EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally stated a case of COVID-19 was confirmed at YW Sheriff King women’s shelter in Calgary. On Friday, April 3, 2020 — one day after the article was published — Alberta’s chief medical officer of health clarified that the case was confirmed on Saturday, March 21 and no more individuals with symptoms have been reported at the location.
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said Thursday the province has confirmed 97 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 968.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw confirmed two more fatalities due to the virus, bringing Alberta’s death toll to 13.
READ MORE: Live updates: Coronavirus in Canada
One individual was a man in his 90s who was a resident of the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre in Calgary, where there are now 65 cases of COVID-19.
The second individual was a man in his 80s in the North zone, a resident of Manoir Du Lac retirement home in McLennan, Hinshaw said.
She said there are 74 confirmed cases in Alberta continuing care facilities and she expects more in the coming days.
As of Thursday, there are nine outbreaks declared at continuing care facilities.
Some were proclaimed because they have staff members who work at multiple sites and that employee has been confirmed to have COVID-19, Hinshaw said. Protocols are enacted immediately at the second site and steps are then taken to reduce spread, she explained.
There were two new cases at Manoir Du Lac retirement home in McLennan, Hinshaw said. Outbreaks have also been declared at Cedars Villa Extendicare, AgeCare Seton and Carewest Sarcee in Calgary. A case was also confirmed at YW Sheriff King women’s shelter in Calgary, although Hinshaw clarified that case was confirmed on Saturday, March 21.
“These outbreaks are a precaution based on staff positive testing.”
“The safety in these facilities is a serious issue,” Hinshaw said. “I know that residents and their families are concerned and I want to stress that I hear their concerns.”
She has implemented enhanced cleaning, screening, visitation rules, and protocols that are enforceable by law.
“We must do more to protect those in congregate settings,” Hinshaw said.
Effective Thursday, she issued new standards that operators and staff of these facilities must follow in the event of a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 outbreak.
Over the past 24 hours, she said labs in Alberta had conducted more than 4,000 tests as labs continue to work at maximum capacity.
Of those tests, about 98 per cent came back negative for COVID-19. That is a similar rate seen in the last several days.
READ MORE: Alberta’s COVID-19 death toll rises to 11
Hinshaw said 174 cases are now reported to be recovered.
Of the total cases, Alberta Health suspects 108 may be community transmission.
New rules for continuing care facilities
The new standards, effective Thursday, are enacted in the event of a suspected or confirmed outbreak at a continuing care centre. They are enforceable by law, Hinshaw stressed.
“I am issuing new standards that operators and staff must follow. They will be required to notify public health as soon as a case is suspected or confirmed or if two or more residents show symptoms.
“Staff must also inform supervisors if they’ve worked at a facility where there’s been a confirmed or suspected case. And facilities have new directions on how they must operate if there’s an outbreak.”
Operators and managers must also inform all families with residents in the facilities.
The new standards provide operators with direction on how to deploy staff and resources where most needed, implement isolation measures, and ensure staff have up-to-date training on care and protective equipment.
These steps are being taken “to limit the risk of spread while ensuring residents can continue to receive care they need,” Hinshaw said.
Alberta’s top doctor outlined the three levels of outbreak: suspected, probable and confirmed.
“We want to make sure that where there was a potential exposure… we act now… before it spreads.
“We need to declare it early so can put all the measures in place to protect people.”
Shafika Zohiri, 71, has been a resident at CareWest Sarcee for almost three years. Her family says they were told Wednesday night that a staff member at the facility tested positive for COVID-19.
Zohiri’s daughter, Nancy, is considered an essential visitor and isn’t happy with the measures she’s seen taken inside the facility.
“I don’t feel that very much has been done differently.
“I did observe that there wasn’t social distancing among the staff or residents. At dinnertime I noticed they had one table with six or seven residents to it and they were kind of feeding them all at once, not washing hands between.”
Nancy and her brother are concerned for the safety of their mom and other residents.
“Even though you have to applaud them for all the hard work that they’re doing, it seems like there’s a weak link,” Mohamed Zohiri said.
Hinshaw said the new standards for long-term care facilities came into effect Thursday.
In an email, AHS said:
“We want to assure residents of Carewest Sarcee and their families that AHS is working with Carewest to protect residents and ensure appropriate care is provided. This includes implementing strict infection prevention and control measures, isolating residents who are ill, and limiting visitors.
“Any staff who have tested positive for COVID-19 or are symptomatic have been sent home and are self-isolating.
“Rapid Response Teams are available to all long term, continuing care and seniors lodge operators. At first sign of illness, these teams are available to deploy to these facilities to ensure all necessary measures are in place, and support the operator in implementing any other recommended infection prevention and control measures.
“AHS has established a dedicated COVID-19 email solely for operators of all long term, continuing care and seniors lodges in Alberta. This provides a single, efficient, source of immediate advice and guidance, to operators with any questions in the management of potential illness at their site.
“The above two new approaches are in addition to the ongoing support and guidance that we have been providing operators since mid-January, specific to COVID-19.”
— With files from Global’s Cami KepkeView link »