Coronavirus: 4 deaths, at least 80 cases tied to University Hospital outbreaks

University Hospital on the campus of Western University in London, Ont., on May 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Mark Spowart

COVID-19 cases and deaths tied to outbreaks at the London Health Sciences Centre’s (LHSC) University Hospital (UH) campus continue to climb, sitting at at least 80 cases and four deaths as of the end of day on Sunday.

On Monday, Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) medical officer of health Dr. Chris Mackie said the health unit is investigating another “five, possibly more” cases involving staff and patients.

“And then we have 11 confirmed secondary cases, so this would be primarily family members, and at least one tertiary case where a staff person spread to someone else who spread to someone else as well,” said Mackie.

“So it is spilling over to the community a fair bit and this is why it will take all of us working together to really control this.”

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During a regional coronavirus update on Monday, LHSC chief medical officer Dr. Adam Dukelow reported that of the five COVID-19 patients in LHSC’s intensive care units, two of the cases are tied to the UH outbreaks.

He also announced new measures aimed at addressing the UH outbreaks, in addition to measures announced last week.

“On Friday, we announced a number of additional measures to contain the outbreak, including postponing all non-urgent and non-emergency surgeries and procedures at University Hospital,” he said Monday.

“Today, we’re announcing that effective tomorrow, ambulatory and outpatient activity at UH will also be reduced to only urgent and emergent appointments, procedures and diagnostic services.”

As well, whenever possible, all other clinic appointments will be rescheduled as virtual appointments, Dukelow says, adding that anyone impacted will receive direct notification from their care provider.

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“Certainly we regret that these measures are necessary,” said Dukelow, “but they are the next steps within the tiered response in collaboration with Dr. Mackie and his team with the ultimate goal of curbing transmission within the hospital, as well as protecting the health and safety of our community.”

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Mackie said he “very much wish(es) we could have been able to be more supportive earlier on and catch this earlier.”

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“And so I think I join you in deeply regretting what is happening here. That said, we’re all committed to working together and to contain this so that it doesn’t spread to other facilities and minimizes the impact on the community.”

There are six ongoing outbreaks at UH: 10IP Palliative Care/Sub-Acute Medicine, 6IP Acute/Decant Medicine, sixth-floor Cardiovascular Surgery, 9IP Sub-Acute Medicine, C4-200 – Multi-Organ Transplant Unit (4TU) and U4 Medicine.

A previous outbreak at U9 IP Ortho declared Nov. 11 is listed as having resolved as of Nov. 26.

According to the health unit, four deaths are associated with the UH outbreaks: two reported last week on Nov. 24 and Nov. 26, one death reported by the MLHU on Monday and another death that the health unit learned about on Monday to be included in its data on Tuesday, Mackie said.

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LHSC data made public Monday shows that 36 patients have tested positive for COVID-19 in connection with outbreaks at University Hospital, while 34 staff and health-care providers have tested positive for COVID-19 in connection with the outbreaks.

The initial source of the outbreak is unclear, but Dukelow noted that there are “multiple pieces” that may have contributed to its spread to six units.

“One piece is that they’re medical units and staff that work on the medical units don’t necessarily always work on the same units. So pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic staff, it could potentially spread that way — doing a shift on one floor one day and then another floor the next day. That’s a piece of the puzzle, though. The full investigation is still underway.”

The UH outbreaks appear to be contributing heavily to the number of local cases in recent days, with cases tied to the outbreak making up more than half of the 33 new cases the MLHU reported in the region on Monday.

“Eleven among staff or patients at the hospital and another six or seven related to contacts of staff or patients from the outbreak that are usually household contacts,” Mackie explained.

Mackie also suggested that Tuesday’s COVID-19 update for the region would likely be high.

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“The 33 we’re reporting today came in on Sunday so those are the cases we’re talking about. We’ve already had over 30 lab reports come in (on Monday),” Mackie explained.

“We’re still working through all of those, how many are associated with the outbreak, also, there are likely duplicates there from things that came in over the weekend. So we can’t say that we have 30 new cases for today but it really is accelerating, at this point, in our community.”

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