B.C. seniors' homes continue to be focal point for COVID-19

The new outbreak at Port Coquitlam's Nicola Lodge is one of 16 in healthcare facilities provincewide

Port Coquitlam's Nicola Lodge seniors' home is the latest such living facility idenitied as having an outbreak of COVID-19 thanks to one resident becoming infected, B.C.'s provincial health officer Bonnie Henry told media May 28.

The outbreak is one of 16 active situations that are either at seniors' living facilities or acute-care wards.

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The province recorded nine new cases in the past 24 hours, for a total of 2,558 cases since the virus that has caused a global pandemic was first identified in B.C. in late January. Of those cases, 550 have been in dozens of seniors' care homes – 338 infected residents and 212 infected workers. 

While B.C.'s seniors' care facilities have had fewer cases and deaths per capita than have other provinces, such as Ontario and Quebec, the number of outbreaks at these homes might have been lower had the province had a system where all care workers were limited to work exclusively at one home. 

Henry and the province have been trying to implement such a system for more than a month.
Health Minister Adrian Dix on May 28 released data that showed that 533 seniors' homes in B.C. had 7,350 employees who worked at multiple facilities when the COVID-19 pandemic started to take hold. So far, 497 of those homes have completed what Dix called a "single-site plan" to have workers who only work at a single facility. 

"We don't, of course, make progress or talk about the 36 sites where [a plan] is not filled, but there is movement in all 36 of those sites," Dix said. "The majority of those 36 remaining sites are assisted-living sites."

He said that his ministry is working with health authorities to get information about compensation levels for workers at those homes as part of its initiative to equalize union and non-union wages.

"We are raising up salaries to ensure that workers support and are part of this initiative," he said. 

The deadliest outbreak at a B.C. seniors' living facility has been at Langley's Langley Lodge, where 22 people have died

Most of the 241 people now battling the disease are self-isolating at home, but 33 have illnesses severe enough to be in hospital, while six of those are in intensive care units. There are 164 people who have died from COVID-19, including two in the past 24 hours. More than 84.1% of people who have been infected, or 2,153 individuals, have recovered. 

The breakdown of all COVID-19 infections by health region is:
• 899 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
• 1,274 in Fraser Health;
• 127 in Island Health;
• 195 in Interior Health; and
• 63 in Northern Health.

Henry said that she has lifted the provincial health order that banned non-food items from being sold at farmers' markets. 

The B.C. government recently started allowing dine-in service in restaurants, nail bars and hair salons to reopen, although travel around the province is still discouraged. Until today, Henry had been vague on when travel across the province for staycations would be encouraged. 

Henry said May 28 that as long as the number of cases does not increase significantly in the next couple weeks, encouragement could come by the middle of June. 

"Yes, I do think middle, maybe end of June, if things continue in the way that we're looking, and certainly into July, if things continue without having peaks and dramatic incresases in numbers of cases in the next couple weeks, then that's the period that we should be looking at," she said. 

"But it will be different. It will not be large numbers of people coming together. We will still have to have our physical distancing, our hand hygiene, our staying away when we're sick, and small numbers of people so we are not extending our contacts so much that this virus can take off."

gkorstrom@biv.com

@GlenKorstrom 

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