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York Region nursing home where 18 died due to COVID-19 declares end of outbreak

Click to play video 'Staff celebrate end of coronavirus outbreak at Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, Ont.' Staff celebrate end of coronavirus outbreak at Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, Ont.
Staff celebrate end of the novel coronavirus outbreak at Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, Ont – May 14, 2020

An outbreak of the novel coronavirus at a York Region nursing home that left almost one in five of its residents dead has officially ended.

Markhaven Home for Seniors executive director Mike Bakewell announced that the facility’s COVID-19 outbreak was “officially closed” in a message sent to families Saturday night.

York Region Public Health confirmed that the outbreak was declared over on Saturday.

A total of 18 deaths linked to the coronavirus were recorded at the facility, tying it with another care centre in Vaughan for the worst nursing home outbreak in terms of deaths in the York Region.

READ MORE: Resident of Markham long-term care home tests positive for coronavirus

Thirty-four residents and 24 staff members at the home have contracted the virus since the facility’s outbreak began in March, according to data from York Region Public Health.

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Bakewell, who did not immediately respond to Global News’ request for comment, expressed sadness for “those we lost to COVID-19”, in his message, but commended the home’s staff for fighting through the outbreak.

He said that he would be in touch with families after the weekend after they find out “what our new normal looks like.”

Click to play video 'Montreal nurses stuck migrating between COVID-19 infected nursing homes and hospital birthing centres' Montreal nurses stuck migrating between COVID-19 infected nursing homes and hospital birthing centres
Montreal nurses stuck migrating between COVID-19 infected nursing homes and hospital birthing centres – May 1, 2020

“Due to the pandemic still being in the community, we won’t be able to let our guard down any time soon; as the fight now shifts to keeping COVID from re-entering the home,” read Bakewell’s statement.

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“All long-term care homes in the province remain under lock-down conditions to keep the virus out.”

Margaret Calver, whose husband Wayne is in quarantine at Markhaven after developing pneumonia-like symptoms, confirmed the announcement from Bakewell, and said that she was “really thankful that this COVID carnage at Markhaven has ended.”

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Calver, who also serves as a frequent volunteer at Markhaven and as the head of the facility’s family council, said that while the long-term care home’s outbreak was able to be contained, the lasting damage from the virus’ spread was still there to stay.

Calver said that she believes the official death toll for the 96-bed facility during the outbreak is much higher, with several deaths having occurred in the home in the last eight weeks, although not attributed to the novel coronavirus.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Emergency order allows Ontario to control management of long-term care homes

“We’ve had 18 deaths due to COVID, and probably five or six others during the last eight weeks so, in effect, Markhaven has lost 25 per cent of its pre-COVID population, which is devastating, it’s just heartbreaking.”

Markhaven has not yet confirmed any further deaths aside aside from its official death toll of 18.

A new emergency order issued on Wednesday has since given Ontario new sweeping powers to temporarily replace management at some long-term care homes in order to contain COVID-19 outbreaks.

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Health Minister Christine Elliott said that there were no immediate plans to enact the new order, but had hoped that it would serve as a new measure to implement stronger protections for vulnerable seniors and allow the province to move rapidly in the event a home needs urgent help.

The novel coronavirus has left a trail of devastation across nursing and long-term care homes in the country.

York Region alone confirmed a total of 949 cases of the coronavirus — split between residents and staff — in its community care facilities.

The virus has killed a total of 117 in nursing homes in the Region, while 29 out of 54 outbreaks at care facilities still remain active.

Canada’s chief public health officer, Theresa Tam, said that COVID-19 deaths in long-term care and assisted living homes account for more than 80 per cent of all deaths in Canada.

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“Loved ones and all those who work daily with our seniors feel this great loss. #ProtecttheVulnerable,” Tam wrote in a tweet last week.

— With files from The Canadian Press