80-year-old nursing home resident is Hamilton's first COVID-19 death

80-year-old Maria Bettencourt, who lived at the Heritage Green Nursing Home in Stoney Creek, has died, becoming the first COVID-19 related death in Hamilton.

The woman, Maria Bettencourt, had been in isolation at St. Joseph's hospital

A resident of Heritage Green nursing home is Hamilton's first COVID-19 death. (Submitted by Google Maps)

An 80-year-old woman who lived at the Heritage Green Nursing Home in Stoney Creek has died, marking the first death in Hamilton connected to COVID-19.

Hamilton Public Health said Tuesday afternoon that the woman died at St. Joseph's Hospital this morning.

She's the eighth death related to COVID-19 in Ontario, according to the ministry of health. Family members identified her as Maria Bettencourt.

She had been in isolation at the hospital since March 16, when she came to St. Joe's for a routine scheduled treatment. While she was there, she began displaying symptoms of COVID-19.

Maria Bettencourt is remembered as a quiet and kind woman.

Her 86-year-old friend with the same first and last name, said Maria was a first cousin to her husband.

They grew up as neighbours in Portugal.

"We [would] go to church together almost every Sunday in Portugal ... and talk to each other," Bettencourt said.

"She was a good lady ... I'm so sad today."

Bettencourt said Maria lived in Canada for years but spent a few years in a long-term care facility because she was sick.

Bettencourt said Maria is remembered by four children and her husband, Jose, who is in isolation.


Since then, a 55-year-old woman resident at Heritage Green has also tested positive for COVID-19. Public health officials declared an outbreak at the home Saturday after the second case was confirmed.

As of noon Tuesday, Hamilton had 35 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, up three from the day before. Hamilton's mayor gave an update at 3:30 p.m. on the city's YouTube channel.

"I offer my sincere condolences to the family of the woman who passed away," said Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, Hamilton's medical officer of health. "Unfortunately, this tragic news highlights why we need to take this virus very seriously and continue to take collective actions to stay at home and stay safe."

Scott Kozachenko, administrator at the nursing home, said the "Heritage Green family" was also saddened by the woman's death.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with her loved ones at this time," he added in a media release.

After the 80-year-old's infection was confirmed, the home isolated the entire floor where she lived, along with the residents who lived there. Staff also started serving in-room meals. Public health says the facility is closed to visitors and has increased cleaning.

At the time, chief of staff Dr. David Russell said St. Joe's "carefully reviewed and identified the patient's interactions, and we are confident we have contained all potential exposure."

Public health looked into how the woman came into contact with COVID-19 and didn't reach a conclusion. Richardson said Monday that there may never be answers to that, or whether the two women at Heritage Green contracted it from the same person or each other. 

"We aren't ever probably going to know exactly what happened there," she said. 

Melissa Farrell, president of St. Joe's, shared her sympathies for the woman's family and loved ones Tuesday.

"We have spent many weeks and months preparing for COVID-19 and continue to take strong measures to protect our patients, our healthcare workers and the community," she added in a media release.

Paul Johnson, director of the city's emergency operations centre, said the woman's death shows the importance of people keeping a physical distance of two metres, since she hadn't traveled anywhere.

with files from Bobby Hristova and Dan Taekema