Ni­a­gara Health mo­bi­lizes to help long-term-care homes

Only one new novel coro­n­avirus case con­firmed Tues­day

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - Lo­cal - GRANT LAFLECHE THE ST. CATHARINES STAN­DARD

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.

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