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Eight More Ontarians admitted to hospital with COVID-19 as daily caseload drops below 200

Posted: July 23, 2020

(July 22, 2020)

By: Rob Ferguson,

Eight more Ontarians have been admitted to hospital for COVID-19 as the number of cases fell back below 200 following a one-day surge and an advocacy group warned nursing homes need more staff to cope with a potential second wave in the fall.

The Ministry of Health reported 165 new infections Wednesday with young adults and those under 19 continuing to comprise the majority of cases.

“Just over 50 per cent of today’s cases are under the age of 40,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said on Twitter.

The medical officer of health in Windsor-Essex County, whose region has the highest cumulative rate of cases per 100,000 population in the province because of outbreaks in the farm sector, said too many people are holding gatherings or parties and spreading the virus.

“That’s something we need to be concerned about,” he told a news conference Wednesday. “Anyone you’re interacting with could be a potential case of COVID.”

Areas with the highest numbers of new cases remained Windsor-Essex with 39 reported to the province as of 4 p.m. the previous day and Peel Region with 25 — both areas that have been held back, along with Toronto, from stage three reopenings that allow bars and restaurants to resume indoor service. Ottawa’s uptick in cases continued with 33 new infections.

Elliott said 18 of 34 public health units across the province reported no new infections while another 10 had fewer than five new cases.

There were 128 Ontarians in hospital with COVID-19, an increase of eight, with 37 in intensive care and 19 on ventilators to breathe.

The number of outbreaks in Ontario’s 626 nursing homes increased by one to 37, for a total of 384 since the virus began sweeping through long-term care and killed at least 1,788 residents.

Echoing concerns raised by the nursing home industry itself through the Ontario Long-Term Care Association which has warned homes are not ready for a second wave of COVID-19, the Ontario Health Coalition released a survey of more than 150 workers in the sector who said many facilities remain short-staffed on a daily basis, and particularly at nights and on weekends.

The advocacy group cited “deeply disturbing” problems such as residents not being bathed regularly, and “rushed” care when it comes to help with teeth brushing, shaving, feeding, hydrating, repositioning to avoid painful bedsores, toileting and more frequent falls.

“The government must set a minimum care standard of four hours of care per resident per day,” said Natalie Mehra, executive director of the coalition.

That would cost an extra $1.8 billion a year according to a recent study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Premier Doug Ford had promised an “independent commission” into the heavy toll the pandemic took on nursing homes would begin in July, but has not yet announced anyone to lead the effort. He promised to do so by the end of the month.

Ford said officials have been working on a solution for staffing problems in long-term care and will also report by the end of July.

“It is something we’re preparing for,” Elliott told reporters, noting that staff from hospitals are still running 11 nursing homes under 90-day takeover orders to stabilize resident care, infection control and other services while a strategy is devised for the fall, when a second wave of COVID-19 could arrive in tandem with flu season.

New Democrat MPP Teresa Armstrong said the government is taking too long to get a handle on a situation that could quickly take a turn for the worse with any resurgence of the highly contagious virus.

“Families are grieving the loss of a loved one in long-term care and countless more are wracked with worry over a relative who continues to live in long-term care during COVID-19,” said New Democrat MPP Teresa Armstrong (London-Fanshawe), her party’s nursing home critic.

Armstrong said the NDP agrees each resident needs a guarantee of four hours of hands-on care daily, and that personal support workers who tend to many of the needs of residents should be offered full-time jobs with better pay given the risks they have taken in the pandemic and reduce attrition.

Government statistics show 12 more health care workers in nursing homes have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last day, and eight have died in total.

To date, a Star compilation of data from health units has counted just over 40,000 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 with almost 2,800 dead. Two-thirds of the deaths have been in nursing homes.

At 5 p.m. Wednesday, the Star’s survey found an additional 133 confirmed and probable cases and one more death in the previous 24 hours, raising the tallies to 40,138 and 2,789 respectively.

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