‘Exposure limited’: First Eastern Ontario COVID-19 case is St. Lawrence College student; four close contacts self-isolating

CORNWALL — The Cornwall campus of St. Lawrence College was not at risk from a student who attended only one class before testing positive for the novel coronavirus, according to the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, although the local agency does support the College’s decision to close down in the Seaway city.

The EOHU said yesterday it has identified and is monitoring four potential close contacts of what is Eastern Ontario’s first case of COVID-19 (outside Ottawa), a woman in her 30s who lives in Prescott and Russell counties. Those contacts — a person attending the same March 10 class and three others who met with the woman as a group — are in self-isolation.

The infected party was not showing symptoms when she attended the March 10 class, a day after returning from New York City, says the EOHU. Mild respiratory symptoms started the next day, and the patient sought help March 12 at Glengarry Memorial Hospital, which conducted the COVID-19 test and sent her home to self-isolate, where she remains. The positive result came back March 14.

“The EOHU does not feel that the College was at risk because of this single positive case, since we have been diligent in tracking down the contacts of this case, and her exposure was limited,” the EOHU says in a release. “However, we do support the closing of the campus as part of our collective social distancing measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread in general. Again, this is not because of this specific case, but because we have recommended the closing of schools and other gathering places in general.”

The Campus announced its closure yesterday.

Meanwhile, the EOHU has also issued an explanation about its seemingly delayed release of follow-up information about the local case after the province immediately updated its own COVID-19 website early Saturday evening with a bare listing of the positive test involving a woman in her 30s at Glengarry Memorial Hospital. EOHU officials have previously explained that it would take them extra time to formulate a press release, in both official languages, once the province signs off.

“The province received the information about a positive case and updated their website immediately at 5:30 on March 14th. This information was released by the province before the EOHU was able to issue a press release. However, the health unit had already begun the process of contact tracing to determine who might have been exposed to the woman,” says the EOHU.

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