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Hamilton breaks new record in active COVID cases

Posted: December 23, 2020

(December 22, 2020)

By: Maria Iqbal, The Hamilton Spectator

Hamilton reported a record number of active cases and three new deaths Tuesday.

The city has 101 new cases, with active cases jumping to 992, an increase of 41 from the previous day. The previous record was 979 active cases, reported Dec. 20.

All numbers are as of 3 p.m. the previous day.

Based on The Spectator’s records, the new deaths all appear to be over the age of 80. There have now been 141 deaths in Hamilton, of which 104 were in this age group.

On Monday, the city’s medical officer of health said there was a “technical backlog” in reporting cases. Dr. Elizabeth Richardson said case numbers could increase as the backlog clears.

One new resident case and two new deaths were reported at Grace Villa long-term-care home, the city’s worst outbreak, based on The Spectator’s records.

There have now been 28 deaths at the facility in 27 days. A total of 217 cases have been reported since the outbreak began Nov. 25. That includes 140 resident and 77 staff cases. Of those, 100 cases are active, including 74 residents and 26 staff, according to the province.

Lisa Scott, a Grace Villa staff member, previously reported to The Spectator that the home’s outbreak had spread throughout the facility.

Shalom Village reported one new death, bringing the total to six, according to the city. However, both the home’s interim CEO and the province are reporting nine deaths.

The outbreak has spread to both buildings at Shalom Village, including four floors of one building and two floors of the second, according to stats provided by interim CEO Larry Levin at a town hall Dec. 21. Levin added that residents in both the long-term-care units, as well as seniors’ and assisted living apartments at the facility, have tested positive.

Based on numbers from the town hall, Shalom Village has 60 resident cases, two visitor cases and 59 staff who’ve tested positive, bringing the total to 121, surpassing the cases at Chartwell Willowgrove. This makes Shalom Village the second-largest outbreak in the city.

Chartwell Willowgrove remains the second-deadliest with 18 deaths since the outbreak was declared Oct. 22. The home has seen a total 101 cases, including 63 residents, 36 staff and two visitors. There are currently fewer than 10 active cases, according to the province.

Speaking to the media on Monday, Richardson said long-term-care homes should prepare for possible outbreaks by training staff in infection prevention and control, as well as stockpile PPE.

“The biggest message … is just to be really prepared from a staffing perspective,” she said.

Richardson noted staff requirements increase in an outbreak because residents need more care when they have COVID, and staff are “cohorted” so they don’t mix between patients who are infected and those who are not.

According to an Ontario Health Coalition report released Dec. 17, the majority of staff working in large long-term-care outbreaks don’t believe they have enough staff to provide daily direct care to residents.

Front-line staff working in homes with more than 10 cases of COVID-19 were surveyed, with cases in some outbreaks exceeding 150.

About 65 per cent of the 88 surveys said they did not have enough staff.

Staff report “extraordinary workloads,” including double shifts, overtime, an inability to take days off sometimes for weeks, and an inability to take breaks, the coalition says in its report.

Hygiene is compromised due to the staffing shortages.

“Bathing and grooming cannot be completed at all in some homes, and in others, if completed, are not up to the standards (staff) expect,” the report notes. “Staff struggle to feed and hydrate all of the residents.”

In the case of Grace Villa, nurses described sanitary conditions as “horrendous,” with food and drink spillages, as well as feces that hadn’t been cleaned up.

While Grace Villa and Shalom Village told The Spectator they’ve sought support from outside agencies, the survey notes that agency staff are not always trained properly before being deployed.

Other outbreaks also saw new cases, with the city reporting two new outbreaks.

The ongoing outbreak in five units at Juravinski Hospital has five new cases and one new death. There are now 43 patient cases, 45 in staff and two other cases listed as “visitor/other.” Six people have died in the outbreak.

Franco’s No Frills on Queenston Road has three new cases, with 11 staff now testing positive.

École secondaire Académie catholique Mère-Teresa is a new outbreak as of Dec. 21 with three students testing positive.

A Taco Bell at 677 Upper James St. is another new outbreak as of Dec. 20 with four staff cases.

An outbreak at CONNECT Communities rehabilitation centre in Stoney Creek was declared over as of Dec. 21.

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