Niagara Health mobilizes to help long-term-care homes
Only one new novel coronavirus case confirmed Tuesday
The first hospital-based COVID-19 “swat teams” promised by Ontario Premier Doug Ford arrived in Niagara long-termcare homes this week to help get a handle on outbreaks that have claimed the lives of at least 28 people.
A special team from Niagara Health made up of infectious disease specialists, physician specialists and nurses have visited two homes this week to provide extra training and expertise on outbreak management, cleaning and use of protective equipment.
“We are really working in partnership with public health to support them and support long-term care homes,” said Derek McNally, Niagara Health executive vice-president and chief nursing executive.
“In addition to managing what is happening here at the hospital, we are helping those long-term care homes that need it.”
Along with teams providing training, the hospital system is asking for volunteers to be temporarily assigned to staff longterm-care homes where staffing complements have been strained by infections among care workers.
Doctors working at longterm-care homes can now join a weekly video conference to discuss issues pertaining to the novel coronavirus.
“We are all seeing the devastating impacts of COVID-19 in long-term-care and retirement homes across the country, and here in our region,” said McNally. “It is increasingly important that we direct additional resources and efforts to protect this vulnerable population. We need to do everything we can, and on an urgent basis, to provide support and care for those who need help the most.”
Outbreaks in four long-term care homes — Lundy Manor in Niagara Falls, Seasons Retirement Community and Royal Rose Place both in Welland, and Albright Manor in Beamsville — remain the top COVID-19 priorities for Niagara’s public health department, which announced only a single new confirmed case Tuesday.
Albright Manor has a single case, while an outbreak at Garden City Manor in St. Catharines was declared over Tuesday. The other long-term-care homes have a combined 154 cases.
Dr. Mustafa Hirji Ali, Niagara Region’s acting medical officer of health, said Tuesday’s single case is not connected to the local outbreaks and is the second time in three days that the region’s new case count was in the single digits.
Niagara’s total confirmed case count is now 385, with 147 people having recovered. At least 34 people with the virus have died, with 28 of them being residents of long-term-care or retirement homes.
That leaves the region with 208 active COVID-19 cases — down seven cases from the day before and the first time in a month that number has fallen.
The health department has tested all staff at the homes with outbreaks, as well as residents who lived near someone with a confirmed case, even if those people were not showing symptoms.
Since those tests yielded a number of positive results, even among asymptomatic staff, Hirji said the health department tested all remaining residents and any staff initially missed.
Hirji said those tests might yield more positive results in the next few days, but the level of COVID-19 transmission in the broader Niagara community has fallen sharply due to physical distancing and hygiene methods. He warned, however, the crisis has not passed.
Hirji said he will be watching to see if community transmission remains low over the next two weeks, as well as the number of travel-related cases — which have recently fallen almost to zero.
As he has for several days, Hirji said if the public stops following infection control measures, the case count could quickly rise again. He is urging anyone with mild symptoms related to COVID-19 — including fever, cough and other respiratory symptoms — to call the health department’s hotline for assessment. Niagara Health also reported the results of a new COVID-19 surveillance program at a long-term care home in Welland came back negative.