More COVID-19 outbreaks in Saskatchewan care homes

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More COVID-19 outbreaks in Saskatchewan care homes
WATCH: The fourth wave is now looking a lot like the first, with outbreaks once again in long-term care homes – Sep 22, 2021

An earlier version of this article said there were outbreaks in different Sherbrooke facilities. Two of the outbreaks are in different communities that are in the same building. The article has been updated to reflect that.

The fourth wave of the pandemic is looking a lot like the others, as, despite a high rate of vaccination, long-term care residents are again contracting COVID-19.

Sherbrooke Community Centre, a Saskatoon care home, started reporting more cases in early September.

There were just a few, but last week staff reported 17 residents had been infected in two facilities: Kinsmen Village and Veterans Village.

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On Monday, in another statement posted on its website, staff said residents in a third facility were also infected.

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Eric Anderson, communications leader for Sherbrooke, told Global News two people were infected at Central Haven Special Care Home.

He said Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) personnel are testing residents in all buildings.

“As we await results and as we receive the results we’ll obviously be contacting the families of our residents when we get that information,” he said.

He said 96 per cent of Kinsmen and Veterans Village residents are fully vaccinated and 97 per cent of Central Haven residents have had both shots.

But he couldn’t say whether the infected residents were vaccinated.

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“Vaccines are not 100 per cent effective,” University of Saskatchewan epidemiologist Nazeem Muhajarine said.

He said vaccinated people rarely experience symptoms or die, but that it also depends on what other medical vulnerabilities they have.

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Muhajarine said it’s important to know what percentage of the staff are fully vaccinated.

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Anderson said he didn’t know how many staff are fully vaccinated and directed Global News to the SHA or Health Ministry.

When asked about the vaccination status of staff, an SHA spokesperson said the health authority would not release the information to employers.

Sherbrooke is an SHA-affiliated care home, but the health authority doesn’t run it.

The provincial government will require all government employees to be vaccinated by Oct. 1, adding to a previously announced measure requiring all front-line health-care workers to be vaccinated.

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Global News asked Anderson which measure applied to workers at care centres affiliated with SHA.

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“We’re still waiting for that information,” he said.

Global News reached out to a provincial government spokesperson and the Ministry of Health but did not hear back by deadline.

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Anderson said the staff are working very hard and are assigned to specific buildings. He said they never enter a different facility.

“It just would not be safe to have care staff from one part of a building work in an outbreak and then come back to their original area,” he said.

When asked where the infections came from, he said he didn’t know, but he suggested the high rates of COVID infections in the city mean more community spread, which makes it more likely a staff member could have brought it in.

Muhajarine agreed.

“The … intensity and the level of prevalence COVID-19 Saskatoon is very high,” he said, adding that those factors make outbreaks in any setting where people congregate more likely.

But those aren’t the only factors.

A government website of all long-term care homes shows more than 60 residents and staff have been infected in the past two weeks.

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Muhajarine said the provincial government should have instituted a proof-of-vaccination system and public health measures a long time ago to prevent COVID from spreading as it has.

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