A 64-year-old St. Marys man is in serious condition at Stratford General Hospital after becoming the first person in the region to test positive for coronavirus.
“Having a confirmed case in our area is not unexpected given the transmission of this virus globally,” Huron Perth Public Health medical officer Dr. Miriam Klassen said at a press conference Saturday afternoon. “Although it is concerning to have a confirmed case, it’s important to remember that as a community and as a health system, we have been preparing for COVID-19. Our focus is on breaking the chain of transmission to limit the spread of infection. The risk to Huron-Perth residents remains low.”
The man recently travelled to Mexico and returned home March 2. He began feeling sick with an unrelated illness March 7 and self-isolated at home. His condition changed the evening of March 12 when he went to St. Marys Memorial Hospital’s emergency department. He tested positive for coronavirus and was later transferred to SGH.
“The system’s number one priority is the health and safety of our staff, patients, family members, caregivers, and that is our sole focus in dealing with these sorts of issues, so people need to be comfortable that the system is on top of this,” Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance president and CEO Andrew Williams said. “We’re dealing with it responsibly, we’re comfortable with the tracing that’s going on.”
It’s not known which part of Mexico the man visited. Klassen said the health unit has been working with SGH to make sure any potential exposures are identified and followed up, though she added it’s very unlikely the virus was being spread at the time of incubation.
The first presumptive case of coronavirus in Ontario was Jan. 25, 2020. As of Saturday morning, 6,646 people had been tested in the province, with 96 confirmed cases — not including the St. Marys man. In Huron-Perth, 14 tests had been given.
HPHA hospitals in Stratford, St. Marys, Seaforth and Clinton have COVID-19 testing kits with nasal and throat swabs, and Williams said there was a bump this week in the number of people visiting area emergency rooms looking for tests. Those in the ER who suspect they might have the virus are taken to a different site at the hospital, but anyone with mild respiratory symptoms are asked to stay home and self-isolate as testing is not required.
“You have to assume worst case in any scenario you’re dealing with, and we always do that,” Williams said, “but we’re just trying to be judicious. We want to reinforce at every opportunity we get that people shouldn’t just show up in the ER.”
For more information, visit hpph.ca/coronavirus, or call the health line at 1-888-221-2133, ext. 3267.