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Public Health reports four more deaths related to COVID-19 outbreak at Caressant Care Listowel

HURON-PERTH – “Today, Jan. 25 marks the one-year anniversary of the first COVID-19 case in Ontario,” said Dr. Miriam Klassen, Huron-Perth medical officer of health, during the Huron Perth Public Health (HPPH) media briefing on Monday.

“It’s been a tough year and we know that many people are experiencing so-called COVID fatigue. We urge everyone to continue following all Public Health advice so we can control the spread of the virus.”

The total number of positive COVID-19 cases in the area since the pandemic began is 1,173. Currently, there are 137 active cases with five Huron-Perth residents in hospital and there have been 36 COVID-19 related deaths.

“These include the death reported on our website on Saturday and the three deaths reported on our website today,” said Klassen.

“All four of these are connected to the Caressant Care (Listowel) outbreak. Our thoughts go out the families and loved ones as well as the residents and staff at Caressant Care during this very difficult time.”

At the long-term care side of Caressant Care Listowel, four more staff have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total to 43 cases among resident and 25 cases among staff. There have been nine deaths and 19 residents have been transferred to local hospitals. On the retirement home side, there is one new resident case, bringing the total number of cases to 30 residents and eight staff. There has been one death of a retirement home resident and three residents have been transferred.

“Provincial testing was performed on Caressant Care samples to check for variants or concerns, such as the UK variant,” said Klassen.

“The results are now back and show these cases are not the variant strain, so that’s good news for Huron-Perth that there is no evidence of that in our community at this time.”

There is one active hospital outbreak on the surgery unit at Stratford General Hospital.

“It’s well-controlled and we hope to declare this outbreak over soon,” she said.

Aside from Caressant Care, there is only one other long-term care outbreak at Seaforth Manor in Huron East, where 26 residents and four staff have tested positive.

Klassen said HPPH is pleased with the significant decrease in outbreaks reporting the outbreaks at Exeter Villa, Spruce Lodge, Wildwood Care Centre, Fordwich Village and Queensway have all been declared over.

Klassen said that Huron-Perth was on track to complete the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine of all residents in long-term care homes on Monday, and all residents in high-risk retirement homes by Wednesday.

“HPPH has an ultra-cold freezer to store the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine donated by Bruce Power,” she said. “We are extremely grateful for their assistance. Having said that, we don’t have any vaccine in Huron-Perth yet. All the vaccine we have provided so far has been forward deployed from the London site. However, having these freezers will allow us to receive vaccine directly into our community once supplies permit.”

HPPH continues to work on a regional level to coordinate supplies and make sure all the residents in long-term care and high-risk retirement homes across Huron-Perth, Southwestern Public Health and Middlesex Public Health Unit can have their first dose and then their second dose. The priorities following that will be staff and essential caregivers in those facilities.

“But we won’t have enough stock to do that at this time and hopefully within a couple of weeks when the supplies start coming into Canada again we’ll be able to move forward with those other priority populations,” said Klassen.

“There was a lot of work done by the Ministry (of Health) over the weekend to understand how much inventory is across the entire province and the goal is to move it around as needed to ensure that residents as a first priority get their second dose.”

She did not want to speak too soon but Klassen did say the data in the last week seemed to show a levelling off.

“You’ve seen we closed many of the outbreaks,” she said. “It’s too soon to rely on that and I urge everyone to continue with all the measures, but there is a positive trend happening in Huron-Perth and hopefully next week I’ll be able to confirm that it has continued.”

Klassen was asked for her thoughts on how churches that insist on continuing to hold services affect the work HPPH and other health units are doing. She did not want to speak directly about any case in particular but answered generally.

“We’re asking everybody to make sacrifices and I think everyone understands that and so I am urging everyone to follow the orders and to think about ways they can decrease contacts – the more we decrease contacts the quicker we’re going to get this second wave under control,” she said.

“Now with evidence of the variants in our province, they can transmit so much more easily, it’s even more important to continue to follow these measures. The vaccine program, so far there is every reason to believe that the vaccine will provide immunity against the variant, we don’t know that 100 per cent but we have reason to believe that is the case so that is rolling out but it will take some time.”

Added Klassen, “In the meantime we urge every one of every faith, every workplace – I’ve said it before and it’s worth repeating – the success of this response is not on any individual or family or organization or level of government. I meant this is everyone. It belongs to us all.”

Colin Burrowes is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with the Listowel Banner. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.