For four and a half months at the start of the pandemic, Glen McKinley couldn’t visit his wife Trisha at Clifton Manor because of COVID-19 restrictions.
“When we first went through this it was scary,” recalls McKinley. “It was very difficult at first, but then being able to see her through the window helped me and she would brighten up,”
In 2020, research from the Canadian Institute for Health Information showed that long-term care residents in Canada made up for 81 per cent of all reported COVID-19 deaths. And now a new wave of COVID-19 infections is hitting these residents once again.
AHS data from April 20 indicated there are outbreaks at 20 long-term care facilities and 31 supportive living facilities in Calgary.
But there are reasons for optimism according to the administrator of Clifton House in southeast Calgary.
Leo Escandor said thanks to at least 95 per cent of residents being triple vaccinated, there are fewer severe cases and hospitalizations right now.
“I can tell you that it provided protection for our residents. We’ve seen less symptoms and it’s saved lives,” Escandor said.
Escandor said continuous masking has also played a role in fewer severe infections, as well as keeping residents further apartment from each other. He added many residents who are moving into the newly opened Clifton House from the old Clifton Manor are also not sharing rooms anymore, which has been a big help.
“When someone has contracted the virus it’s hard to separate the two, and now we have a lot of private rooms here so we can actually have them treated in place without exposing more people,” he said.
Visitation rules at long-term care facilities have been relaxed since earlier in the pandemic.
Masking is still required and visitors must complete health screening in order to get in.
Those confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 are contained in their rooms.
“We do have some restrictions when we have residents who are affected with COVID. They are contained in their rooms but of course still having services of physio, recreation and nursing,” Escandor said.
McKinley said he’s happy to wear to a mask when visiting his wife, as well as out in the community if it means keeping vulnerable people, like his wife, safe.
“I am confident that they are handling it well,” said McKinley of the measures being taken at Clifton House, but he expressed concern about the possible effects that the relaxing of health restrictions could have across the province.
“I think we are relaxing a little bit and that kind of frightens me a bit because I wear my mask all the time.
“So I think we should just let science take care of it, I guess, and see where it goes,” McKinley said.
Residents at Clifton House will start getting a fourth dose of the COVID vaccine this week.
Carewest is also taking measures to ensure the continued health and safety of its residents.
As of April 26, six Carewest locations are on the COVID-19 outbreak list. For the most part, the active cases are among staff, according to a statement from Carewest.
“Carewest is doing everything possible to ensure the continued health and safety of our residents and clients given the continued transmission of the Omicron variant within the community,” reads a statement to Global News.
Carewest said safe staffing levels have been maintained due to the commitment of healthy staff to take on additional shifts, as well as the use of contracted providers.
As of April 12, everyone 70 and older in Alberta, and all seniors in congregate care as well as First Nations, Metis and Inuit people 65 and older, can book an appointment to get a fourth dose.