British Columbia

22 test positive for COVID-19 at group homes in Vernon, B.C.

An organization in Vernon, B.C., that houses and provides services for adults with developmental disabilities is dealing with nearly two dozen cases of COVID-19 after one resident tested positive for the novel coronavirus late last month.

All cases connected to group homes for adults with developmental disabilities

A staff member at one of Venture Training's six group homes is shown wearing personal protective equipment. The organization is dealing with 22 cases of COVID-19 among staff and residents. (Venture Training / Facebook)

An organization in Vernon, B.C., that provides housing and services for adults with developmental disabilities is dealing with nearly two dozen cases of COVID-19 after one resident tested positive for the novel coronavirus late last month.

The first positive test came just before Christmas, said Ryan Cucheron, executive director of the Vernon District Association for Community Living.

"We had a resident that lives in a [group] home transferred to the hospital with what we thought was at the time pneumonia," he said.

A COVID-19 test came back positive and one hour later one of the employees reported they had also tested positive for the virus, according to Cucheron.

In all, five residents who live in the same group home and 17 staff members have contracted COVID-19.

The Vernon District Association for Community Living, also known as Venture Training, supports approximately 200 adults with developmental disabilities and runs six group homes. 

Majority of cases at one group home

The organization employs approximately 200 people, including 40 casual workers.

The majority of the COVID-19 cases are confined to residents and staff working at one group home, Cucheron said, but two staff members who work at another home and five casual employees also tested positive. 

As is the case with seniors' care homes, Venture Training staff are asked not to work in multiple homes to prevent spread of the disease.

Residents in one of Venture Training's six group homes make crafts together in Vernon, B.C. (Venture Training / Facebook)

The sudden number of cases over the Christmas holiday period made it difficult for the organization to maintain staffing levels, but Cucheron said overall everyone in the organization has stepped up to help when called upon.

"A silver lining of it all was really seeing how the staff came together really worrying about the individuals that we serve and supporting each other, volunteering for shifts, going in and working night shifts that they don't normally work, things like that," he said.

Of the five residents who contracted COVID-19, two were taken to hospital, but Cucheron said they have since returned home.

It's been one week since a new positive case of COVID-19 among staff or residents has been identified, he said on Thursday.

'We are starting to see light'

"We've gotten to a point now where I think we are starting to see light, but I wouldn't say we are out of the woods yet."

The Interior Health Authority declined to comment on the situation at Venture Training, saying in an email unless an outbreak was declared it would not speak to individual circumstances.

"Group homes are not considered health care facilities so they are not reported like long-term care homes," a spokesperson with the health authority wrote.

The Vernon area has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks and Interior Health has declared three outbreaks at seniors' care homes.

Ten residents and three staff members have tested positive at Creekside Landing long-term care home. The Noric House long-term care home has seen 18 residents and two staff members test positive for COVID-19.

The largest outbreak is at the Heritage Square long-term care home, where 21 residents and 10 staff have tested positive for COVID-19 and two people have died.


Brady Strachan

CBC Reporter

Brady Strachan is a CBC reporter based in Kelowna, B.C. Besides Kelowna, Strachan has covered stories for CBC News in Winnipeg, Brandon, Vancouver and internationally. Follow his tweets @BradyStrachan


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