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Should more be done to protect seniors facilities as COVID-19 cases rise in Alberta?

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New restrictions announced on Thursday seemingly don't help "build a wall" around vulnerable seniors in Alberta. Vinesh Pratap looks at how are people feeling about measures to protect the elderly — especially in care homes where there have been massive outbreaks – Nov 13, 2020

At South Terrace Continuing Care Centre in Edmonton, loved ones are watching out for their family members.

“What’s been going through my mind the past few months is: when is it going to hit South Terrace?” Jo-Anne Wright said.

Wright’s sister is in the facility and was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Oct. 28. She’s dealing with mild symptoms, Wright said.

“The staff there have been nothing but dedicated and caring.”

The facility, located at 59 Avenue and 112 Street, currently reports 72 of 89 residents in the home with the virus, along with 68 staff members.

Read more: 10 deaths, dozens of COVID-19 cases at South Terrace long-term care facility in Edmonton

It’s one of 13 long-term care facilities and 11 supportive living locations in the AHS Edmonton Zone with a declared outbreak.

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On Thursday, when the province announced new restrictions, there were no new measures for seniors’ facilities.

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Wright doesn’t “think it’s a wall that we need around long-term care.”

Instead, she wants more to be done to manage overall community spread.

“That’s something that our government has not been able to provide for us.”

Read more: Alberta confirms 907 additional COVID-19 cases, 5 deaths on Friday

In a statement, Tom McMillan, an assistant director of communications with Alberta Health said: “We are concerned with the growing number of outbreaks. We are looking closely at our continuing care facilities and where the spread is occurring, including whether additional measures are needed to help slow transmission.”

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“At the same time, we must also consider the overall health and well-being of residents in these facilities.

“The strict measures implemented in the spring severely impacted many residents’ mental, physical and emotional health.”

“We know that residents and families need to have some connection,” said Irene Martin-Lindsay, the executive director of Alberta Seniors Communities & Housing Association.

The association, which represents seniors housing operators, suggests efforts at each site to manage risks are working.

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Martin-Lindsay points to one challenge: the lack of provincial funding for the private pay or the home-care contract aspect of seniors living– which serves about 12,000 people.

“Those organizations have not gotten any (funding).

“They have to buy their own PPE (personal protective equipment), any additional staffing,” Martin-Lindsay said.

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“It’s going to hit them hard,” Wright added.

She says her sister is staying positive.

Read more: Coronavirus: Alberta is ‘past personal responsibility,’ needs strict measures, sociologist says

While the family endures, she wants people to think about their actions and what could happen if the spread continues.

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10 deaths, dozens of COVID-19 cases at South Terrace long-term care facility in Edmonton – Nov 11, 2020