A Toronto city councillor is in self-isolation at home after coming into direct contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19, his office said Monday in a statement.
Coun. Josh Matlow (Ward 12 Toronto-St. Paul’s) has no symptoms, but will be isolated at home until March 20 as a precaution, following the advice of Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city’s medical officer of health, the statement said.
“It is very important to note that I have been informed by Dr. de Villa that because I am asymptomatic, no one, including my family, is at an elevated risk of having contracted the virus due to contact with me,” his statement said. His office said that includes his staff and others who work with him at city hall.
Matlow is the first known public official in Toronto to be in self-isolation as the coronavirus outbreak worsens around the globe, causing schools to close, conferences to be cancelled and stocks to plummet.
In a phone interview from his midtown home, where he is staying in the basement, Matlow told the Star he came into contact with the ill person on March 5 at the Beth Sholom synagogue on Eglinton Ave. W. in his ward.
He was attending an art sale fundraiser for the Out of the Cold shelter that serves those experiencing homelessness, and a man who greeted him has since been tested postive for COVID-19.
The man had recently been to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington, D.C., Matlow said.
The synagogue posted on its Facebook page Monday that one of its lay leaders “exhibited flu-like symptoms” last week and has since been tested positive. He is now under a 14-day quarantine at home. The synagogue is closed for “thorough sanitizing” and will reopen once that is completed. Other leadership and staff are under self-isolation, the post said.
A staff member from the Out of the Cold program called to inform Matlow’s office on Monday morning, the councillor said, and he headed home.
The Canadian Press reported Liberal MP Anthony Housefather is also isolating himself in Montreal after attending the AIPAC conference, which has been linked to other confirmed cases of COVID-19. He reported no symptoms.
Matlow will be cancelling public events during his isolation, including a community meeting to support the bookstore Mable’s Fables, he said. The March 10 event will be rescheduled.
He’ll continue to work by phone and email, and his staff will be serving the ward as usual.
Matlow, who is married and has a 7-year-old daughter, has been a city councillor since 2010. He represents a ward of more than 100,000 people that includes midtown and the Yonge-Eglinton area.
“The hardest part will be that I’ll be isolated from my family as well,” he told the Star. They had a trip to Disney World planned over the March Break, he said. He’s been thinking about the best ways to communicate with his young family — through FaceTime or otherwise — but said the lack of personal contact will be difficult.
“I’ll just have to get through the next couple of weeks in an isolated way and that’s the reality I’ve been offered and that’s the reality that I need to accept and deal with.”
He stressed the importance of listening to the advice of public health professionals, practising good hygiene and seeking information from credible sources.
Toronto Public Health has reported 17 positive cases of the novel coronavirus as of Monday. There are 34 reported cases in Ontario.
Three other people in Toronto were confirmed to have been ill with the virus but have since recovered, the health agency reported Monday.
Get more Toronto politics in your inbox
Get an inside look at what’s really going on at City Hall in our Hall Monitor email newsletter.
COVID-19 has not been transmitted locally, Toronto Public Health officials say, but “given the global circumstances” they are preparing for that possibility, according to the public health website.
The public health agency asks anyone who has had close contact with a person who is ill with the virus to self-isolate and to contact them at 416-338-7600.
More information about symptoms, including what do do if you believe you are sick and the latest updates from officials are available on the city’s website in multiple languages at https://www.toronto.ca/coronavirus.