York Region health officials say a 72-year-old Markham woman died of COVID-19, making her the second reported coronavirus fatality in the GTA on Sunday.

The woman is York region’s first COVID-19 related death. Earlier, the City of Toronto reported its first death related to COVID-19, bringing Ontario’s death toll to five.

Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region’s Medical Officer of Health, said the woman came back from Los Angeles but had previously travelled to France and Tahiti.

He said she was picked up at the airport by her son and daughter-in-law. The woman collapsed after arriving at her son’s home, Kurji said.

The coroner later confirmed that the woman died from COVID-19, Kurji said. It is not yet known where she contracted the virus nor how she passed enhanced airport screenings.

“Sometimes individuals escape detection. I think the last modelling study that I saw from the London School of Hygiene seemed to suggest that about 42 per cent of individuals who may be infectious tend to get through these screening measures,” Kurji said.

He said both the son and the daughter-in-law are in self-isolation.

“York Region extends their deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of the individual,” said Kurji. “This case speaks to the seriousness of the current situation and how as a community we need to continue working together to protect one another.”

“There is local transmission occurring in York region,” he said. “It is extremely important that the messages around social distance and measures around that are really followed by our residents.”

Kurji said the first COVID-19 case in the region has fully recovered, and several other individuals are now completely asymptomatic.

On behalf of everyone at the City of Markham we offer our sincere condolences to the family and loved ones of the woman who passed away from #COVID19 in our community, the first death in York Region. Please if you’ve travelled recently, #StayHome and keep the community safe.
— Mayor Frank Scarpitti (@frankscarpitti) March 22, 2020

Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti is calling for the provincial and federal governments to close all non-essential businesses over COVID-19 concerns.

The first COVID-19 death was a 77-year-old man from Barrie who died on March 17. Two days later, a Milton man in his 50s became Ontario’s second COVID-19 fatality.

A close contact of the first fatality, a Barrie man in his 70s, died on Saturday due to the virus.

As of Sunday afternoon, there are 425 COVID-19 cases in Ontario.

COVID-19 outbreak declared at Markham nursing home

There are seven new cases confirmed Sunday, bringing the region’s total to 44. It includes the confirmed case at Markhaven Home for Seniors.

A COVID-19 outbreak has been declared in the nursing home, which means anyone with symptoms is assumed to be a positive COVID-19 case, Kurji said.

“So our investigation here is ongoing, but I want to re-emphasize that the past record of this facility’s excellent and they have managed many outbreaks before and we are confident that that will continue to happen,” he said.

Kurji said they have been interviewing all staff and have been providing education sessions.

He said a detailed guidance have also been distributed to other long-term care facilities in the region to ensure that all are ready to respond to COVID-19.


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