An outbreak at a long-term care centre in Kelowna claimed the lives of three people this week.
On Thursday, Interior Health announced the deaths in a simple release, stating Spring Valley Care Centre in Kelowna now has 32 cases, along with three deaths connected to the outbreak.
One day earlier, there were 24 cases and no deaths connected to the outbreak. The outbreak was first declared on April 28, with one resident and one staff member.
On Friday, Interior Health updated the number of cases to 33.
The organization that runs the care centre spoke to Global News on Friday following Thursday’s solemn news.
Ian West, the vice-president of operations for Park Place Seniors Living, which owns and operates Spring Valley Care Centre, said 97 per cent of the care centre’s residents have received their first-dose vaccination.
Spring Valley can house 150 residents. West said there are 139 residents currently living there. Second doses are set to be administered on May 11.
West said not all residents wanted to be vaccinated, and that one of the residents who declined was one of the three who died.
West said to his understanding, “the first person to show signs of COVID and test positive for COVID was a resident, and was a resident who had chosen not to become vaccinated.”
Asked about the other two deaths, and if they had been vaccinated, West said yes, he believed they were.
According to Interior Health, of the 33 cases at Spring Valley Care Centre, 23 are residents with the remaining 10 being staff members and two training students.
West said 70 per cent of staff members at the care centre have received their first vaccination dose. Second doses for staff members are expected to be administered on May 11.
Global News asked about the three deaths and growth in cases despite the high number of vaccine doses being administered.
“We have a chief nursing officer and our quality team that stay abreast of what the world knows about the virus, and the transmission of the virus, and the effectiveness of the vaccinations,” said West.
“And, of course, the vaccination takes seven to 14 days after it’s been received for inoculation to take full effect. And different people respond to vaccinations in different ways. So vaccination is important, we encourage everyone to do it.
“But, again, vaccinations alone without there being the other protocols in place that Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks about, daily, are necessary. So it’s important that we don’t see vaccination as the whole solution to the problem.”
West continued, saying “in terms of communities like Spring Valley, anytime you get groups of people congregated together, then obviously it’s easier for that virus to be transmitted — even despite all of the protocols that we put in place at Spring Valley and at our other communities around Canada.”
West also said Park Place Seniors Living is in constant communication with health authorities across the province, and that staff go through a robust screening process every day.
“The problem with the virus, as we’ve all learned, is it does not discriminate. It doesn’t let itself known. And people can be a carrier of the virus showing no symptoms for extended periods of time,” said West.
“And even with all of the protocols that we’ve been asked to follow by the medical health officer, and others, there’s still opportunities for that virus to transport itself.”
West noted that the outbreak has been contained to one area of the care centre, “and that it has stabilized, and we’re hopeful that there won’t be any more blooms of the virus.”
Spring Valley is one of three long-term outbreaks within Interior Health, with the other two at Sandalwood Retirement Resort in Kelowna (28 cases; 26 residents, two staff, one death connected to the outbreak); and Orchard Haven long-term care in Keremeos (two cases; one resident and one staff member).
Interior Health chief medical officer Dr. Albert de Villiers would not say if the two who died at Spring Valley were vaccinated, but said “we have seen some people who have had a dose who actually passed away.
“But you do have to remember that people who live in some of these long-term care facilities are elderly with lots of other diseases. So we have had some people pass away because of cancer or because of another reason because they are very elderly, close to 100 years old or so.
“And then at that point, they pass away from something else. And by the way, once they were in the facility, they had COVID as well. But they were asymptomatic as far as COVID goes. They didn’t die because of COVID, but because they had COVID, we have to register it as such.”
De Villiers also said “people who do get COVID after they get the vaccine get it much, much milder. But, unfortunately, there will still be people passing away due to other reasons.”