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Public justified in concerns about COVID-19

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There are now 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Waterloo Region, according to figures released March 18 by the Public Health department.

Nine of the cases involved residents returned from travelling, the ninth, a man in his 20s, believed to have acquired the virus through close contact.

Eight of the 10 are self-isolating at home, while two have been hospitalized: a man in his 40s who’d travelled to the U.S. and a woman in her 50s who had been to France and the UK.

The first case to be confirmed was a woman in her 60s who’d been on a Celebrity cruise that had docked in Puerto Rico on March 1. The cruise made stops in St. Martin, Barbados, Dominique, and Grenada before returning to dock in Puerto Rico on March 7. Development of symptoms were noticed by the woman upon her arrival into Canada the following day.  After a two-day period of self-isolation, she visited Grand River Hospital for evaluation and testing. Following necessary protocols the hospital released the patient, who had been experiencing mild respiratory symptoms.

The second case, a male in his 40s that caught the virus on a visit to Las Vegas. Despite no noted symptoms during the man’s visit, when returning to Canada symptoms started to develop. The man arrived at Grand River Hospital on March 10, where he tested positive for the coronavirus.

Public Health is using the first cases to deal with the subsequent occurrences, officials said at a news conference March 13.

 “I am actually glad that we were able to detect these cases. Because once you detect them, you can put measures in place to appropriately assess them and then care for them,” said Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, Region of Waterloo  Public Health’s acting medical officer of health.

The department continues to advise typical respiratory infection prevention measures, including washing hands for an appropriate amount of time and using alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap is unavailable. In the meantime, health officials are bracing for an increase in COVID-19.

“Testing is ongoing and we expect to see more confirmed cases in Waterloo Region,” said Wang “This was not unexpected given the current situation around the world. We continue to work closely with local hospitals and our health care partners to detect and manage potential cases of COVID-19. We are preparing to see additional cases in Waterloo Region, in line with the increasing number of cases in Ontario and Canada.”

Wang noted the distress caused by the pandemic is to be expected.

“I would say it’s understandable, because this is a new virus for which people do not have any form of immunity. In other words, everybody is susceptible to this,” she said, noting most of those who contract the virus have mild symptoms.

 “We do know that 80 per cent of these cases are milder, with 20 per cent that require more elevated levels of care because they have more serious symptoms.”

The public needs to be aware of the reality of the situation, avoiding scams and misinformation, particularly online and via social media.

“The facts are that, most of the time, it is a mild illness. There are some people that are going to be more sick, that are going to require hospitalization. These people tend to be those that are over the age of 65, and that have other medical conditions that make their health status a little more fragile.”

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