November 30, 2021

Maryland Heights Residents

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COVID-19: Outbreaks continue to rise at B.C.’s long-term care homes

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According to the latest provincial and regional health authority information there are 28 outbreaks in long-term care, assisted-living and independent-living residences.

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The number of COVID-19 outbreaks at care homes continues to rise in B.C. even as a booster shot program for residents that began to roll out earlier this month appears to be nearing completion.

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B.C. Ministry of Health officials would not say what percentage of residents at care homes had received a third, booster jab or provide any details of the rollout.

But health ministry spokeswoman Aileen Machell said “we’re almost there” in a brief written response to questions that included when the province expected to complete its booster program at care homes.

Machell said Health Minister Adrian Dix would provide details this week.

According to the latest provincial and regional health authority information there are 28 outbreaks in long-term care, assisted-living and independent-living residences.

That’s up from 16 long-term care and assisted living homes experiencing outbreaks two weeks ago, and well up from mid-July when outbreaks dropped to zero.

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The outbreaks include one at the Cottonwoods Care Centre in Kelowna that is now in its third month.

There have been 17 deaths since Aug. 2 at the 221-bed facility, where residents received a booster jab by Oct. 11, according to Interior Health officials.

In the second-most deadly ongoing outbreak, there have been 13 deaths since Sept. 27 at the Willingdon Care Centre in Burnaby where residents have also had boosters.

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An outbreak was also just declared Friday at the 60-bed Cascade Gardens Seniors Community in Burnaby, where residents have had their boosters, according to Fraser Health officials.

The B.C. government took until the end of September to announce a third COVID-19 shot for vulnerable populations, including at long-term care homes, after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization finally endorsed a third shot to restore protection that may have waned over time.

The province has since said that booster shots will be available to all British Columbians starting next year.

“It’s a susceptible population (in long-term care homes), and all it takes is one exposure, even from a vaccinated person who would have gotten it from the pool of unvaccinated people that persists,” said Dr. Brian Conway, president and medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre.

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Conway stressed it was important to hustle with third doses in vulnerable population such as in care homes, but to also reach as many people who remain unvaccinated in the general population.

Interior Health officials said they could not immediately comment about the reasons for the protracted outbreak at the Cottonwoods facility in Kelowna.

But earlier, Interior Health’s medical health officer Dr. Silvina Mema told reporters that it has been difficult to prevent and stop the spread of COVID-19 at Cottonwoods because it was an older building, had shared rooms and a population of dementia patients.

Only 34 beds are in private rooms, according to information from the B.C. senior’s advocate

Information compiled by Postmedia from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control shows there have been outbreaks at nearly 70 care homes since the beginning of August, nearly half of which have seen one death or more for a total of more than 100 deaths.

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At those facilities, there have been more than 1000 cases, about two thirds of them in residents and the remainder among staff.

As of Oct. 12, all staff working in long-term care homes had to be fully vaccinated and faced termination after two weeks unpaid leave for failing to do so.

On Oct. 12, all visitors also had to show proof of vaccination to enter a care home.

Several provinces approved booster shots for residents in long-term care homes far earlier than in B.C., including Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario. Other jurisdictions, including in the U.S., had done the same.

By mid-October, nearly all long-term care residents in Ontario had been provided a booster shot.

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