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Number of positive virus cases on the rise at local long-term care homes
BARRIE -- The coronavirus pandemic is having a devastating effect on the country's most vulnerable, with cases of COVID-19 continuing to rise at nursing and retirement homes across the country.
This week a worker at the Spencer House long-term care home in Orillia tested positive for the virus.
On Friday, Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Charles Gardner said the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit is investigating two sudden deaths at the residence, but couldn't confirm whether or not they were related to the virus.
He also said two other residents are being tested for COVID-19, and that 18 potential staff cases are also under investigation.
A representative with Sienna Senior Living, which runs the home, told CTV News the two residents who passed away were not showing symptoms of the virus, but are being tested because of a new protocol.
A statement from the company on Thursday said that the Spencer House team members "are highly skilled in infection control practice and are working closely with public health, who have confirmed that all proper precautions and directives are in place."
In Shelburne, two staff members at Dufferin Oaks' long-term care home also tested positive for the virus this week, one of whom's only symptoms were body aches and muscle pain.
"Very mild symptoms. They normally wouldn't have even triggered on the screening tool that was being used, but because we had enhanced it we were able to identify that," says Dufferin Oaks Administrator Brenda Wagner
There are now enhanced safety measures at both Spencer House and Dufferin Oaks.
Among other precautions, staff members must wear surgical masks and have their temperature taken twice a day.
"We're also taking the temperature of all our residents and continuing to monitor them as well," says Wagner.
The County of Simcoe has no confirmed cases at any of its county-owned long-term care and retirement homes and is working hard to prevent them.
"We have put in additional staffing to ensure we're providing the best care possible," says the County's General Manager of Health and Emergency Services Jane Sinclair.
"We are screening our residents in all of our long-term care homes, every single day for signs and symptoms, taking their temperatures; in fact, we're doing it twice a day," she adds.
Sinclair says every person that enters the county's long-term care homes, including staff, is screened at the door, and staff is screened again at the end of their shift.
To help ease the mental burden that the pandemic could cause, many long-term care homes are using technology to connect residents with family.
Both Sinclair and Wagner say there is an increased focus on easing the feelings of guilt some staff is experiencing.
"One staff member did share she is just devastated that this happened," says Wagner.
"[Staff] is doing everything right," says Sinclair. "But it's just a pandemic."
"Our staff is amazing. We could not do this without them. They're so valuable," says Wagner. "And really, just, support your health care worker," she adds.
According to a recent Globe and Mail report, at least 600 nursing or retirement homes across Canada now have cases of COVID-19.