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Weeks-long COVID-19 outbreak at Saint John long-term care facility continues to grow

Click to play video: 'Weeks-long outbreak at Saint John long-term care facility grows' Weeks-long outbreak at Saint John long-term care facility grows
WATCH: As New Brunswick grapples with a growing number of COVID-19 cases, there is mounting concern for the number of cases at a long term care facility in Saint John. It's a facility that's experienced outbreaks before. Travis Fortnum reports – Jan 6, 2021

Shannex’s Parkland Saint John facility is now battling its highest number of active COVID-19 cases since an outbreak was declared in November.

Eighteen cases – 11 in residents and seven in staff – are all tied to the facility’s “Lily Court” unit, inside Tucker Hall.

Lisa Snodgrass, director of clinical practice and infection prevention and control specialist with Shannex says three new cases have been detected Wednesday – with more possible.

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“We still do have tests pending, we don’t have all of our tests back yet,” Snodgrass says. “So we’re anxiously awaiting those results.”

READ MORE: New Brunswick reports 31 new COVID-19 cases in record single-day spike

When New Brunswick’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Jennifer Russell, spoke at Wednesday’s Provincial COVID-19 briefing, she referenced 15 cases at the facility.

Snodgrass says the three latest will be factored into Thursday’s provincial numbers.

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Some provinces to speed up coronavirus vaccine rollout – Jan 5, 2021

She says the 18 cases confirmed this week seem to be unrelated to the cluster that started the outbreak, which was almost completely cleared.

“The outbreak was very close to being declared over,” says Snodgrass.

“So during that time you do start to relax measures, we were in a position where we were happy to be able to welcome some of our families back in for very closely managed visits.”

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Lisa Snodgrass, Director of Clinical Practice and Infection Prevention and Control Specialist with Shannex, confirms 3 more cases of COVID-19 at the facility. Submitted by Shannex

Nick Connor, a high school student who works part-time inside Tucker Hall, says staff were quick to jump back to those enhanced safety measures.

“The beginning, the first couple days, was a little chaotic,” says Connor, reflecting on when Public Health’s Provincial Rapid Outbreak Management Team (PROMT) first arrived in the fall.

He says staff have had to use a designated entrance, have their temperatures checked and wear full personal protective equipment (including gowns, face masks and gloves) throughout their whole shift.

READ MORE: New COVID-19 cases at Saint John long-term care facility already under outbreak protocol

Connor hasn’t tested positive for COVID-19, but takes extra care when off the clock.

He says he and his mother reached out to the school district about moving to online learning full-time to avoid putting his classmates at any greater risk.

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They said no.

“They said just go to school and they will not give any extra accommodations because it’s my choice to work,” says Connor. But he says he doesn’t have much of a choice, with bills of his own to pay.

He, the other staff members and residents at Parkland Saint John are set to undergo another round of testing before the end of the week.

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