Manitoba’s worst COVID-19 outbreak at a personal care home has taken two more lives, the province announced Thursday.
Four people with the illness caused by the novel coronavirus have now died at the Bethesda Place personal care home in Steinbach, Man., as the virus continues to spread within its walls.
The deaths announced Thursday involved women in their 80s and 90s. Both were in hospital, but neither was in intensive care, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said at a news conference, as he also announced 20 new COVID-19 cases in the province.
Manitoba’s coronavirus-linked death toll now stands at 16.
“This comes as a real reminder that we have to stay on guard,” Roussin said.
The other two deaths linked to the outbreak, two women in their 90s, were announced last week.
The outbreak was initially contained to one wing of the personal care home, but has since spread to the other half of the 60-bed facility, said Cheryl Harrison, executive director of the Southern Health region, which includes the city of Steinbach, about 50 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg.
Residents at Bethesda Place are isolating in their rooms, she said.
To date, seven workers and six residents at the care home have been infected, including the four who have died. At a care home where residents become like family, workers at Bethesda Place are in mourning, Harrison said.
“The staff are not only doing the best they can to care for all the residents, but they’re doing that as they grieve,” she said.
The outbreak is believed to have started with a worker at the care home who was infected by community spread and tested positive for COVID-19 in early August, Roussin said.
Outbreaks at other care homes
In Manitoba, the number of personal care homes with COVID-19 cases has increased rapidly since the outbreak at Bethesda Place was declared on Aug. 17.
Five more have had at least one person test positive for the illness since last Thursday, when the Rideau Park Personal Care Home in Brandon declared an outbreak after a worker there contracted COVID-19.
Two days after that, the southwestern Manitoba city’s Hillcrest Place personal care home introduced outbreak protocols after a staff member there tested positive for the illness. A second worker there has since contracted COVID-19, Roussin said on Thursday.
A floor that houses a rehabilitation unit at the nearby Brandon Regional Health Centre’s Assiniboine Centre also declared an outbreak the next day.
Three cases — two health-care workers and one patient — were initially linked to that outbreak. It has more than doubled since, with four more patients who have contracted COVID-19, Roussin said.
Public health officials are still looking into how it got there, though it is likely linked to one of the workers, he said, since the original patient had been staying at the hospital for longer than the virus’s 14-day incubation period.
WATCH | Care home outbreak likely caused by community spread, Dr. Roussin says:
Another outbreak in Brandon was declared Monday, when a staff member at the Fairview Personal Care home tested positive for the illness. That outbreak — the fourth declared in the Brandon area in five days, and the third at a personal care home in the city — has also since spread to a second worker, Roussin said.
Outbreaks were also declared on Wednesday at two Winnipeg personal care homes. The Fred Douglas Lodge and Beacon Hill Lodge care homes still each only have one worker who has contracted COVID-19, Roussin said, as does Brandon’s Rideau Park outbreak.
The increase in these types of outbreaks is the result of more COVID-19 cases in the province overall, Roussin said.
Earlier this week, he said he’s noticed fatigue setting in among health-care workers around COVID-19 protocols and the use of personal protective equipment at personal care homes in the province that have become the site of outbreaks.
Public health officials are looking into the possibility that use of protective gear has become more relaxed in the hot summer months than it was in the early days of the pandemic, Harrison said.
Union leaders, though, disputed the assertion that care home workers aren’t following safety procedures.
Shannon McAteer, Manitoba health-care co-ordinator for the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said her members know the importance of wearing protective equipment and have demanded more of it.
Most new cases in Winnipeg
Thursday’s 20 new COVID-19 cases bring the province’s active caseload to 457. Of those, 104 are linked to communal living settings and 46 are linked to the Maple Leaf Foods pork processing plant in Brandon, Roussin said.
Thirteen new cases are in the Winnipeg health region, and almost half appear to be close contacts of known cases, he said.
Another six are in the Prairie Mountain Health region, while one is in the Interlake-Eastern health region.
A person in the Prairie Mountain region was fined this week for not properly self-isolating — the first time health officials have used the new powers introduced last week, Roussin said.
The province announced another possible public exposure to COVID-19 in Brandon, at ABC Taxi Cabs and Limousine Service from Aug. 19 to 21.
Manitoba’s five-day test positivity rate is now 1.3 per cent, and 1,339 more COVID-19 tests were done on Wednesday, for a total of 140,982 completed.
To date, there have been a total of 1,264 cases of the illness in Manitoba and 791 recoveries.
There are now 12 people in hospital with COVID-19 in Manitoba, including one in intensive care.
As students prepare to return to classes on Tuesday, Roussin announced the province will identify all schools that have infectious COVID-19 cases once close contacts of the case are notified.
Watch the full news conference here:
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