coronavirus toronto masks

13 healthcare workers in Toronto have tested positive for COVID-19

Cases of the 2019 novel coronavirus continue to rise at an alarming rate across Ontario, causing problems far beyond the obvious and tragic — such as a widespread shortage of protective gear for medical professionals.

Toronto Public Health confirmed in a statement Sunday evening that "approximately 13" health care workers have tested positive for the 2019 novel coronavirus city-wide.

While the agency did not reveal which types of medical professionals, specifically, had contracted the deadly virus, TPH's acting director of communicable disease control, Dr. Michael Finkelstein, said that their places of work include "hospital, community healthcare and long-term care" settings.

Finklestein urged members of the public to continue limiting social interactions as much as possible to protect vulnerable citizens and front-line workers.

Healthcare workers are advised to "track how they feel closely" and consult their employers immediately if they begin to feel sick.

This recent spike in the number of medical professionals diagnosed with COVID-19 in Canada's largest city proves exactly how important personal protective equipment is for health care workers when it comes to fighting the global pandemic.

Along with a fast-approaching shortage of ventilators for critically ill patients, hospital administrators all over the world have been warning of dwindling infection control supplies in recent weeks (or months, in some cases.)

There simply isn't enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to go around: By some estimates, hospitals in Canada could run out of n95 masks, gloves, gowns, face shield and scrubs within weeks.

Every doctor and nurse infected with COVID-19 is not only at risk of dying, but of spreading the disease to their own close contacts and patients they treat.

Once diagnosed with the coronavirus, such workers are furthermore rendered unable to do their jobs — and our healthcare system needs as many qualified professionals as it can get right now to combat the rapid spread of COVID-19.

Both the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) and Ontario Medical Association (OMA) formally called attention to the looming PPE shortage on Sunday, asking the provincial government to ramp up production on masks, specifically.

"We fear that a mask shortage is imminent.  This is a serious and dire situation for our front-line workers. We must take every action possible to avoid, or at best, delay such an eventuality," said RNAO CEO Dr. Doris Grinspun in a joint statement from the two professional associations.

The RNAO and the OMA both urged "anyone with a supply of masks not in use for the current emergency" to donate them immediately to health care workers.

Ontario's government is similarly calling upon all businesses and organizations with manufacturing capacity to help produce desperately-needed medical equipment and supplies.

"We're ready to mobilize our manufacturing might to help the entire country and we want Ontario to become the workshop of Canada," said Premier Doug Ford in a release announcing the initiative on Saturday.

"Extraordinary times call for extraordinary efforts and we are already seeing people stepping up and offering to help out as we deal with this unprecedented situation. This is a true demonstration of Ontario Spirit."

In Toronto, N95 respirator masks can be donated to those most in need through Michael Garron Hospital's recently-launched PPE Drive.

Meanwhile, Canada's federal government says it has secured millions of masks to be delivered shortly. Ontario is likewise currently testing some of the more than 55 million N95 masks that were stockpiled after the SARS epidemic in 2002.

The masks are technically expired, but Ontario's Ministry of Health says it is working with manufacturers to evaluate their effectiveness and potential for use.

As of Monday morning, the provincial government was reporting 489 confirmed active cases of the 2019 novel coronavirus within Ontario. Eight cases have now been resolved, while six patients have died as a result of contracting the deadly virus.

There has been one COVID-19 related death in Toronto to date, with 220 cases currently reported in the city. Eleven of those 220 patients have been hospitalized and an additional five people have recovered from their illnesses.

Lead photo by

Jeremy Gilbert

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