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Grip of coronavirus tightens at city long-term care facility; At least two residents dead, 105 cases confirmed at The Village at St. Clair

Posted: December 19, 2020

(December 18, 2020)

By: Dalson Chen, Windsor Star (Print Edition)

The coronavirus situation at The Village at St. Clair – a Windsor long-term care facility under the Schlegel Villages corporation – has worsened with the deaths of at least two residents and the number of cases at the site entering the triple digits.

A letter circulated on Wednesday night and credited to Joanne Potts, regional vice-president of operations with Schlegel Villages, stated that a second resident who tested positive for COVID-19 passed away – adding to the death of a resident previously reported on Wednesday.

“Safely managing the outbreak is of utmost priority and all required resources are being accessed to meet the needs of our community,” Potts wrote.

The letter also states that 105 COVID-19 cases have now been confirmed at the home, as of Wednesday night: 61 residents and 44 team members.

“We continue to receive the final lab results from the initial round of mass swabbing obtained at the outset of the outbreak and prior to the enhanced precautions and restrictions now in place,” Potts wrote. “We are confident that the necessary precautions are in place for the containment of the virus.”

The letter also discloses a “previous lapse in our surveillance protocols” at the facility: An event took place last week involving a staff member dressed as Santa who “did not follow our stated rules on proper PPE (personal protective equipment) use.”

According to Potts, this event was meant to “bring the holiday spirit” to residents of one of the facility’s “neighbourhoods.”

Potts stated that disciplinary action has been taken, as well as re-education on proper PPE use and requirements.

The staff member in the Santa outfit has since tested negative for COVID-19, Potts wrote.

All of the residents who attended the event have also tested negative, except for one whose test result had yet to be returned on Wednesday.

Potts’letter does not specify the date of the Santa event.

According to the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit website, the outbreak at The Village at St. Clair was first reported on Dec. 8.

“Our policy at all times is that anyone other than residents must be wearing proper PPE at all times when in the home. We have no tolerance for anyone breaking this rule,” Potts wrote.

“We sincerely regret the added worry this causes for our residents, family, and team members.”

Windsor West MPP Lisa Gretzky stood on the property of The Village at St. Clair on Thursday to express her outrage at the situation, and to announce that she has formally written to Premier Doug Ford and Ontario’s ministers of health and long-term care, asking for their immediate intervention.

“This is a dire situation. These are alarming numbers that we’re seeing, and these are human lives that are at risk,” Gretzky said.

Gretzky said she has heard from workers of the facility that three residents have died.

On Wednesday, Gretzky and fellow New Democrat Taras Natyshak, MPP for Essex, took part in a virtual news conference calling upon the provincial government to take over the management of the home, and to guarantee that every staff member has access to properly-fitted N95 masks.

“This outbreak is out of control, and the for-profit owners Schlegel Villages have failed to protect the residents and staff. Doug Ford’s government has the power to intervene, but they’re sitting on their hands while more staff and residents get infected,” Gretzky said.

Natyshak said the situation is “yet another example of why profiteering companies like Schlegel Villages can’t be trusted to provide the level of care and support that residents deserve.”

Tracey Ramsey, chair of the Windsor-Essex chapter of the Ontario Health Coalition, called upon the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit to exercise its powers under Section 29 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act.

Health unit CEO and chief nursing officer Theresa Marentette said outbreak protocol is ongoing, and public health inspectors have reviewed the facility’s infection prevention measures.

She said she is not aware of further orders at this time.

In the health unit’s update on the region’s COVID-19 numbers on Thursday morning, Marentette reported three new COVID-19 deaths – all residents of the same long-term care facility.

She described the recently deceased as: A man in his 70s, a woman in her 80s, and a man in his 90s.

A statement by Schlegel Villages on Thursday afternoon said the staff at The Village at St. Clair “always has a good supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) on hand for staff while in outbreak,” including N95 masks “for use in any aerosolized medical procedure.”

Paul Brown, chief operating officer of Schlegel Villages, said the facility has multiple infection prevention and control measures in place, implemented in partnership with public health.

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