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Kelowna long-term care COVID-19 outbreak grows, headed into 3rd month

View image in full screen The Cottonwoods Care Centre in Kelowna is one of the facilities with a COVID-19 outbreak. Global News

Kelowna’s remaining long-term care facility COVID-19 outbreak isn’t letting up.

Two more deaths and two more cases were reported at Cottonwoods Care Centre Thursday, raising the case count to 69, with 54 residents and 15 staff members affected.

There have now been 15 deaths since the outbreak began Aug. 4. It started when the pandemic was at its worst in the Central Okanagan and there were seven care homes in the region dealing with outbreaks over a short period of time.

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The other Kelowna-area facilities have been cleared for weeks but the Cottonwoods outbreak continues to drag on and this newest development will mean it will carry on for weeks longer, at least.

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In an interview earlier this month, Interior Health’s medical health officer Dr. Silvina Mema said Cottonwoods has been a particularly challenging facility for keeping the virus at bay because of the aging structure, shared rooms and the population of dementia patients.

“The layout of Cottonwoods is one of those facilities that was built many years ago, so there isn’t a separation between units that would allow us to separate completely,” she said.

In early October, B.C.’s seniors advocate released a review of COVID-19 outbreaks in care homes and examined care home outbreaks from March 2020 to February 2021.

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During that time period, long-term care and assisted living staff and residents were almost three-and-a-half times more likely to contract COVID-19 and residents were 33 times more times likely to die from COVID-19. In total, there were 365 outbreaks at 210 sites in B.C.

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Almost three-quarters of outbreaks were contained to four or fewer cases and 75 per cent of outbreaks had zero COVID-19 fatalities.

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In the 45-page report, seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie laid out seven recommendations, including expanding sick pay and increasing the scope and frequency of testing and getting rid of shared rooms. The vaccination requirements have already been implemented by the province.

Other recommendations include continuing efforts to increase the pool of staff, decreasing contracting for direct care staff, and increasing the proportion of registered nursing staff at non-health authority sites.

“We saw how quickly COVID-19 can spread in long-term care and assisted living sites, and we saw the devastating impact of this virus on the older population. Even with everyone’s best efforts, we have
tragically lost over 800 residents to COVID-19,” Mackenzie said in a statement.

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“This is not just a set of numbers, these are people. Residents and their family members had their lives upended with the trauma of life in longterm care and assisted living during a pandemic, and those who operate and work in these care homes have been deeply affected by the experience.”

—with files from Klaudia Van Emmerik

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