NEWS
03/16/2020 18:46 EDT | Updated 03/16/2020 20:22 EDT

Ontario Officials Link About Half Of New COVID-19 Cases To U.S. Travel

But the federal government is excluding U.S. citizens from travel restrictions.

Brittany Greeson/The Washington Post via Getty Images
The Ambassador Bridge connecting Windsor, Ont. to Detroit is seen on June 28, 2018.

TORONTO — About half of Ontario’s newest cases of COVID-19 can be traced to travel to the United States, public health authorities said Monday. The news comes on the same day the federal government announced stricter border measures — that still allow American citizens to cross into Canada. 

“Basically, the numbers are going up very rapidly,” Dr. Barbara Yaffe, associate chief medical officer of health, told reporters at Queen’s Park. 

“We have found the numbers of new cases have almost doubled in a few days ... We have 32 new ones in the last 24 hours. And a significant number of those were exposed [to the virus] in the United States.” 

Ten of the 32 new cases are still being investigated, Yaffe said, so their cause is not yet confirmed. 

I’m concerned about people coming from lots of places.Dr. Barbara Yaffe

Public health officials are conducting detailed interviews with every individual diagnosed with COVID-19 to trace their activities and all the people they came into contact with during the two weeks prior to their diagnosis, she said.

Yaffe added that she is worried about travellers arriving from the U.S. still being allowed to enter Canada. 

“I am concerned, obviously, about people coming from the States right now. But I’m concerned about people coming from Italy. I’m concerned about people coming from lots of places.”

Earlier Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada is closing the border to most non-residents, but he said U.S. citizens would be exempted, for now. 

Watch the prime minister’s announcement. Story continues after video.

 

“We recognize that the level of integration of our two economies and the coordination that we’ve had over the last while puts the U.S. in a separate category from the rest of the world,” Trudeau said.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce applauded the move, saying the exemptions are necessary to safeguard supply chains.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford also cautioned about any moves to shut down the Canada-U.S. border, saying commercial activity needs to continue.

U.S. official says country is ‘failing’

Concerns have been raised about the U.S. government’s ability to test and treat people for COVID-19, including by governors and one of the country’s top health officials. 

“The system is not really geared to what we need right now,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a Congressional committee last week.

“It is a failing. Let’s admit it.”

California’s governor also called out the U.S. government for providing testing kits that were incomplete.

One epidemiologist told The Atlantic that testing was so limited that journalists should refer to new cases as “newly discovered cases” rather than “new cases” to avoid giving the impression that the official tally is an accurate representation of the number of confirmed cases in the U.S.