The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) has declared the COVID-19 outbreak at Chartwell Muskoka Traditions retirement home over.
A single case of COVID-19 identified among a staff member or resident in a long-term care or retirement home constitutes an outbreak of the infection under provincial guidelines. For hospitals and groups homes, it’s evidence of transmission on site.
[Related: There have been suggestions in the community that the COVID-19 case reported at Chartwell Muskoka Traditions was a false positive. This information is not accurate, as confirmed for Huntsville Doppler by Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) on May 20. Read more here.]
Chartwell Muskoka Traditions was declared in outbreak on May 4 after a resident—a woman in her 90s—tested positive for COVID-19. According to the SMDHU website, the outbreak was declared over on May 17. It was the only outbreak declared in a Muskoka facility to date, although there have been several in Simcoe County that have had deadly outcomes for some of the residents.
Testing of the 35 staff members and 76 residents at Muskoka Traditions was completed on May 6 by community paramedics, with negative results for all but the one resident who has been hospitalized.
The cause of this outbreak may never be known. The most likely route for SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, to enter a long-term care home or retirement home is via a staff member who is infected but asymptomatic, making infection control measures at such homes vitally important.
Dr. Charles Gardner, the medical officer of health for SMDHU, said in a previous media briefing that he is concerned about the vulnerability of long-term care and retirement homes. “There is sufficiently high prevalence [of the virus] in the community that some healthcare workers may get infected and could transmit for up to 48 hours before showing symptoms,” he said.
Under a provincial directive, health units across the province were tasked with testing every resident and staff member at long-term care homes before May 15—approximately 7,800 tests were completed at 31 sites in Simcoe Muskoka. That process has thus far not yielded any positive results for homes in Simcoe Muskoka that weren’t already in outbreak, although not all results have been received by the health unit as of today. The Province has not yet issued a similar directive for retirement homes, and the health unit continues to closely monitor them.
These testing measures provide a snapshot in time and thus are of limited value, said Dr. Gardner. There is still the potential for outbreaks in the future until a vaccine is developed. To mitigate that possibility, the health unit has also created teams that assess these facilities and provide guidance on infection control and staffing.
On Saturday, May 16, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in his daily briefing that Health Canada has approved the first Canadian clinical trials of a COVID-19 vaccine, to take place at the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology at Dalhousie University.
And today, Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Ontario’s Minister of Long-Term Care, announced that the provincial government will launch an independent commission into the province’s long-term care system beginning in September.
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