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COVID-19 outbreaks at Okanagan LTC facilities different than pre-vaccine era, IHA says

The Cottonwoods Care Centre in Kelowna is one of the facilities with a COVID-19 . Global News

Outbreaks of COVID-19 at two Central Okanagan long-term care facilities have grown, with more case numbers since both were declared about a week ago.

Last Monday, the Interior Health Authority (IHA) declared an outbreak at the Brookhaven Care Centre in West Kelowna with seven positive cases involving four residents and three staff.

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As of Tuesday afternoon, that number had grown to 22 cases, five residents and 17 staff.

Last Wednesday, IHA declared an outbreak at the Cottonwoods Care Centre in Kelowna confirming two positive cases, both involving residents.

There are now 11 cases at Cottonwoods, eight residents and three staff members.

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“It’s not ideal. I want to acknowledge that it’s bad news for the families and residents because outbreaks in long-term care mean isolation and restrictions,” said Dr. Silvina Mema, medical health officer with IHA.

“However, these outbreaks are looking very different from the outbreaks of the pre-vaccine era.”

Mema said most cases are either mild or asymptomatic.

“We believe the vaccine is making a huge difference in terms of outcomes,” she told Global News. “If we did not have the vaccine, we would be seeing many more cases among staff, many more cases among residents, hospitalizations and deaths and we are really not seeing that in the context of these outbreaks.”

Mema said the cases are among both fully-vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

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She added that more than 95 per cent of residents at the two homes are fully vaccinated. That number, she said, is about 75 per cent among the staff.

“We are putting lots of effort into encouraging vaccination for long-term care workers,” she said.

“It is very important that workers in long-term care are vaccinated because that prevents not only disease for themselves but it also prevents spread to their co-workers and the residents where they work.”

Mema said it’s not surprising that fully-vaccinated residents and staff are testing positive for COVID-19 given the close contact between them.

“We believe that there is prolonged contact in long-term care that enables the transmission to a vaccinated individual,” she said.

“So if you think about residents spending a long time together or a health-care worker providing meals or bathing, those are prolonged exposures, so somebody that is vaccinated that is getting exposed may contract the virus but the good news is that it is a very mild or asymptomatic disease.”

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