Nearly half of known COVID-19 deaths in Canada linked to long-term care homes: Tam

By | April 13, 2020

OTTAWA — With nearly half of the 735 COVID-19 deaths in Canada linked to outbreaks in long-term care homes, the federal government is urging these facilities to heed the latest national guidelines to control the spread of COVID-19 among their vulnerable residents.

“Of the cases where we have the data on whether someone was in a long-term care facility or seniors residence, we know that close to half of the deaths that we’re tracking are linked to long-term care facilities,” Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said on Monday.

“But that ratio is actually different in different provinces,” she said. “We need to protect our seniors, so stay home and save lives.”

Joining the daily ministerial update on the novel coronavirus, Seniors Minister Deb Schulte said that heeding the newly-released advice is “critical” in slowing the pandemic’s spread within seniors’ homes, as they are at a high risk.

“Residents of long-term care homes are vulnerable to infections due to their communal living spaces, shared healthcare providers, exposure to external visitors, and transfers from other healthcare facilities,” she said.

This comes in light of news that police and public health investigations are underway after 31 elderly residents at a long-term care home in Dorval, Que. have died. Quebec Premier Francois Legault has said that he feels there was “negligence” at play in the privately-run facility. 

On Saturday, federal health officials released new interim infection prevention and control guidance for long-term care homes nationwide, saying the “heartbreaking events” have shown the need for rigorous visitor and resident care protocols and precautions. The guidance can also be applied to retirement residences, and other seniors’ facilities. 

Among the key recommendations:

  • Restricting visitors and volunteers;
  • Screenings before shift for staff and before any essential visitor enters;
  • Prohibiting staff with symptoms from coming to work;
  • Wearing masks, and other personal protective equipment;
  • Limiting employees to working in a single facility; and
  • Cancelling any non-essential outings and maintaining physical distance during meals.

The guidelines were drafted in consultation with the provinces, territories, and based on the experience in other countries. 

More to come …

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