CityNews has confirmed multiple employees at one of the federal government’s designated quarantine hotels have tested positive for COVID-19.
The Public Health Agency of Canada says the facility is now taking directions on next steps from Toronto Public Health.
“We’re working with the facility to identify those who are impacted to review and advise on all the appropriate infection prevention and control measures,” Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said.
“You have to very carefully balance information that’s released to the public and the individual’s right to privacy. So we’ll continue to conduct our investigation.”
The Crowne Plaza Hotel, located at 22 Carlson Court, in the Highway 27 and Dixon Road area, is the focus of the investigation.
CityNews crews observed numerous guests, staff, shuttles and taxis coming and going at the hotel on Monday, with no sign of a slowdown or lockdown.
Toronto recently issued a Section 22 Order, requiring businesses to report an outbreak of five or more cases over a 14 day period. At that point the public health unit can force establishments to shutter for at least 10 days.
The rule has not yet been applied to a quarantine hotel.
“If there is a need, recession or outbreak is formally declared and we get to that point, we have accountability and reporting mechanisms in place that would of course apply in this situation,” Dr. de Villa said.
Chances of outbreak at a hotel
“The chances of this happening are low and we don’t know if the people working there got infected from working there or if they got infected from the community,” epidemiologist Dr. Jeff Kwong said.
He said that all in all, quarantine hotels are a good public health policy.
“In theory, if everyone was very strict about following the requirements for quarantine it might be safer at home,” Kwong said. “I think the reality is that… some people who won’t follow the rules as strictly as they need to. Sometimes they come home and they want to see their boyfriend or girlfriend, and they just come over for a quick visit, and infect them and that can lead to an outbreak.”
An associate professor at the School of Occupational and Public Health at Ryerson University expressed concern about spread in the facilities.
“From my perspective… what’s happening with the quarantine hotel approach is that you are getting the potential… to infect a lot of other people that they may not infect if they actually stay in their own home,” Thomas Tenkate said.
“Once you go and move to this sort of setting, you really have to make sure that it is very, very locked down, very controlled, and… from what I’ve heard… is that it really isn’t as controlled as it should be.”
People travelling into Canada on an international flight are supposed to stay in a government-authorized hotel while waiting on the result of a COVID-19 test taken shortly after landing. That rule has been in place since the end of February and was brought in as part of the effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The Crowne Plaza Hotel is one of 20 quarantine hotels in Toronto.
No word either on how many travellers are currently isolated here.