The number of Ontario residents infected with the novel coronavirus continued to climb on Friday as public health officials recorded six new cases in the past 36 hours, bringing the total in the province to 28 by late afternoon.
But officials said the risk of contracting the virus remains low, noting all recent cases involve people who have either recently visited global hotspots for the bug or their close relatives.
Officials said there is still no evidence of community spread in Ontario.
Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said one of the latest patients in Ontario diagnosed with COVID-19 used public transit while he was experiencing symptoms from March 2 to 4 before going to hospital.
She said the man in his 40s took the subway from Bathurst to Islington stations at around 8:50 a.m. each morning on those dates and the 108 MiWay express bus. He would then take the 27 Milton GO bus to Yorkdale Station at around 6:10 p.m. He would then go to St. George Station and back to Bathurst Station. He also took the 511 Bathurst streetcar on March 4.
Metrolinx said it will be removing the affected buses for a “thorough cleaning as a precaution.”
“In this particular circumstance, with respect to public transit, it is considered low risk,” Dr. de Villa said on Friday. “The information is being provided out of an abundance of precaution.”
Transit riders without COVID-19 symptoms do not need to seek medical help, de Villa said, unless they get a call from her unit.
The man, who is in his 40s, returned home from Las Vegas on Feb. 28 and was assessed at Toronto Western Hospital.
The other cases include a man in his 20s who returned from Italy on March 3 and went to Mount Sinai Hospital’s emergency department in Toronto. He was discharged home the same day where he remains in self-isolation.
The second is a Richmond Hill woman in her 60s returned from Iran on March 2.
Other recent cases include a Toronto man in his 50s who recently travelled to Iran and a Toronto resident who recently visited Las Vegas.
De Villa said there are measures people can take to prepare for a potential diagnosis.
“It’s helpful for people to consider the supplies that they would need at home if they were to become unwell with any illness, not just COVID-19,” she said. “For families, this may mean considering your household needs and how you would address those household needs … if someone were unwell.”
She said her team continues to monitor the situation closely and is working with counterparts in other regions.
Mississauga couple tests positive
In Peel Region, a couple who had been on the Grand Princess cruise ship out of San Francisco that travelled to Mexico Feb. 11-21 was diagnosed after returning home to Mississauga on Feb. 28.
Peel Public Health is reaching out to a select group of passengers who shared WestJet flight 1199 with the couple on Feb. 28 from Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix to Pearson International Airport. Travellers seated in rows 18 to 22 are being asked to self-isolate as a precautionary measure and call the department “immediately” at 905-799-7700 (or at 905-584-2216 if in Caledon).
Cases elsewhere in Canada
Canada’s first apparent case of community transmission was reported in British Columbia Thursday night, when officials announced eight new cases of the illness.
They said a woman in the Vancouver area was diagnosed with COVID-19, even though she did not travel recently and has had no known contact with anyone else diagnosed with the virus.
Quebec has two confirmed cases and one presumptive diagnosis that still has to be confirmed by the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg.
Alberta has reported two presumptive cases of the illness, a man in his 40s in the Edmonton area who had recently travelled on business to Michigan, Illinois and Ohio and a woman in her 50s from Calgary who appeared to have contracted the disease while on board a Grand Princess cruise ship. Both are currently self-isolating at home.
Another 237 Canadians currently aboard the Grand Princess have been forbidden from leaving the ship while some of the thousands of passengers aboard now are tested, according to a spokesperson for Princess Cruises.
Meanwhile, the 129 Canadians who were quarantined after returning to Canada from a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship in Japan have finally been allowed to return home.
The Canadians were mostly confined to their rooms for two weeks aboard the Diamond Princess docked at Yokohama, Japan. The ship contained the largest outbreak outside of China at the time.
The Canadian government repatriated those without signs of the virus and put them under a further 14-day quarantine at the Nav Centre in Cornwall. None of them showed signs of illness and Dr. Theresa Tam, the country’s top public-health official, says they’re all free to leave.
The COVID-19 disease has now infected more than 100,000 people worldwide and claimed more than 3,400 lives in more than 90 countries.