Markham woman first coronavirus-related death in York Region

A woman in her 70s who died just hours after returning home from international travel is York Region’s first death related to COVID-19.

Despite increased airport screening measures, the 72-year-old Markham resident reportedly escaped detection when she returned to Toronto from Los Angeles via France and Tahiti on Saturday, March 21.

The woman collapsed in her son’s house and died shortly thereafter. It’s not known yet where she contracted the virus. “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,” Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region’s Medical Officer of Health, said in a news conference.

York also reported seven newly-confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, March 22, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 44. That total that includes yesterday’s announcement of woman in her 70s who tested positive for COVID-19 at Markhaven Home for Seniors in Markham.

Though a COVID-19 outbreak at the home has been declared, the test results for most residents are still pending. “One of the test results that came back shows that it was seasonal coronavirus, which is really the virus that causes the cold so we may very well walk back the COVID-19 designation if we find several negative tests,” Kurji said at the news conference. “However, it is better, really, for us to take extra precautions in this instance.”

York Region Public Health continues to work closely with the staff and residents at Markhaven, and all long-term care centres in the Region. “We now cannot rule out local transmission in York Region,” added Dr. Kurji. “These unfortunate signals are indications of progression of the virus in our community. Local transmission is defined as individuals who did not have close contact with a travel-related case or any known case of COVID-19.”

York Chairman and CEO Wayne Emmerson expressed condolences to the family and friends of the Markham woman who died of COVID-19. “During these times of uncertainty and rapid change, this is an unfortunate and somber reminder of the seriousness of this situation,” he says. “Now, more than ever, we need to follow the advice of public health to protect ourselves and our community.”

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, York Region Public Health encourages residents to avoid crowds, stay at home when possible and practise social distancing and maintain good hand hygiene. Updated information and resources in multiple languages, including steps on how to protect yourself, is available at york.ca/covid19.

Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region’s Medical Officer of Health, provides a COVID-19 update at a news conference posted on York Region’s Facebook page. 

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