On Thursday (March 26), the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge (HKPR) District Health Unit announced 14 staff members and three residents of Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon have tested positive for COVID-19 following an outbreak of the illness at the home.
Another 16 staff and 35 more residents are showing symptoms, and two residents who were showing symptoms have died.
Pinecrest Nursing Home, which houses 65 residents, declared a respiratory outbreak last Wednesday (March 18) after a number of residents showed flu-like symptoms. Tests were done on the three residents, who tested positive for COVID-19.
The HKPR District Health Unit halted further testing of residents, according to its outbreak protocol, since the tests provided confirmation the disease was circulating in the home’s population.
Since then, 35 residents have developed COVID-19 symptoms and two have died, with one death on Tuesday night (March 24) and one death on Wednesday night.
Although the two residents who died were not tested for COVID-19, they had developed symptoms of the disease and were presumptive cases.
In addition, 14 staff members showing symptoms have been confirmed as COVID-19, with four having negative results. Test results are still expected for an additional 16 staff who are showing symptoms.
All staff who are symptomatic are self-isolating and the entire facility is still in isolation.
Dr. Lynn Noseworthy, Medical Officer of Health for HKPR District Health Unit, says it’s the largest outbreak of COVID-19 in Ontario so far.
“This outbreak of COVID-19 is currently the largest outbreak in the province,” she says. “It really brings home how devastating and deadly this virus can be for older people in our communities. I am asking everyone to do everything they can to stop the spread of this virus — if not to protect yourself but to protect others who need our care.”
Once the home declared the respiratory outbreak on March 18th, staff followed procedures to help contain the spread of the virus. Asymptomatic staff wore the proper protective equipment. Ill staff did not come to work, were advised to self-isolate at home, and arrangements were made to have them tested. Residents were isolated as best they could be in the smaller facility, with group activities stopped and meals served to residents on trays rather than in the dining room.
Despite Pinecrest having been closed to visitors (with the exception of compassionate visiting) since March 14th and the outbreak protocols put into place, the virus continued to spread in the population. In a media release, the HKPR District Health Unit says that, given the incubation period of the virus, many staff and residents were probably already infected by the time the outbreak was declared.
The confirmed cases among Pinecrest Nursing Home staff explain the sudden increase in COVID-19 cases reported on Thursday by the HKPR District Health Unit.
“This is truly a horrible time for the families and friends of the residents, as well as our staff,” says Pinecrest administrator Mary Carr. “We have a number of medically fragile and vulnerable people living in our home. Our residents are like family to our staff. Our sympathies go out to all of the families and friends of the people we have lost.”
Carr says Pinecrest staff are doing everything they can to keep their residents safe, but there could be additional deaths given the fragility of some of the residents.
Dr. Noseworthy says the HKPR District Health Unit has supporting Pinecrest by helping to ensure they have supplies and support for additional staff to cover the work of those who are home ill or recovering.