COVID cases are soaring in Canada’s LTC homes as the country enters the 7th wave. What can be done?

As a seventh wave of COVID-19 makes its way across Canada, long-term care facilities in some provinces are experiencing a significant spike in infections.

In Ontario, COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care homes more than doubled in the first week of July, according to the province’s public health unit.

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A total of 42 outbreaks were reported in the long-term care sector during the week of July 3-9, according to the latest data from the province.

That’s a 110% increase from the 20 outbreaks reported the previous week.

Ontario, like other provinces, is no longer reporting daily COVID cases. However, according to Dr. Kieran Moore, the province’s chief medical officer of health, the seventh wave of the new coronavirus could peak in Ontario within the next two weeks.

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Following direction from the province’s Minister of Long-Term Care, Paul Calandra, MPP for Markham-Stouffville, Ontario, had previously implemented a COVID-19 vaccination policy for people working, volunteering or visiting long-term care homes.

But the policy was revoked in March, meaning that requirement no longer applies.

In Quebec, more than 25% of patients in 38 of 106 long-term care facilities are currently infected with the virus, according to the latest data from the province. Between 15 and 25% of the residents of 19 other establishments are also infected.

“Quebec is in a seventh wave of COVID-19,” Marie-Claude Lacasse, spokesperson for the province’s public health department, told Global News, noting that cases are expected to stabilize over the next few weeks.

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“Quebec public health has urged the population to be cautious in order to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus as much as possible, particularly among the most vulnerable people,” said the spokesperson.

A spike in infection among healthcare workers has also increased “strain” on the province’s healthcare system, the spokesperson said.

A resident holds hands with a healthcare worker on a COVID-19 infected ward at the Idola Saint-Jean long-term care home in Laval, Que., Friday, Feb. 25, 2022.


British Columbia had four long-term care facilities with an active outbreak of COVID-19 as of July 13, a spokesperson for the province’s health ministry confirmed to Global News.

“During the pandemic, several reinforced protective measures have been put in place to minimize the risk of introduction and transmission of COVID-19 in long-term care residences and assisted living facilities for the elderly”, said the spokesperson.

“We will continue to maintain appropriate measures, including enhanced testing protocols, masking requirements, infection prevention and control practices, testing and outbreak management protocols, to protect those most vulnerable to infections. serious illnesses of COVID-19.”

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In Alberta, outbreaks of COVID-19 have been reported in 12 long-term care facilities as of July 13, according to provincial data.

This includes five facilities in the Calgary area and one in Edmonton.

“As we prepare for the fall, Albertans can expect to see periods of increased transmission of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses like the flu,” said Charity Wallace, government spokesperson for Alberta at Global News.

“As we continue to live with COVID, vaccines will continue to be essential to protect our health, our loved ones and the healthcare system. This is why we continue to encourage Albertans to receive all the vaccine doses to which they are entitled,” they said.

In Nunavut, there are currently no outbreaks in long-term care facilities, the territory’s health department communications officer told Global News.

The latest figures from Manitoba also show no outbreaks in long-term care facilities, although there was an overall increase in reported cases from the previous week.

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“Long-term care is the perfect storm not just for severe outbreaks, but for severe outbreaks with lots of illness and death,” said Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist and assistant professor at the Faculty of Medicine. information from the University of Toronto, to Global News.

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“In a sense, this is ground zero for the worst of COVID,” he said.

To manage outbreaks in these facilities, it is not enough to wear a mask, according to Furness.

“We have to manage the air,” he said. “We need filtration and ventilation measures and we need them urgently.”

However, when masking, wearing respirator masks, such as an N95, is important for maximum protection, according to Furness.

“In this kind of environment where people are so vulnerable, it’s really important. You could put nine cloth masks on your face and it won’t work as well as a respirator mask,” he said.

Click to play video: “Behind the COVID Curtain: Once-Confidential Alberta Government Documents Released”

Behind the COVID curtain: Once-confidential Alberta government documents released

Behind the COVID curtain: Once-confidential Alberta government documents released

Another key strategy to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care facilities, Furness says, is to ramp up rapid testing for staff and visitors. Getting vaccinated is also crucial, he said.

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“All vulnerable people should only be cared for by vaccinated people,” Furness said.

“The problem we have with inoculating very old people is that their immune systems are often not able to mount such a robust response. So let’s vaccinate the inhabitants but the main thing is that the people around them are vaccinated,” he added.

In Ontario alone, more than 96% of eligible long-term care residents have received a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of July 12, and more than 80% of those eligible have received a fourth dose, Mark Nesbitt, door -word of the provincial ministry. long-term care told The Canadian Press this week.

By the same date, more than 88% of eligible staff had received a third dose.

One strategy detrimental to residents is to lock down long-term care facilities and bar visitors, according to Furness.

“It’s extremely punitive and really a last resort when you’ve decided you’re just not going to bother doing anything else,” Furness said.

This strategy impacted essential family caregivers whose ability to see and care for loved ones in these settings was limited during lockdown, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Gerontology and the International Journal of Qualitative Studies. on Health and Wellness.

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The study – authored by Charlene H. Chu and Amanda Yee of the University of Toronto, as well as Vivian Stamatopolous of Ontario Tech University – found that poor technology, infrastructure and planning made it difficult for caregivers to properly caring for residents, causing “collective trauma”.

“It was a nightmare come true for many family members,” Chu said in a statement released by the University of Toronto on July 8.

“They were already full of guilt for having to care for their loved ones, and now they had to witness the decline and confinement of their family, compounded by their own sense of helplessness in the face of the situation.”

— With files from The Canadian Press

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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