Staff and residents at the Citadel Care Centre seniors home in St. Albert were cleared of COVID-19 after a staff worker contracted the virus last month.
Dana Schnepf, Citadel director of care and site manager, said staff and residents tested negative on July 1.
"In the end, we only had our one positive staff member with no transmission," Schnepf said.
"We are feeling pretty proud of what a small and controlled outbreak it was. That was due to everyone's diligence here in following all the rules that are in place to keep people safe."
On June 24, a Citadel staff member tested positive for COVID-19 and called the senior home right away to notify staff. Alberta Health Services (AHS) confirmed the staff member acquired the virus in the community, not on-site.
Even so, the seniors home staff put additional safety measures in place to limit any possible transmission.
Since learning of the positive case, the senior home had stopped all outdoor visits for family members and residents in addition to all other provincial health orders.
Ten residents who came in contact with the staff member before she became symptomatic were isolated for two weeks, cared for by staff wearing full personal protective gear.
Getting negative test results back was a relief, but it didn't mean the centre could relax those measures right away. Staff and residents still had to wait the full 14 days from when the potential transmission happened, Schnepf said.
On July 4, Alberta Health Services lifted outbreak protocols, and outdoor visits were allowed to resume with family members the following Monday.
The staff member who had tested positive was allowed back to work on Tuesday after getting the green light from AHS, and all ten residents who were in isolation are now back to a more normal lifestyle.
"They were able to get outside for some walks and fresh air, they're doing okay," she said.
"It can be pretty lonely when you're on isolation precautions, so extra staffing definitely helped with that. Spending a little extra time with conversations, talking to them about the pictures on their wall, hearing their stories – that stuff's important."
Citadel's safety measures, coupled with the staff member's diligence following health and safety protocols, is what kept the virus contained, Schnepf said.
"I think this is a reminder that COVID is still out there. And it's also a reminder that wearing masks works, and I would encourage everyone to wear masks when they're out in public right now," she said.
"The only reason we didn't have further transmission was because the staff member wore a mask the whole time she was here, the day before she got sick. It could have been catastrophic."
St. Albert resident Tracey Demuynck’s father is a resident at Citadel.
Staff have been doing an “outstanding” job of staying in regular contact with family members and providing tons of information on what’s happening behind closed doors, she said in a message to the Gazette, calling Citadel’s response “infinitely professional.”
“Nobody wants their elderly loved ones to be locked away from them, but I trust that my dad is being well taken care of in the safest way possible, and I really appreciate everything that is being done there,” Demuynck wrote.
She said she will visit her father on Monday now that outdoor family visits are allowed again.It was a relief when Citadel got the all-clear, but Demuynck said she recognized how precarious of a situation the seniors home is in because of the pandemic. While it will be nice to see her father face-to-face again, in the back of her mind, she's preparing herself in case there's a second outbreak.
"It’s so sad to be near to him and yet so far, right at the end of his life, you know? But for his sake and for all our elderly community members, this is obviously the way things have to go," she wrote.
"My dad is from an era that knew what it meant to sacrifice. He is battling dementia now, so it can’t really be explained to him, but I feel that if he could understand it, he would take it all in stride as just another sacrifice he’s had to make in his lifetime. So that’s how I am trying to think about it, too. Dad would say, 'It is what it is.' Today is good. If it changes, we’ll deal with that the best we can."
On July 7, St. Albert saw its first death from COVID-19 since the pandemic started in mid-March. Cases in St. Albert have been on the rise over the past couple weeks with five active cases to date. Thirty-one people have recovered.
To date, there are 608 active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta. A total of 158 people have died. The average age of death from COVID-19 in the province is 83 years.