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Amberwood Outbreak Impacting 19 Residents, 3 Staff; Another 7 cases of COVID confirmed in Sudbury

Posted: January 13, 2021

(January 12, 2021)

By: Jim Moodie, Sudbury Star (Print Edition)


One-third of active COVID-19 cases in Sudbury and districts are related to an outbreak at a local retirement home.

Public Health Sudbury and Districts confirmed Monday there are currently 22 cases associated with Amberwood Suites on Regent Street.

Nineteen residents and three staff members have so far tested positive at the facility, the health unit said. Dr. Peter Zalan, a former intensive care physician at Health Sciences North, said he understood seven of those people have now been hospitalized, while an eighth COVID patient is in ICU, although that individual is from another community.

“The seven are all in one ward and hopefully none of them are too sick,” he said. “They could still infect staff but I assume they are taking all the precautions with gowns and the like.”

Prior to the latest surge in COVID numbers, the hospital had been mostly spared pandemic-related admissions, although Zalan said he was anticipating this situation would not last.

“It was really nice having zero patients for so long, but it was kind of inevitable considering that the lockdown, so to speak, started after Christmas,” he said.

The Amberwood outbreak was declared on Tuesday, after the home’s first resident tested positive for COVID.

An outbreak also remains in effect at St. Joseph’s Villa, although a single infection in a staff member fortunately remains the only case to date at that facility.

The rapid spread at Amberwood, meanwhile, is causing much worry in the community, especially among family members of the elderly residents.

“I am very concerned,” said Dot Klein, who not only heads up the Sudbury chapter of the Ontario Health Coalition but has a 77-yearold cousin at the retirement home.

“All we need is for it to start, and it has started,” said Klein. “It can mushroom overnight, within 24 hours. We’ve seen examples in southern Ontario and we do not want that to happen here.”

Klein said her cousin is not sick himself at the moment, but that doesn’t provide much comfort, since the virus is hard to contain once it takes hold in a congregate setting.

“It can progress unbelievably, and you could have a death,” she said. “Niagara I think now has every long-term care facility and every retirement home in an outbreak.

That’s why we’ve been asking the question: is this COVID-19 or is this one of the mutant strains? Because the mutant is faster in evolving.”

Klein said she dropped off a coffee and copy of The Sudbury Star for her relative on Friday – leaving both at the front door for staff to take further – and spoke with him by phone on Monday.

She said he had been isolated since the outbreak was declared last week, getting meals delivered to his room, but was told Monday he could “leave the building and go for a walk.”

Klein was shocked to hear that, assuming there would be less movement allowed now that more people have come down with COVID.

She is also concerned about caregivers coming and going from the building, having witnessed a couple of apparent nurses entering the facility on Friday without first donning personal protective equipment.

“It looked like they were either with Bayshore (a private care service) or the lab,” she said. “They definitely weren’t part of their staff, and they were just taking their temperature after they got in there. They were going with their coats and their boots to wherever they were going, and that, in my opinion, especially when we’re so concerned about community spread – there’s your entry.”

Klein, who worked for many years as a nurse herself, is eager to see more vigilance around donning and doffing of PPE to ensure the virus isn’t inadvertently brought into seniors residences.

“I’m not saying all workers are carrying it, but facilities have to be extra stringent with that,” she said. “These new strains are much more virulent and we do know that COVID is a hitchhiker.”

Amberwood is one of several retirement homes operated in Sudbury by Autumnwood Mature Lifestyle Communities.

The Star reached out to Julie Aube, director of retirement operations with the company, for a comment regarding the outbreak, but no response was received by deadline.

In an earlier statement, the company said it was working with public health and other local agencies “on contact tracing, continued monitoring and management of the declared outbreak.”

All residents and staff were to be swabbed and “all residents are on room isolation,” the statement reads. “Our main priority and focus continue to be the health and well-being of our residents and employees at Amberwood Suites.”

The distressing news regarding Amberwood came as seven more COVID cases were announced in the health unit area for the second day in a row.

All of the new cases are in the City of Greater Sudbury, according to stats provided by public health. In each case, information was pending or missing regarding probable exposure.

Six cases were also resolved between Sunday and Monday, meaning the total number of active cases grew by just one, to 67.

That still sets a new record, however, for unresolved infections in the Public Health area.

“Back in November we had an outbreak and went up to 46 cases, but we had come back down to nine before all this started, so I’m hoping we can do that again,” said Zalan. “We all knew this was coming and I don’t know if we’ve reached a peak yet, but I hope so.”

The province reported 3,338 new cases on Monday and 29 additional fatalities – pushing the COVID death toll past 5,000.

The Doug Ford government said 1,563 people are currently hospitalized with the virus, with 387 people in intensive care and 268 on ventilators.

Further restrictions are coming soon, the premier said, although a curfew, as has been implemented in Quebec, is not expected to be among them, according to Canadian Press.

New measures will be announced by the province on Tuesday, along with new COVID-19 projections. The premier said those figures are very concerning and warned of “rough waters” ahead.

Ford had earlier suggested the current province-wide lockdown could extend beyond January.

Ontario also reported 8,859 more vaccine doses being administered on Monday, for a total of 122,105 doses provided to date.

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