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Active cases of COVID-19 at St. Albert Retirement Residence rise to 38

St. Albert senior home now second-largest active outbreak in continuing care facilities in Alberta
Alberta Health confirmed there are 38 active cases of COVID-19 at the St. Albert Retirement Residence in Erin Ridge on Oct. 26. SUPPLIED

Thirty-eight people at the St. Albert Retirement Residence currently have COVID-19.

Alberta Health confirmed to the Gazette on Monday that a total of 41 people have tested positive at the residence. Three have recovered.

This would make the COVID-19 outbreak at the St. Albert Retirement Residence the second largest active outbreak currently open at a continuing care facility in the province, said Alberta Health spokesperson Tom McMillan in an email to the Gazette

Alberta Health did not provide a breakdown of how many of those cases are linked to staff, and how many are linked to residents. 

The Gazette broke news of the outbreak on Oct. 23, when there were 33 active cases of COVID-19 reported at the retirement home. The first case was reported to Alberta Health on Sept. 2.

The 183-suite retirement residence has independent, assisted living and ’memory care’ suites for residents with cognitive conditions. 

Families with loved ones at the retirement home spoke out about the lack of communication from home operator All Seniors Care Living Centres regarding the outbreak over the weekend. Four people told the Gazette they learned of the high number of cases through Friday's article. 

Bruce Lillie, regional marketing director for All Seniors Care Living Centres, sent a media release to the Gazette on Oct. 26.

“AHS has confirmed the 34th resident active positive case of covid-19 since September 28th. As an added precaution to help flatten the curve, non-positive residents are being swab tested each week,” Lillie wrote in the release. 

Addressing communication concerns raised by families, Lillie wrote staff are “guaranteed” to call back families within the same day, and a situation update letter will be emailed to families at least twice per week, according to the release.

“We will continue with our stringent cleaning and disinfecting practices throughout the home and to be at the ready to help support wherever we are needed. By following the safeguards in place, remaining calm and focussing on resident care we will get through this together.”

All residents are currently self-isolating and being supported in their private suites with three meals and snacks each day, daily activities, and connection to families through phone, FaceTime and other means, according to the release. 

Additional companion staff have been added to “increase personalized resident support”, and zone unit staffing schedules have been made to “ensure the greatest amount of support for each resident while keeping the same staff looking after the same residents throughout the week.”

The Gazette asked Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw during Monday's update why the outbreak at St. Albert Retirement Residence wasn't listed on the province's website until last week. 

Most often, single cases of COVID-19 at senior homes stem from a staff member who potentially attended work while infectious. Someone with COVID-19 can be infectious days before they start showing symptoms, Hinshaw said.

"So a long term care worker may have done everything right, stayed home as soon as their symptoms started, but potentially was infectious those two days prior," Hinshaw said.

When that happens, the province declares an outbreak at that site with the single case, but it isn't posted publicly at the time because at that point, there is no transmission in the facility, she said. In fact, Hinshaw said most of the time in situations with one case, there is no spread in the facility and the measures that are in place are effective. 

"Unfortunately in some cases, spread does happen, and when we do see spread happening in a facility, that is the point in time when those outbreaks are posted publicly," Hinshaw explained. 

"So while I don’t know the specifics of this case, and we can investigate that, it may have something to do with that typical process starting with the local response but only moving to public reporting when we do see a transmission event within that facility."

Other senior home outbreaks 

There is a COVID-19 outbreak at the Youville Home in St. Albert.

On Monday, Karen Diaper, communications manager for operator Covenant Health, told the Gazette they were investigating two positive cases of COVID-19 involving two staff members. Both cases were community-acquired.  

"Visitation restrictions are in place at this time. This also includes designated family supports, except for end-of-life situations or extenuating circumstances. Virtual visitation is encouraged," Diaper wrote in an email. 

All residents have been tested, and testing for all staff is ongoing, even if they are not showing symptoms, Diaper wrote. 

"All potential contacts are being traced to ensure we reduce the possibility of spread and we are following Occupational Health, Safety and Wellness and Public Health isolation and testing protocols," she wrote.

"We continue to work with the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and Alberta Health Services to ensure Youville Home is safe and are following protocols to minimize risk of spread." 

This includes thorough environmental cleaning with hospital-grade disinfectants, ensuring proper use of personal protective equipment, proper physical distancing in units and common areas, and ensuring proper hand hygiene practices are being followed. 

"We care deeply for our residents and staff. We are doing everything we can to contain transmission and keep residents and the public safe and healthy."

As of Oct. 26, the COVID-19 outbreak at the Ironwood Estates senior home in St. Albert remains at two active cases, with two additional people recovered, according to Alberta Health.  

St. Albert has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks, rising above 100 active cases for the first time on Monday.

St. Albert currently has 124 active cases of COVID-19, an increase of 33 people from Friday. In total, 269 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in St. Albert. Of those, 143 people have recovered, and two people have died. 

Brittany Gervais

About the Author: Brittany Gervais

Brittany Gervais joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2020. She writes about city hall, business, general news and features.
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