Calgary long-term care COVID-19 outbreaks come as seniors’ advocates call for more info

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 outbreaks at Calgary long-term care centres come as seniors’ advocates call for more information'
COVID-19 outbreaks at Calgary long-term care centres come as seniors’ advocates call for more information
Masks are back on at some long-term care centres in Calgary as COVID-19 outbreaks are occurring again. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, some seniors’ advocates are demanding more information on where those outbreaks are happening. – Sep 29, 2023

There are new outbreaks at long-term care centres in Calgary, but it’s difficult to find information on where they are.

Masks are back on at Beaverdam Commons dementia care facility is southeast Calgary. Like some other seniors’ facilities, there is a COVID-19 outbreak there.

It started on Sept. 23 and reached a peak of 16 residents, but now it’s down to five.

“The symptoms are resolving quite quickly and all the residents here have at least one vaccination — most have six,” said Tim Bowen, community manager at Beaverdam Commons.

Bowen said the symptoms are different this time around: raspy throat, runny nose, sore throat and cough but “nothing altogether and as intense as we saw in the beginning of COVID.”

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At Auburn Heights Retirement Centre, residents and families have been getting updates on the growing outbreak since last week.

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According to the latest update, there are now 50 cases. The executive director is pleading “if you don’t have to come here, then don’t.”

CanAge, Canada’s national seniors advocacy organization, said while the focus has been on COVID-19, a surge in other respiratory illnesses like flu and RSV is “imminent.”

CEO Laura Tamblyn Watts said up-to-date provincial reporting is lagging when it comes to respiratory illnesses impacting seniors.

“The information needs to get out to people and it needs to get out in a timely way,” Tamblyn Watts said. “We have been seeing an absolute ballooning of of long-term care outbreaks, but that is not information the public has.

“So when you’re planning your visit to your parents or your grandparents, Albertans don’t have the information they need to make those decisions that keep people safe.”

“I know we are tired of talking about vaccines and respiratory illness. This is the time we need to be taking it really seriously,” Tamblyn Watts said.

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There are two small outbreaks at two Brenda Strafford sites in Calgary, but at Bow View Manor they’ve been clear for about six weeks.

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“I think immunizations help and I think education is a big thing,” said Kristina Beyaert, Bow View Manor’s executive director. “Especially making sure that our staff and our visitors are doing the self-assessment and the self-check, and they’re not coming in when they’re sick.”

As for masking, it’s been required at Beaverdam Commons for the past week.

“Everybody is fatigued though. Three-and-a-half years of COVID has really taken its toll,” Bowen said. “Now when the staff see the masks and the goggles coming back, they ask, ‘Are we in this again?’ But it’s our choice to do this and we do our due diligence, and look after everyone as we are supposed to do.

“It’s part of life, the new normal I suppose.”

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Alberta Health Services said it takes all outbreaks at continuing care facilities seriously and uses a multi-faceted approach at those facilities to prevent further infections.

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“Our teams work closely with facility leadership and stakeholders to prevent and respond to outbreaks effectively,” AHS spokesperson James Wood said in an email.

He said there’s a dedicated email channel to provide guidance on safety measures for the facilities.

“In addition, AHS collaborates with care facilities and community partners to ensure residents and staff have access to immunization services.”

On Thursday, the province announced its fall influenza and COVID-19 immunization campaign would start on Oct. 2 for Albertans in congregate care. Other Albertans can book shots on Oct. 10, to begin six days after that.

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According to the province, since Sept. 3, there have been 21 confirmed cases of RSV with 52 cases of influenza, 10 hospitalizations and no admissions to intensive care units or deaths. For COVID-19, from Sept. 3 to Sept. 23 there were a total of 1,470 cases and 286 hospitalizations, with 13 ICU admissions.  20 Albertans died during that period due to COVID.

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“Very soon we will be launching a refreshed dashboard with up-to-date data that will align reporting on respiratory illnesses including COVID-19, RSV and influenza. This change will bring Alberta’s COVID-19 reporting schedule into line with other jurisdictions such as British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia,” Minister of Health Adriana LaGrange said in a statement.

The CEO of CanAge said the dashboards can be very helpful.

“As a publicly-funded health system, we should be able to access this information on outbreaks and the nature of the infections, which is important to residents and visitors alike,” said Tamblyn Watts. “But they don’t help anyone if they are not reflecting up to date information or aren’t available for public view.”

Alberta’s COVID-19 dashboard was last updated on July 24, and the last update to the influenza dashboard was two days earlier.

Tamblyn Watts emphasized the importance of getting vaccinated as soon as possible.

“Get to your pharmacy. Get to your doctor’s office and get not only the COVID-19 vaccine… at the same time, get your other vaccinations like pneumonia and the flu,” she said.

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