BY ALEX GREGORY
Headwaters Health Care Centre, as seen above in an undated photo. The centre reported Tuesday that five staff members and one patient tested positive for the COVID‐19 Coronavirus. (File Photo) This is the calm before the storm. The first confirmed death from COVID-19, outbreaks in Caledon and Mississauga hospitals and calls for stricter guidelines for social distancing marked a turbulent week in Peel Region. On Tuesday, Peel Public Health announced the region’s first officially-announced death from the COVID-19 Coronavirus, after a Brampton resident in his 70s passed away on Mar. 26 while in treatment at Brampton Civic Hospital. The man had underlying health conditions and passed away a day after confirming positive for the virus, the hospital said. “We are deeply saddened that a patient with COVID-19 has passed away at (Brampton Civic), and our thoughts are with the patient’s family during this difficult time,” said William Osler Health System’s interim president, Dr. Frank Martino, Tuesday afternoon. “Osler staff and physicians are working tirelessly and taking every precaution to ensure the health and safety of our patients, teams, and the community.” In a statement, Peel Public Health said it would be investigating all close contacts of the patient, whose identity was unknown as of press time. Though a death involving COVID-19 was “anticipated,” said Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, the announcement was still a difficult one to make. “The loss of one of our community members is hard, especially under these (circumstances),” said Brown. In a statement, Peel Region’s interim medical officer of health, Dr. Lawrence Loh, said that this will likely not be the last death caused by the virus. Loh called on residents to help slow the spread by practicing physical distancing procedures and proper hygiene.
“More than ever, residents who are ill should self-isolate at home for fourteen days, and all residents should stay home as much as possible, only going out for essential reasons,” said Loh. Two hospitals in the region also announced outbreaks related to the virus, with Headwaters Health Care Centre in Orangeville revealing that five staff members and one patient tested positive for the virus, while Trillium Health Partners revealed that four patients in an inpatient unit at Credit Valley Hospital tested positive. In both cases, affected patients were immediately isolated and moved to dedicated units, while the workers affected at Headwaters are self-isolating for the next 14 days. A representative from Trillium said Tuesday that the health system’s top priority is the safety of patients, health care workers and the community. “As we continue to see community spread of COVID-19, (we) remain vigilant and are actively preparing measures to respond to additional cases and outbreaks.”
The region also announced stricter guidelines in place to discourage congregations of large groups in a bid to slow the outbreak, following a new bylaw announced this week in Brampton that would see fines from $500 – $100,000 leveled at offenders who violate physical distancing regulation. Residents with COVID-19, those considered probable cases and all associated close contacts are required to stay in their homes for two weeks or risk daily fines up to $5,000, said Loh. “Our time to flatten the curve is coming to an end. We must act now to save lives and protect our healthcare system and frontline workers,” Loh said Wednesday. “We know that COVID-19 does not travel on its own; it is transmitted from person to person. These measures are intended to limit interactions that can spread the virus and break chains of transmission in our community.”
In a set of guidelines published Wednesday, Peel Public Health advised that residents stay at home, except for daily exercise alone or with a family member, operating essential businesses or leaving home once per week for essential reasons, such as the purchase of groceries or medicines. Residents over the age of 70 are advised to stay at home entirely, and to rely on family and social supports as much as possible for essential needs. Peel Public Health also recommends that essential businesses that choose to remain open should work to limit access to their facilities and the number of occupants on their premises, move their operations to delivery and pick-up as much as possible, and consider active screening of their employees and staff for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. As of Wednesday morning, 309 cases were reported as confirmed in Peel Region, according to the public health division. For more information, visit peelregion.ca/coronavirus.