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.
The retirement home was declared in outbreak on May 4 after a resident at the retirement home, a woman in her 90s who had been hospitalized, tested positive for COVID-19. Testing was completed at the home on May 6 and the outbreak was declared over on May 17 after the remaining 74 residents and 35 staff members all tested negative.
On May 21, the woman was reported as recovered by the health unit.
Why is an outbreak declared after just one positive test?
For COVID-19, the Province has directed that an outbreak be declared in a long-term care home or retirement home if there is even one laboratory-confirmed case.
That declaration will trigger an outbreak assessment, which includes testing of all residents and staff as well as an investigation into the home’s infection control measures.
What is a false positive?
A false positive is when there is a positive result for a test, when it should have been a negative result.
According to the SMDHU, testing an asymptomatic person is more likely to yield a false positive than testing of people who are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.
Health units across the province were required to test all residents and staff in long-term care homes before May 15. No such directive has been issued for retirement homes, but Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for SMDHU, said that they are still closely monitored.
In all congregate settings, like long-term care, retirement homes, and group homes, the health unit is taking “an approach of prevention, to improving conditions and addressing shortcomings and issues, and watching closely for any cases,” said Dr. Gardner in his May 19 media briefing.
If the test result at Muskoka Traditions wasn’t a false positive, how could there be just a single positive case?
Any testing at facilities like retirement homes and long-term care homes provides a snapshot in time. It’s possible that there were other asymptomatic cases at the home that resolved prior to the universal testing and therefore weren’t revealed in that round of tests.
What infection control measures were put in place at the home?
According to an email statement sent to Doppler on May 21 by Sharon Ranalli, vice president of marketing and communications for Chartwell Retirement Residences, once they were notified of the positive case, they “moved into outbreak protocols which involved increased infection control, increased resident monitoring and staff screening and isolation of residents to their suites. Appropriate PPE [personal protective equipment] was also used and is in sufficient supply in this residence. Prior to the outbreak being declared, Chartwell Muskoka Traditions was already following all directives from the Medical Officer of Health and Public Health pertaining to Essential Visitors only into the residence, enhanced infection control and cleaning, socially distancing, screening and monitoring of all residents and staff for symptoms or risks. The Medical Officer of Health has issued orders recommending that residents not leave their retirement residence unless for medically necessary visits and that family visits only be permitted for end of life, one person at a time.”
Ranalli added that their “highest priority remains the safety of our residents and staff in minimizing the risk related to COVID-19 and the high transmission rate of this virus. I can’t say enough about the commitment of our staff in being prepared in advance and in moving quickly into the heightened outbreak measures were required to be undertaken by Public Health. In addition, even while our residents are apart from their families under these pandemic measures, they know they are never alone and that our staff are there for them.”
What is the current status of COVID-19 infections in the general Muskoka population?
The positive case at Muskoka Traditions has been the only laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19 in a long-term care or retirement home in the region.
To date there have been 19 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Muskoka: seven in Huntsville (all recovered), six in Gravenhurst (all recovered), three in Muskoka Lakes (two recovered, one deceased), one in Lake of Bays (recovered), and two in Bracebridge (recovered).
But Dr. Gardner has said repeatedly that the virus is likely still prevalent in communities throughout its catchment area and that continued control measures are necessary—even as the Province begins to ease restrictions—to ensure that the case count doesn’t begin to rise once again.
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