2 eastern Ontario health units report 1st COVID-19 cases

A woman in her 90s is in hospital in Pembroke, Ont., and another woman in her 70s is recovering at home with what their local health units say are the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 in their respective regions.

On Wednesday night, the Renfrew County and District Health Unit said the woman at the Pembroke Regional Hospital lives in a local retirement home, has not recently travelled and was tested for the virus that causes the respiratory illness on Monday.

For every one confirmed case there are probably 10 cases out in the community, and quite possibly 100. - Robert Cushman, acting medical officer of health, Renfrew County

She's now in isolation at the hospital while the public health unit works with the retirement home to see who else may have been exposed.

The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit said Thursday a woman in her 70s who had recently been to the United States is self-isolating after testing positive. The health unit didn't say which part of the region she's from.

People over 65 are considered at higher risk of developing severe symptoms of COVID-19, along with people who have compromised immune systems or underlying medical conditions.

Counts vary

These cases have not yet been logged by the Ontario Ministry of Health, which lists 53 confirmed cases in eastern Ontario as of Thursday morning.

Public health units in Ottawa and Kingston have also announced cases that haven't yet been confirmed by the province.

Experts say these confirmed cases represent only a fraction of the infections suggested by their research and modelling.

"For every one confirmed case there are probably 10 cases out in the community, and quite possibly 100," said Robert Cushman, acting medical officer of health for the Renfrew County health unit.

Ottawa's top doctor said days ago there could be as many as 4,000 cases in the capital, especially given the typical lag of 10 and 14 days between infection and confirmation.

That's why health officials are urging people to stay home and avoid others as much as possible, and to self-isolate if they're feeling sick.

With the new cases announced Thursday, all six local health units in eastern Ontario have confirmed COVID-19 cases, along with the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l'Outaouais in western Quebec.

More questions?

Both the Renfrew Countty and Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District health units advise residents to visit their websites for more information.

If you have symptoms such as a cough or fever, or have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, stay away from other people and use the province's self-assessment tool.

Call Telehealth, your health care provider or the health unit if you still have questions.

Renfrew County's number is 613-735-8654, and the number for Leeds, Grenville and Lanark is 1-800-660-5853 ext. 2499.