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Region sees first cases of community transmission of COVID-19

Waterloo Region has seen its first community-transmitted cases of COVID-19, two new instances bringing the total to 12, according to figures released this morning (March 19) by the Public Health department.

Two women in their 20s, one tested at St. Mary’s General Hospital and the other at an assessment centre in Toronto, are the first identified as having received the virus via transmission from the community.

Nine of the cases involved residents who had been travelling, while one, a man in his 20s, is believed to have acquired the virus through close contact.

The two most recent cases see the patients self-isolating at home, as is the situation for eight others. Two of the dozen cases in the region involved hospitalization.

The woman who tested positive at St. Mary’s General Hospital was identified as an employee of the hospital, but not involved in direct patient care. She developed symptoms on March 11 and was tested at the hospital on March 13. Public Health is working to identify any individuals who may have been in close contact with the individual during the period she was symptomatic before self-isolation began.

 “We were expecting this, we have been preparing for this,” said Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, the region’s acting medical officer of health, in a release this morning. 

“In anticipation of community circulation, we have implemented measures to restrict gatherings and promote social distancing. While we will see more cases in the coming days and weeks, these measures will help slow down the spread of COVID-19. I ask everyone to do their part to help us ‘flatten the curve,” said Wang.

 “As always, the health and safety of our employees and patients is our priority,” said Lee Fairclough, president of St. Mary’s. “We have introduced new measures to help reduce exposure by controlling entry of visitors to the hospital and actively screening staff and visitors. Given this is an example of community spread, it only reinforces how important it is for people to not come to work if they are experiencing any symptoms.”

In Ontario, the Ministry of Health reports there are 251 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of March 19. The province reports it has approved 16,650 patients for testing, of whom 12,421 were found to have tested negative. Of the remainder, 3,972 cases are currently under investigation, and five have been resolved. The province has seen one death from the coronavirus.

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