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Clusters of COVID-19 cases identified at Vaughan gyms, Markham seniors homes

Help 'break the chain of transmission' by staying home, practising good hand hygiene, and keeping a physical distance of six feet when going out for essentials only, region's medical officer of health urges
2020 02 10 Dr. Karim Kurji  2 DK
File photo/NewmarketToday

York Region public health is working to contain several “clusters” of COVID-19 cases, including at two Markham long-term care homes and two fitness centres in Vaughan, according to York Region’s medical officer of health today.

As the total number of confirmed cases in York Region jumped by 36 today to reach 241, Dr. Karim Kurji said the coronavirus has spread at Markhaven Home for Seniors and at the Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care.

An 88-year-old man who was a resident of Markhaven died March 28, York Region’s third COVID-related death.

A string of cases is being connected with an individual who had contact with people at both the Body Barre, a fitness and training studio for women, and Al Palladini Community Centre in Vaughan.

It’s believed the virus was transmitted through close contact, when the individual had lunch with a person from New York who was sick, Kurji said.

There are currently eight cases of COVID-19 linked to Body Barre.

If you were at Body Barre between March 9 to 15, contact York Region public health.

If you were at the Al Palladini Community Centre between March 7 to 15,  contact York Region public health.

At Markhaven, 22 residents are ill, five with confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 43 employees are ill, 12 of whom have confirmed cases of COVID-19, Kurji said.

At Yee Hong, 11 residents are ill, five are awaiting test results, and 10 employees are sick.

The outbreak is believed to have started with a staff member, who is a resident of Peel Region, who has tested positive for COVID-19.

The resident of Yee Hong hospitalized with COVID-19 was not cared for by the staff member with COVID-19, Kurji added.

At Reena in Richmond Hill, a residence for developmentally challenged individuals, a man has been hospitalized for COVID-19, and five staff members with symptoms are in self-isolation, Kurji said. The man’s father, who had dinner with his son, is also in self-isolation.

A “small cluster” has been identified on the psychiatric floor at Mackenzie Health in Richmond Hill, where two staff members and a former patient have confirmed COVID-19 cases.

As well, five individuals who travelled to Austria and Germany on a ski trip arranged by a Collingwood tour company are confirmed COVID-19 cases. Of the 55 travellers, from across York Region, all but two have been contacted by public health.

“We keep on being vigilant with respect to any intelligence on any other clusters that may have developed,” Kurji said.

In terms of trends in the region, travel-related cases are likely on the decline, he said, adding, “When you look at the local transmission, though, there is a mixed picture here. So we want to especially emphasize to the community to continue with the physical distancing, it’s very important.”

He urged seniors not to leave their home, adding that the four individuals who have died as a result of COVID-19 were all aged over 70. 

“If you’re over 70, stay home,” Kurji said, telling seniors to shop online and have family and friends provide assistance — while always maintaining the recommended safe distance of six feet or two metres. 

“We’re asking that we be a little careful and mindful about keeping our physical distances from our grandmothers, as well,” he said.

In fact, everyone should stay home as much as possible, and only go out for essentials, such as trips to the pharmacy or food store, while practising physical distancing.

Practise good hygiene — wash your hands repeatedly, cough into your sleeve and disinfect surfaces others may have touched.

“Sometimes you don’t know if you’ve got COVID-19 or not,” he said, as it's cold and flu season.

If you have a mild cold or flu symptoms, you should self isolate, as should close contacts in your household, and any contacts you may have had within a two-day period.

”We do need your assistance … in continuing to break these chains of transmission. There’s no reason why we cannot fight this virus and why we cannot win,” Kurji said. “Our data seems to give us the impression that we are getting there. So please continue with these measures.”