N.S. long-term care residents in isolation to prevent spread of COVID-19

Click to play video: 'Seniors in self-isolation after COVID-19 cases at long-term care facilities' Seniors in self-isolation after COVID-19 cases at long-term care facilities
Dozens of seniors are in isolation after workers at three retirement and long-term care facilities in the province have tested positive for COVID-19. Alicia Draus has the details. – Mar 31, 2020

All residents and staff at a long-term care facility in Enfield are being tested for COVID-19 after a staff member tested positive on Sunday, and a second staff member along with two residents also tested positive on Monday.

“All residents have been tested and we’re just waiting to get the tests back on those,” said Tracey Tulloch, a spokesperson for Rosecrest, which operates three long-term care facilities, including Magnolia.

“We do have one other resident who is symptomatic, but we’re waiting on the test results.”

READ MORE: Breakdown of where coronavirus cases are in Nova Scotia coming soon: Strang

The two staff are now offsite, self-isolating and dealing with their symptoms. Seven additional staff who worked directly with those who tested positive are also self-isolating.

In the meantime, the facility is receiving some help from the province through VON and other care workers to help replace the staff currently off due to self-isolation requirements.

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“They can’t come back until the 14 days has passed,” said Tulloch, “even though they have tested negative at this point.”

Magnolia is currently a home to 82 people, 70 in long-term care and 12 in residential care. Residents are divided up into five cottages which houses 12-15 residents each.

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia long term care facility adopting technology to ease coronavirus isolation' Nova Scotia long term care facility adopting technology to ease coronavirus isolation
Nova Scotia long term care facility adopting technology to ease coronavirus isolation – Mar 17, 2020

The two residents who have tested positive are in their 80s and both reside in the same cottage.

Tulloch says they are showing mild symptoms, and are being isolated.

“They are actually coping quite well,” said Tulloch.

The facility has been adhering to guidelines provided by public health officials to limit the spread of the virus. They no longer hold any communal events for residents, with physical distancing measures in place. They are focusing on hand washing and cleaning of high touch surface areas and all staff are wearing personal protective equipment.

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“Like any vulnerable sector, illness hits the elderly and immuno-compromised a little hard, so we want to contain this and flatten the curve within our own environment,” said Tulloch.

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Meanwhile two other similar facilities in Nova Scotia have had workers test positive for COVID-19.

An employee who works at Lewis Hall in Dartmouth, part of Shannex’s Parkland at the Lakes retirement living community, has tested positive after being linked to another case in Halifax. The individual last worked on March 22 and has not been in the workplace since.

Senior Vice President of Operations for Shannex, Catherine MacPherson says they have been working closely with Public Health and the 17 residents living in the neighbourhood where the employee worked were immediately put into isolation as a precaution. They were also all tested, and those tests came back negative on Sunday.

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“We know we need to continue to be vigilant in caring for these residents until they’ve reached 14 days since their last contact with the employee so we are continuing with additional precautions in how we care for these residents,” said MacPherson. “And [we’re] monitoring them daily for their vital signs which includes temperature.”

A second staff member was also tested after working closely with the individual who tested positive,  and is still waiting results. That member is also self-isolating.

In Antigonish, a staff member at RK MacDonald tested positive. An emailed statement from CEO of the nursing home, Michelle Thompson says they too are following health guidelines.

“We are working closely with Public Health and NSHA Infection Prevention and Control; staff are taking the appropriate infection control measures. This is something we take very seriously in order to protect our residents and our staff.”

Public Health officials are working with all three facilities, and continue to work with long-term care facilities and retirement communities across the province to limit the spread of COVID-19.

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A number of measures have already been implemented including restricting access into facilities. Visitors are no longer allowed and residents are not allowed on community excursions.

Any staff who feel sick, or who have traveled must stay home, but Dr. Robert Strang admits it’s impossible to eliminate risk entirely as the staff live in communities.

READ MORE: Neighbours show ‘signs’ of support for efforts by Nova Scotia’s medical officer

“It’s concerning but I think we’ve done everything we could do to limit the possibility of introduction, and we do have robust plans in responding, as you’ve seen in the last few days, if we get COVID-19 in long-term care facilities,” said on Tuesday.

Strang says those robust plans are largely based on existing plans and guidelines already in place to deal with outbreaks of respiratory illnesses or influenza each year.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

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To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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