with the region's third case — a man in his 70s who had travelled from Alberta to Ontario and who had tested positive for the virus. Once that man tested positive, officials suspected that the patient who died might have had the virus as well and took action to investigate.
According to a news release on Sunday from the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, the man the deceased patient had close contact with went to the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre on March 11 and is still being treated at the hospital.
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Gardner added: "These individuals had contact out of the hospital, actually, much more so than in the hospital. They spent time together in closed spaces over several days."
He declined to comment on the nature of their relationship, saying only that they knew each other.
"As yet, we have not been able to identify the ultimate source of infection beyond these two individuals and we will continue our investigation," he said.
Patient had contact with others, health unit says
In the news release on Sunday, the health unit said the hospital was keeping track of man who had close contact with the deceased.
"RVH has tracked the movement of the patient throughout the health centre and have notified staff and physicians who may have been exposed to the patient," the release said.
"The individual was in close contact with a second RVH patient who died March 11. The situation is currently under investigation by the SMDHU."
The health unit also said the man stayed in the Hampton Inn in Barrie from March 5 to 11.
Anyone who stayed at the hotel or worked there during this time has been asked to monitor themselves for 14 days starting on March 11. Anyone who develops symptoms is urged to go into isolation and call the health unit, Telehealth Ontario or their health care provider.
"I don't think we can call this a travel-related case," Gardner said.
"There wasn't international travel involved. Although we are continuing to investigate, at this point, it does beg the question, is this community acquired, is this evidence of some transmission in our community? It's possible we're seeing now some community transmission happening and that people need to take their precautions."
At the news conference, Gardner said he is pleased that a COVID-19 assessment centre opened on Monday in Barrie. Hundreds of people have gone to the centre in the past two days.
An assessment centre is expected to open shortly in Collingwood, Ont., he added.