October 19, 2020

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Vigilance urged to contain nursing home outbreaks

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With rising COVID-19 cases, two nursing home deaths and two locations now reporting outbreaks, Manitobans don't need to worry – they need to be vigilant, say public health and nursing home advocates.

"There needs to be continued vigilance in ensuring people who aren't feeling well are being tested and self isolated," said Julie Turenne-Maynard, executive director of the Manitoba Association of Residential and Community Care Homes for the Elderly. "We need to work together to ensure we keep it out as much as we can."

Julie Turenne-Maynard, executive director of the Manitoba Association of Residential and Community Care Homes for the Elderly (MARCHE) that represents non-profit care homes.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Julie Turenne-Maynard, executive director of the Manitoba Association of Residential and Community Care Homes for the Elderly (MARCHE) that represents non-profit care homes.

On Thursday, the death of a woman in her 90s who was a resident Bethesda Place nursing home in Steinbach was reported. The death of another woman in her 90s infected with COVID-19 at Bethesda Place had been reported on Tuesday. The cases there reportedly stem from a worker who was infectious but hadn't yet developed symptoms.

Nearly 300 kilometres to the west, a health care worker has now tested positive for COVID-19 at Rideau Park Personal Care Home in Brandon. The worker was reportedly wearing proper PPE on the job and is now self isolating. No other cases have been reported there but investigations are under way.

<p>Rideau Park Personal Care Home in Brandon. </p>

(TIM SMITH/THE BRANDON SUN)

Rideau Park Personal Care Home in Brandon.

Steps have been taken in Manitoba to prevent the virus from causing the carnage it inflicted this spring at personal care homes in B.C., Ontario and Quebec, said Turenne-Maynard. "l don't think it's going to get to those levels we've seen in other provinces," she said Thursday in Winnipeg.

"It's so important to ensure staff are in full PPE and everyone is confident of how they're feeling to ensure COVID doesn't come in."

When visitation restrictions were partially lifted to allow loved ones and essential caregivers into personal care homes, there was going to be an increased risk, said the care home advocate.

Now, public health has slapped restrictions on both the Brandon and Steinbach personal care homes, raising the pandemic risk level at both to a "red" and "critical" response level with no visitors allowed.

Bethesda Place Care Home in Steinbach. (The Carillon / Nicole Buffie)

Bethesda Place Care Home in Steinbach. (The Carillon / Nicole Buffie)

The first COVID-19 case at Bethesda Place in Steinbach was reported Aug. 17. Less than a week later, there were seven cases with staff and three residents infected. Then, two residents died. The remaining cases include one resident and five employees, Roussin said Thursday.

The colour-coded pandemic response system is just one more measure that should help Manitobans get through what is expected to be a long and challenging time because it is targeted and doesn't penalize everyone, said Turenne-Maynard.

In May, Manitoba restricted personal care home employees to working at a single nursing home to prevent the virus from being spread at multiple sites.

On Thursday, the chief provincial public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, said all personal care home staff are screened for symptoms every day.

Pork plant case count discrepancy explained

A discrepancy in the number of Maple Leaf Foods workers testing positive for COVID-19 is due to the lag time in the company reporting new cases to public health and its investigation and reporting of them.

A discrepancy in the number of Maple Leaf Foods workers testing positive for COVID-19 is due to the lag time in the company reporting new cases to public health and its investigation and reporting of them.

On Tuesday, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 832 reported 74 workers have tested positive for the virus with 62 active cases, while chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin that day reported just 52 workers tested positive with 34 cases still active.

On Thursday, Roussin explained at a COVID-19 media briefing why their numbers differ. He said when public health is notified of positive cases, it conducts an investigation and does its surveillance before the numbers are reported to the public.

"The company might hear someone tested positive today and just announce that, where we wouldn't announce it for a couple of days until we've gone through all of that.

As of Thursday, 75 employees at the pork processing plant tested positive, with 41 of the cases still active, Roussin said.

Administrators haven't let their guard down during the pandemic because they know the deadly toll it can take, said Turenne-Maynard.

"This is the last thing they want to see happening in their homes. For sure there is anxiety, there's fear but they're being diligent in maintaining those protocols."

With the fall and flu season coming, she's hoping the provincial government follows through on its plan to create shelters adjacent to homes for visits in case they have to reimpose restrictions and prohibit visitors.

Care home administrators and staff are also waiting for word on paid sick leave for employees who have to self isolate because of COVID-19.

"We're just asking for some solutions to that," she said. "We anticipate this is going to continue and may increase when the cold and flu season is here."

Roussin urged Manitobans get a flu shot when it becomes available this fall.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

   Read full biography

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