Three Canadian Jewish lawmakers in self-isolation after potential exposure to coronavirus

Liberal MP Anthony Housefather (YouTube screencap)

Update, March 11: MP Michael Levitt and MP Anthony Housefather are no longer in self-isolation, are now self-monitoring because of the nature of their limited contact with the infected person and lack of symptoms.

Three Canadian Jewish lawmakers have entered self-isolation after potentially being exposed to the coronavirus.

MP Michael Levitt from Toronto’s York Centre riding and MP Anthony Housefather from Montreal’s Mount Royal riding, attended the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Conference in Washington, D.C., from March 1 to 3. As of March 9, four of the approximately 18,000 people who went to that event have since tested positive for the new coronavirus, including one man from Toronto.

Coun. Josh Matlow from the Toronto-St. Paul’s riding came into contact with a lay leader of Beth Sholom Synagogue while attending a fundraiser for Out of the Cold on March 5. That person had recently returned from attending AIPAC and has since tested positive for COVID-19.

All three law makers have gone into self-isolation following the advice of health authorities.

In his statement, Levitt said Toronto Public Health advised people who attended the conference to self-isolate “out of an abundance of caution.” He also said that, in the week since he has left the conference, he has not felt sick and has experienced no symptoms, meaning there is no elevated risk of contracting the virus through contact with him.

“It is important that everyone seek information regarding COVID-19 from credible sources, such as Toronto Public Health, Public Health Ontario and the Public Health Agency of Canada, and follow their advice,” the statement said. “As more information becomes available from public health officials, I will update on my situation, but until then I will be working as best I can from home and wishing the individual who has fallen ill a speedy recovery,” Levitt said.

Matlow also said in his statement that he was not feeling unwell or displaying any symptoms, but, at the recommendation of Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, he too is self-isolating “out of an abundance of caution.” At least one of his scheduled public events, a community meeting to support children’s bookstore Mabel’s Fables, will have to be rescheduled.

Likewise, Housefather said he has shown no symptoms of the disease but decided to quarantine himself on the advice of public health officials and will remain at home until they tell him he can resume his normal life.

The novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, has so far infected over 70 people in Canada and resulted in one death.

For most people, the virus only causes mild or moderate symptoms such as a fever, cough and shortness of breath. But for some people, especially the elderly and people with pre-existing health conditions, it can cause more severe symptoms such as pneumonia.

In some cases it can result in death, but according to the World Health Organization, most people recover within two weeks, although people with a more severe illness might take up to six weeks to recover.

Correction: This story originally said that all three lawmakers had attended AIPAC. In fact only MPs Michael Levitt and Anthony Housefather attended the conference. The CJN apologizes for the error.