Dr. Michael Howatt Ontario

Ontario non-essential worker intubated after contracting COVID-19 while on the job

TORONTO - A critical care doctor in Toronto is calling for non-essential workplaces to be shuttered after a patient of his became infected with a COVID-19 variant while on the job.

Dr. Michael Warner, medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital, said that his patient is in his 30s and works an office job in the financial services industry.

"He was completely healthy prior to acquiring his infection at work," Warner said in a video on social media. "His employer mandated that he show face time at the office and come in. He shared an office with a co-worker."

According to Warner, the co-worker did not adhere to public health restrictions and passed on the disease. The patient required intubation, Warner added, got a blood clot and eventually suffered brain dysfunction as a result of COVID-19.

“Today, after acquiring the infection in early March, I had the first lucid conversation with my patient and was able to pass it along to his family,” he said.

"Non-essential workplaces should not be open given the circumstances we're in. Any employees that do go into work because they are essential need to be protected. There's no other way. "

Toronto-area doctors have been sharing COVID-19 patient stories, with the permission of their families, throughout the weekend. On Sunday, Warner spoke to CTV News Toronto about a woman in her 40s who died after contracting the novel coronavirus from her husband, who got sick after being told to go to work despite the fact that there was a known COVID-19 outbreak at his workplace.

"He was told to go work at this factory and he got COVID, so did everyone else on his shift, and they got the variant," Warner said Sunday. "It got brought home, their daughter got COVID and his wife got COVID."

Dr. Abdu Sharkawy, who works at Toronto Western Hospital, spoke on Saturday about a 47-year-old teacher who tested positive for COVID-19 after coming in contact with a student who was also positive. The teacher is now intubated.

"This is just absolutely heartbreaking," Sharkawy said Saturday. "We have run out of adjectives for describing how sobering, how traumatic and how absolutely tragic this situation is."

The government introduced on Saturday a four-week provincewide “shutdown” to curb the spread of infection across the province. However, all retail stores and other non-essential businesses are still allowed to remain open with strict capacity limits in place.

The decision came hours after the province’s own COVID-19 science table recommended a stay-at-home order - similar to the one that was implemented on Dec. 26 .-- to keep COVID-19, and its variants, at bay.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott defended the decision at the time while saying that the order produced "tremendous ill effect on both children and adults."

The shutdown was implemented as a result of new modeling that suggested Ontario could see 800 COVID-19 patients in the ICU by the end of the month, with or without enhanced new public health restrictions in place.

As of Monday, ICU admissions related to COVID-19 reached an all-time high with 494 patients.

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  • An ICU health-care worker shown inside a negative pressure room cares for a COVID-19 patient on a ventilator at the Humber River Hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, December 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS / Nathan Denette