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Workplaces are 'new front' in York Region's COVID-19 battle: MOH

An employee of Saputo Dairy Products in Vaughan has died and 23 others are infected; York Region public health has noted a pattern in the growing numbers of employees infecting each other, Dr. Karim Kurji said
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The Associated Press/Wilfredo Lee

As many businesses prepare to reopen next week, employees in the same workplace are the "new front" emerging in York Region's battle against COVID-19, according to the medical officer of health.

Public health has noted a pattern in the growing numbers of employees who are infecting each other with the virus, Dr. Karim Kurji said in a video update, as York Region's total number of cases increased by 30 to 1,797 today, May 8.

"We are seeing an increasing number of these cases, and this is how the new wave against a front starts," he said. "You first see cases, and slowly, slowly, you see a few people dying, and we are starting to see that pattern."

An employee of Saputo Dairy Products Canada in Vaughan has died of COVID-19, and 23 other employees — six of whom are York Region residents — have tested positive.

Public health has stated there is no risk to the general public as the Canadian Food and Inspection Agency designated facility at 101 Royal Group Cres. is not open to the public and does not produce food at the location.

Kurji advises employees and employers to access the guidance documents provided by Ministry of Labour to ensure measures are in place prior to reopening, such as screening staff, wearing masks, maintaining distance, and other restrictions.

"However, the onus is on (employers) to put in the prevention measures so that we keep our employees safe," Kurji said.

Public health is continuing with its "aggressive" testing of all long-term care, retirement and group homes, he said, with shelters next on their agenda.

"We are way ahead of many other health units in this regard," Kurji said.

Two more deaths of residents of long-term care homes are being reported, with outbreak-related deaths now totalling 95.

A 91-year-old Aurora man is the 127th person in York Region and the 10th resident of Chartwell Aurora Long-term Care to die of COVID-19. The man passed away Thursday, May 7, three days after the onset of symptoms.

A 74-year-old Markham woman passed away Sunday, April 19 at Markhaven Home for Seniors, where 18 residents have now died since the outbreak was declared in March.

While the total number of infected residents, patients and health care workers has increased from 816 to 833, outbreaks have been resolved at three more facilities, including the Canadian Back Institute/CBI Health Group Dixon outbreak in Newmarket, where four residents and 13 staff had tested positive.

Dr. Kurji urged residents visiting their mothers for Sunday's Mother's Day to be sure to practise physical distancing.

"Very important to remember that the elderly have a high mortality rate should they come down with COVID-19," he said.

In York Region, one in five individuals aged over 70 has died, and one in three aged over 85 has died, he added.

Of 1,797 confirmed cases, 635, up by 15 today, have been acquired as a result of an outbreak at one of 49 facilities — the major cause, at 35 per cent, of COVID-19 in York Region.

In Newmarket, institutional outbreaks have caused 116 of its 174 cases — 67 per cent — and 12 of its 14 COVID-19 related deaths.

An additional patient has COVID-19 at Southlake Regional Health Centre, which is the only hospital in York Region with an outbreak, now totalling five patients and two health-care workers.

According to Southlake spokesperson Matt Haggerty, the infected patients were in two units at the Newmarket hospital; the medical assessment and consultation unit, and at a Reactivation Care Centre unit in Toronto.

"Those patients who have tested positive were moved to one of our medicine units, which is currently only being used for COVID-19 positive patients," Haggerty said.  

All of the patients on those units have been tested, and to date, no other positive tests have been confirmed, he added.

As of May 6, 72 patients were "under investigation" and awaiting test results.

Resolved cases in the region are at 886, or 49 per cent. In Newmarket, 25 per cent of cases are resolved.

The number of hospitalized patients in York Region is 72, with 15 cases critically ill in ICU. In Newmarket, eight residents are hospitalized, with one in ICU.

Ninety health-care workers have tested positive for COVID-19, of which 63 cases, or 69 per cent, have been resolved.

Of 1,797 cases (+30 today) in York Region:

  • 745 are confirmed in Vaughan (+ 10 today), 50 deaths, 434 resolved;
  • 399 in Markham, 43 deaths, 189 resolved;
  • 187 in Richmond Hill (+ 6), 5 deaths, 124 resolved;
  • 174 in Newmarket (+ 1 today), 14 deaths, 43 resolved; 
  • 89 in Aurora, 12 deaths, 35 resolved;
  • 81 in Georgina (+ 4 today), 1 death, 10 resolved;
  • 42 in East Gwillimbury (+ 2); 1 death; 9 resolved;
  • 39 in Whitchurch-Stouffville (+1 today), 23 resolved;
  • 22 in King, 2 deaths, 18 resolved.

As of 3 p.m. May 6, Southlake Regional Health Centre has four COVID-19 patients, all on ventilators, in ICU. Seventeen COVID-19 patients are in inpatient units. The number of inpatients under investigation for COVID-19 has increased significantly to 72. Total deaths remain at 10.