Sixty-three residents at Roberta Place long-term care home in Barrie, Ont., have now died as a result of a devastating COVID-19 outbreak that’s infected all but one of the facility’s 129 residents.
Currently, there are 49 active resident cases and there have been a total of 104 staff cases — 69 of which are active, a Roberta Place spokesperson confirmed Monday.
Four essential caregivers — one of whom has died — and five external partners have also tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.
More than a week ago, public health confirmed the COVID-19 U.K. variant, which is believed to be up to 70 per cent more contagious than earlier variants, played a role in the rapid spread of infection at Roberta Place.
Officials have confirmed that several people have tested positive for the U.K. variant at Roberta Place, while nearly 100 others at the long-term care facility have received a positive test result for a COVID-19 “variant of concern.” Testing is still underway to confirm the exact variant strain, but Simcoe Muskoka’s medical officer of health, Dr. Charles Gardner, has said it’s believed all residents are infected with the U.K. variant.
It’s unclear exactly how the COVID-19 U.K. variant made its way into Roberta Place, but officials have said a staff member came into close contact with someone who had travelled internationally and tested positive for COVID-19.
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In response to the outbreak, residents’ families are launching a proposed class-action lawsuit that alleges “gross negligence” and “breach of fiduciary duty.” None of the allegations have been proven in court.
The lawsuit comes after Ontario’s Ministry of Long-Term Care released a recent inspection report that found COVID-19-positive and COVID-19-negative residents were sharing the same rooms and that staff weren’t properly cohorted. The same report also noted that Roberta Place residents were supposed to be in isolation at all times, although an inspector saw some people out of isolation, touching high-touch surfaces and coming into close contact with other residents.
On Friday, the president of Jarlette Health Services, which owns Roberta Place, wrote a letter to residents, families and staff, saying the company “could not prepare” for the difficulty and grief they would face despite “proactive infection prevention and control efforts.”
“The weight of this tragedy has and continues to be felt by all those affiliated with the home, and for that, we cannot express enough how deeply saddened and apologetic we are,” David Jarlette, the company’s president, wrote.
“As an organization, we are never too proud to ask for help and will continue to do so as we work in collaboration with our health system partners.”
The Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital is temporarily leading Roberta Place in controlling the outbreak. The Canadian Red Cross has also been deployed to assist with the situation.