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7 residents dead at Scarborough long-term care home battling COVID-19 outbreak

Seven residents have died at a Scarborough, Ont., long-term care home in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak, while 136 other residents and 66 staff members have tested positive for the virus, said the company that owns and operates the facility.

Sienna Senior Living said on its website that the current outbreak at Rockcliffe Care Community, 3015 Lawrence Avenue E., west of McCowan Road, began on Nov. 2. The home has 204 beds. It confirmed the deaths and latest case numbers in an email on Saturday.

“We are grateful to our partners and team members who are working very hard to protect the health of our residents during the second wave of the pandemic. The safety of everyone in our residences is our highest priority as the province experiences unprecedented rates of COVID-19,” Nadia Daniell-Colarossi, manager of media relations for Sienna, said in the email.

Daniell-Colarossi provided no details of the deaths, but expressed condolences to relatives.

The home is working with Toronto Public Health, Scarborough Health Network and Sienna’s physician experts, Dr. Andrea Moser, chief medical officer, and Dr. Allison McGeer, chief infection prevention and control consultant, to respond to the outbreak, Daniell-Colarossi  said.

Measures to reduce further spread of the virus at Rockcliffe include:

  • Full contact and droplet precautions throughout the building.
  • Residents must remain in their rooms, including for meals.
  • Residents may only leave Rockcliffe for essential medical appointments.
  • Group programming is paused until further notice.
  • Only essential caregivers are permitted in the residence.
  • Team members are working in cohorts so they only provide care to a specific group of residents.

“Many lessons were taken from the beginning of the pandemic and in preparing for this second wave, our focus was to enhance our expertise, grow our personal protective equipment (PPE) supply, reinforce our infection prevention and control practices, invest in our residences, support the frontlines, and strengthen communications with residents and families,” Daniell-Colarossi said.

She said staff members are communicating with families through virtual town halls, telephone, email and newsletter updates to keep them up-to-date about measures being implemented to control the outbreak.

The home is located across the street from Scarborough General Hospital.

“Rockcliffe opened its doors in 1972 and, because of the cultural diversity of the 204 residents, is often referred to as Sienna’s very own ‘United Nations,'” its website said.

WATCH | How long-term care homes are battling the second wave of COVID-19: 

Long-term care homes are battling this second wave of COVID-19 — which is proving difficult. Ninety-three long-term care homes across Ontario are reporting outbreaks with hundreds of residents infected with the virus. Ali Chiasson has more. 2:35

Dr. Vinita Dubey, associate medical officer of health for Toronto Public Health (TPH), said in an email on Saturday that the public health unit was notified of the first case at Rockcliffe Care Community on Oct. 30.

She said TPH took action immediately to make sure “outbreak measures” were put in place to protect residents and staff. The public health unit is continuing to investigate.

To prevent further spread of COVID-19 at the facility, TPH has worked with the long-term care home to implement the following:

  • Ensure twice a day screening of residents and staff remains in place to monitor for COVID-19 symptoms and to identify new infections as early as possible.  
  • Implement physical distancing measures and cancel all group activities.
  • Enhancing cleaning, particularly for frequently touched surfaces.
  • Work to make sure that personal protective equipment (PPE) continues to be used appropriately to minimize health risks. 
  • Restrict staff from working on more than one unit within the facility.

“TPH works with all institutions when cases are identified to ensure that prevention measures are in place to prevent further virus spread and assesses the potential for ongoing risk of transmission to staff and vulnerable residents in these settings,” Dubey said. 

She said all cases and their close contacts are also told to go into isolation for 14 days.

rockcliffe ltc facility
Signs direct scheduled visitors at the rear of Rockcliffe Care Community. The long-term care home is one of 100 in Ontario and one of 26 in Toronto with an active COVID-19 outbreak as of Saturday at 10:30 a.m. (Michael Charles Cole/CBC)

“We are very concerned about all COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care homes (LTCH), and their potentially devastating impact on our parents, our grandparents and our loved ones,” she said.  

“We know that any infectious disease can spread easier and faster in congregate settings, but LTCHs are especially concerning for COVID-19 because these residents are generally older, more vulnerable to infection due to compromised immune systems, or chronic health conditions.”

Vulnerable people at risk when virus spreads, doctor says

Earlier this week, Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, had warned that the city must take more steps to prevent people, including those in long-term care homes, from getting sick and dying due to COVID-19. Community transmission can lead to further spread in institutions, she said.

“If action is not taken we can expect to see even more cases of COVID-19, which means more illness and more death. These infections could easily spread further through the health care system, to the long-term care system, to schools and to workplaces,” De Villa said on Tuesday.

“To everyone in Toronto, I want to warn you in the plainest possible terms that COVID-19 is out there at levels we have not seen before. You should assume it is everywhere and that without proper precautions and protections, you are at risk of infection,” she continued. 

“We can’t guarantee what the course of illness looks like. We can’t predict what the long-term effects might be. People recover from it who you wouldn’t expect to live through it. And people you’d think would come through it can die instead.”

rockcliffe ltc facility
The home is located across the street from Scarborough General Hospital. (Michael Charles Cole/CBC)

Home inspected due to complaints, critical incidents

Rockcliffe Care Community is one of 100 long-term care homes in Ontario and one of 26 in Toronto with an active COVID-19 outbreak as of Saturday.

Inspectors with the Ontario long-term care ministry inspected the home due to complaints and critical incidents on July 21, Feb. 21, Jan. 20 and Jan. 7 this year.

Toronto has had a cumulative total of 34,222 COVID-19 cases as of Friday at 2 p.m., with 28,450 marked as recovered, A total of 1,448 people have died of the virus in Toronto, while 164 are currently in hospital.

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