NEWS
03/05/2020 20:00 EST | Updated 03/05/2020 22:46 EST

Alberta Has 1st Coronavirus Case, As Numbers Jump In Ontario, B.C.

Two people in Quebec have also been confirmed to have COVID-19.

Alberta’s first presumptive case of the novel coronavirus involves a woman from the southern part of the province who was on a cruise ship that is being held for testing off the coast of California.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said it appears the woman who is in her 50s contracted COVID-19 while on board the Grand Princess cruise ship.

The woman returned to Alberta on Feb. 21 and isolated herself at her home in the Calgary region on Feb. 28.

Provincial health officials detected the case on Thursday, although it may take a few days for the national laboratory in Winnipeg to confirm it as the new strain of coronavirus that first appeared in China last year, Hinshaw said.

The patient is expected to make a full recovery, Hinshaw added.

“Public health officials are reaching out to all individuals who may have been in contact with this person, assessing their health and instructing them to stay at home for 14 days after their last contact with this person.”

Hinshaw said other Albertans were also on the voyage, and officials are trying to get a list of passengers to contact.

“I would like to ask anyone in Alberta who was on board the Grand Princess cruise ship in the last two weeks to please stay at home until 14 days have passed since they left the cruise, even if they are feeling well.”

Health officials have so far confirmed cases of COVID-19 in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec, with several new cases announced today.

Quebec cases

Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg confirmed a second case of the disease in Quebec.

The case involves a traveller who returned to the province from India.

Quebec authorities say the man was initially cared for at the hospital in Mont-Laurier, northwest of Montreal, after exhibiting symptoms.

The provincial Health Department says the patient was transferred to the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal on Wednesday, one of four centres in Quebec designated to deal with the virus.

Officials say they are trying to retrace the patient’s movements before he went to the hospital.

Jump in B.C.

In B.C., the province’s health officer announced eight new cases of COVID-19, including the first apparent community transmission of the virus in the province.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday the case of a woman in the Vancouver area is of particular concern because she did not travel recently and has had no known contact with anyone else diagnosed with the novel coronavirus.

“This is a community case and we are doing a detailed investigation right now to try and determine where her source of infection was,” said Henry, adding the woman was initially tested for influenza.

“She has not recently travelled and has no known contact with any of our known cases of COVID-19. That’s something we are paying a lot of attention too, of course.”

There’s likely at least one other person out there who has this disease or had this disease, and we need to find them.Dr. Bonnie Henry

Henry said officials are doing “disease detective work” to determine the source of the woman’s infection.

“There’s likely at least one other person out there who has this disease or had this disease, and we need to find them,” she told a news conference.

Henry said the number of new cases announced Thursday is not surprising, but there are heightened concerns about the possible community transmission and another case involving a woman from Seattle who was visiting family in B.C.’s Lower Mainland.

Health officials in B.C. and Washington state are also working to determine the woman’s contacts and movements, Henry said.

“Clearly, that is of concern with us and we are working with our neighbours to the south in Washington state to try and determine where her exposure might have been,” she said.

Seattle reported at least eight COVID-19 deaths this week.

Henry said four of the new cases in B.C. are people with close household contacts of previously announced cases. Those cases involve a man in his 20s, a man in his 30s, a woman in her 50s and a woman in her 60s.

The other cases involve two people who recently returned to B.C. from travel to Iran, she said. Henry said the woman in her 50s and the man in his 60s both live in the same home.

She confirmed one of the new cases involves a student at a private university in downtown Vancouver.

University Canada West said Thursday the school was informed of a presumptive case of COVID-19 a day earlier and it is taking precautionary steps by keeping the campus closed for three days.

The student with a presumptive case of the novel coronavirus was visited by the person’s father, who tested positive for COVID-19 after an overseas trip, the university said.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said 13 of B.C.’s 21 cases have some travel links to Iran.

Henry said of B.C.’s 21 cases only one person is in hospital, a woman in her 80s who remained in critical condition on Thursday in the intensive care unit at Vancouver General Hospital. 

More cases in Ontario

Officials in Ontario also reported a new case of the novel coronavirus that they say is linked to a cruise ship that left San Francisco in early February.

Peel Public Health says the man in his 60s from Mississauga, Ont., was a passenger on the Grand Princess cruise ship and returned to Canada on Feb. 28.

He is now considered the 23rd case of COVID-19 in the province.

THE CANADIAN PRESS
Minister of Health Patty Hajdu looks towards Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam, as Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland listens during an update on coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa, on Wednesday.

The agency says the man was assessed at a local hospital before being released into self-isolation.

News from Peel region came after Ontario’s chief medical officer of health announced two other new cases of the virus on Thursday.

Dr. David Williams says those cases are a woman who returned to Kitchener, Ont., from Italy and a man who returned to Toronto from Iran.

Williams says everyone who has tested positive for the virus has been isolated.

“Overall, the containment continues well,” Williams said. “The risk of transmission in Ontario is low.”

The latest cases involve a woman in her 50s who went to Grand River Hospital’s emergency department in Kitchener, Ont., on Tuesday after returning from Italy. She was sent home and remains in self-isolation with mild symptoms.

“It has been determined that she had mild symptoms on flights from Milan to Lisbon, and then Lisbon to Toronto,” said Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, the acting medical officer of health for the Region of Waterloo.

NOTE: This map will continue to be updated as new information comes in. It was most recently updated on March 5, 2020 at 8:00 p.m. ET.

In the other case, authorities said the man in his 60s went to the emergency department at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre on Saturday. He was also sent home and remains in self-isolation, authorities said.

Williams said the province continues to increase its testing capacity and is developing guidance for groups holding large public gatherings to minimize risk.

He cautioned against fears that people should stock their homes with supplies in the event they are required to self-isolate, saying there is a “middle ground” to be found.

“Back in the time of SARS, we had well over 20,000 people that went into self-isolation,” he said. “During that time, people did not run out of things in the household. Neighbours helped out because that is the Canadian way.”

Williams said Ontario will not experience a situation like that which in occurred in Wuhan, China, where the entire area was locked down with little access to transportation or supplies for weeks on end.

“That would not be our approach here,” he said. “If you’re in isolation and there’s something you need, let us know. We can help you out in that situation. You’re not on your own.”

Williams said Ontario’s first four cases of the coronavirus have all been resolved, with those patients twice testing negative for the virus at least 24 hours apart.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has defended Canada’s decision not to close its borders to foreign nationals coming from regions where the outbreak is spreading.

He says “knee-jerk reaction” to the respiratory disease will not keep people safe.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2020.