COVID-19 outbreaks rising in long-term care homes across the country

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Nursing homes in New Brunswick have been hit hard by the fourth wave of COVID-19, driven by a rising number of infections in the province not seen since the pandemic began.

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The coronavirus has spread to a dozen homes since mid-September. Nine are still battling the outbreak, including the 118-bed Drew Nursing Home in southeastern New Brunswick, where eight of the 29 residents who tested positive have died. As of last month, not a single resident or staff member had become ill with COVID-19 in the vast majority of the province’s 71 homes.

The maritime province is far from alone in dealing with the recent influx of cases. until Tuesday, According to the Granthshala and Mail tally, there were outbreaks in the homes of 243 senior citizens across the country. The provinces of Western Canada and New Brunswick have borne the brunt of a fourth wave, lifting public health restrictions over the summer.

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Alberta, where the fourth wave is taking a toll on the province’s health care system, accounts for 60 percent of its outbreaks. While cases are significantly lower during the peak of the second wave last December, the government said 78 people died in long-term care and assisted-living homes between September 10 and October 6.

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Health care experts say COVID-19 infections are rising rapidly, even as equipment that can keep the coronavirus out of seniors’ homes is readily available. But provincial leaders have been slow to roll out vaccine booster shots to residents as an added layer of protection against the highly permeable Delta variant, as well as COVID-19 for staff, family caregivers and visitors. Vaccination against

“Why would we fall back on two measures we know can really make a difference in my mind,” Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics at the University of Health Network and Sinai Health System, said in an interview.

Residents of senior citizens’ homes were first vaccinated against COVID-19 in January and February. Scientific evidence suggests that protection against the virus in the elderly begins to decline six months after receiving two doses, leaving them vulnerable to breakthrough infections such as the more dangerous delta variant spreading.

All three provinces – Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario – waited until the National Advisory Committee on Immunization to announce their booster programs, on September 28, before recommending a third dose for people living in senior citizens’ homes. Didn’t.

After several delta-fueled outbreaks, British Columbia last week began rolling out booster shots to residents in long-term care and assisted living homes. Thirty-two people have died in long-term care homes in the province since early August, according to a BC Centers for Disease Control outbreak report dated October 6.

BC Seniors Advocate Isobel McKenzie said people living in seniors’ homes should have received a third dose in August. “We need to be more aggressive about managing outbreaks,” she said in an interview. “We know that eliciting a strong antibody response is a major challenge for an older, vulnerable individual in long-term care.”

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Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario were the first to give booster shots. In Ontario, about 90 percent of 55,647 long-term care residents are medically able to take a third dose.

Still, Lori Brazzo questioned why residents of Hillsdale Estates, a long-term care home in Oshawa, Ont., didn’t get their booster shots before the COVID-19 outbreak, which killed eight of them. Mother was also involved.

“It didn’t help us,” said Ms Brazzo, whose mother, Gail Canduso, died at home after falling ill with the Delta variant. Ten days later, on September 15, 208 residents of the home received their third shot of the vaccine.

The provinces have also unveiled a patchwork of policies governing vaccinations for employees. British Columbia has come to the fore – making it mandatory for not only employees in all health care settings, but also for visitors, to show proof of vaccination later this month. In Ontario, by contrast, vaccination is mandatory. For employees in long-term care homes only.

In New Brunswick, all government workers — including senior citizens home — who haven’t been vaccinated by November 19 will be sent home without pay, unless they have a valid medical exemption.

It was one of a flurry of measures announced by Premier Blaine Higgs in recent days to tackle record-high COVID-19 cases. Families were told not to meet with other households on Thanksgiving weekend; No one can travel from areas with high transmission; And everyone entering the province must pre-register online.

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Nursing-home officials never thought they would be living through the kind of lockdowns that were so common in the west of Atlantic Canada during the first three waves, where thousands of residents died – many of them alone – In virus-stricken, mindless homes.

Several events have fueled the recent surge in infections in New Brunswick, including the rise of the Delta variant, reduced vaccination coverage and the premier’s decision in July to lift most restrictions – including wearing face masks in indoor public places.

109 new cases were reported in the province on Tuesday 63 people The rising number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital prompted some hospitals to move to red alert levels on Tuesday, allowing them to suspend elective surgeries.

Michael Keating, interim director of the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes, referred to the full-speed-forward lifting, saying, “Like all of us, our chests were a little bloated, but apparently something happened when we turned green. ” of restrictions.

Provincial government spokesman Robert Duguay said 57 of the 106 residents and staff of the homes who tested positive so far have recovered.

The coronavirus has exacerbated a chronic shortage of staff in the sector. The Canadian Red Cross deployed 22 workers to Drew Nursing Home in Sackville on 29 September to help deliver food to residents and visit missing people from their families.

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Drew Nursing Home began two weeks ago, when a non-vaccinated staff member tested positive. He is in isolation at home, as are other staff members ill with COVID-19. Eighty percent of the household’s staff were vaccinated.

The home’s executive director, Linda Shannon, said the two sisters who worked in the kitchen left their jobs after refusing to undergo tests. His mother had mistakenly told him that the nasal swab used for the test would cause brain damage.

At home these days, Wednesday afternoon bingo games are canceled, visitors are banned and residents with dementia who usually roam the aisles are confined to their rooms behind plywood barricades.

Residents spend their days in their bedrooms, dressed in hospital gowns – laundry attendants are pitching in to help feed residents, giving them less time to do laundry and sort. Still, many meals come late and cold, said Amy Johnson, a personal aid worker at home.

Ms Johnson has worked as many as 16 hours since the outbreak, but she still feels she is shortening the 27 residents in her unit. The shared bathroom area is off-limits during the outbreak, and Ms Johnson only has time for residents to bathe in bed every other day.

“The hands-on care that these humans deserve is suffering,” she said.

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Ms Shannon said all residents have been fully vaccinated, and the home has followed all COVID-19 guidelines.

“We were kind of shocked that it happened at this point,” she said. “I think we got into the perfect storm where we were over six months and Delta came in.”

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Granthshala editors, giving you a brief summary of the day’s most important headlines. .

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