BRANTFORD — An employee at Lowe’s in Brantford and at the LCBO in Burford have tested positive for COVID-19.
Brant County Health Unit’s Medical Officer of Health Elizabeth Urbantke gave an update on the situation Tuesday.
“Anyone who visited the Lowe’s Brantford store between June 23 and 30 is encouraged to monitor for symptoms until July 14,” said Urbantke.
The employee was not in direct contact with customers, so Urbantke says the case is not considered high risk.
A total of 25 employees at Lowe’s are now in self-isolation as a precaution.
“As of today, there have been no additional positive tests associated with staff or customers and all 14 self-isolating staff are asymptomatic,” said Urbantke.
A second outbreak at the LCBO store in Burford was also declared. The person was last at work at this location on Saturday, July 4, 2020. They are a resident of Brampton and will not be counted in the local statistics of Brant County’s COVID-19 numbers.
“If you have visited this location recently and are concerned about any exposure, I would urge you to contact the Brant Community Healthcare System to arrange for testing,” said Urbantke.
The Medical Officer says there may be a move by local government officials to make protective face masks mandatory in the coming days. That is a recommendation she says health officials in Brantford-Brant have been making for months.
The move to mask up is spreading across Ontario. Earlier this month the city of Toronto made masks mandatory for all TTC riders. Premiere Doug Ford has rejected the call by the mayors of Toronto and Hamilton to provincially mandate mask wearing in public.
However, a new push is coming from a group of over 200 scientists worldwide, urging the World Health Organization to acknowledge that COVID-19 is an airborne transmission.
In a letter published this week in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, two scientists from Australia and the U.S. wrote that studies have shown “beyond any reasonable doubt that viruses are released during exhalation, talking and coughing in microdroplets small enough to remain aloft in the air.” That means people in certain indoor conditions could be at greater risk of being infected than was previously thought.
The letter was endorsed by 239 scientists from a variety of fields. It stated that the issue of whether or not COVID-19 was airborne was of “heightened significance” as many countries stop restrictive lockdown measures.
The authors cited previous studies suggesting that germs closely related to the new virus were spread via airborne transmission. They said “there is every reason to expect” that the coronavirus behaves similarly. They also cited a Washington state choir practice and research about a poorly ventilated restaurant in Guangzhou, China, each of which raised the possibility of infections from airborne droplets.
“We are concerned that the lack of recognition of the risk of airborne transmission of COVID-19 and the lack of clear recommendations on the control measures against the airborne virus will have significant consequences,” the scientists wrote. “People may think they are fully protected by adhering to the current recommendations but in fact, additional airborne interventions are needed.”
Scientists around the world have been working furiously to understand the new virus. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it is thought to mainly jump from person to person through close contact, but adds: “We are still learning about how the virus spreads.”
Martin McKee, a professor of European Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who was not linked to the letter, said the scientists’ arguments sounded “entirely reasonable.”
“Part of the problem is that everybody at WHO was moving with the paradigm of influenza, even though we know there are lots of differences between influenza and coronaviruses,” he said.
McKee noted that with Britain’s recent reopening of its pubs, restaurants and salons, the possibility of airborne coronavirus transmission might mean stricter interventions are needed indoors, including more mask-wearing and continued physical distancing.
Right now there are two active cases of COVID-19 in Brantford-Brant. Both of those patients are recovering at home. There are no active cases in Six Nations or on Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.
Haldimand-Norfolk has 42 active cases.
A total of 36,060 cases since the beginning of the outbreak have been reported across Ontario with 112 new cases reported on Tuesday.
~ with CP files.