Group home credits Elmira 'heroes' for help weathering COVID-19 outbreak

A group home in Elmira recently saw 13 of 16 residents and 10 staff members test positive for COVID-19. Elmira District Community Living president Greg Bechard says support from the community and a great staff helped them get through the outbreak.

'We have a lot of heroes in our organization,' president says

The president and CEO of Elmira District Community Living says it's community donations of masks, gowns and hand sanitizer that helped them through their first outbreak of COVID-19. (Elmira District Community Living/Facebook)

A COVID-19 outbreak in an Elmira group home saw 13 residents and 10 staff members test positive for the novel coronavirus. 

But Greg Bechard, president and CEO of Elmira District Community Living, says help from the community and the hard work of his staff meant they were able to weather their first outbreak and all the residents in the home are recovering.

The homes — which support more than 130 people with intellectual disabilities from Woolwich, Wellesley and Mapleton townships — have been on lockdown since mid-March, but Bechard says they "went into pandemic mode" on April 3 when they had their first case of a resident having a fever.

Now, 12 days later, they're coming out the other side. No one from the home that had the outbreak had to be hospitalized and all are "recovering nicely," he said.

Bechard says they started planning for the pandemic weeks ago and immediately started receiving support. Local sewing circles started making the gowns and reusable masks for the homes. Church groups in the nearby Mennonite community did the same.

Local distillery Murphy's Law has been making hand sanitizer and has been supplying the homes with all they need, Bechard said.

"The community's been amazing ... one woman volunteered to come into a COVID home and cook meals," he said, calling the woman "very courageous."

'We have a lot of heroes'

While some staff stayed home when the outbreak hit, either because they were themselves sick or for other reasons, Bechard said staff who could come to work stepped up.

"We have a lot of heroes in our organization, let me tell you. I'm very proud of our employees and how they stepped up to the plate, and our union has been fantastic," he said. "We had a large number of staff step up to the plate and say, 'We're there.'"

Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, acting medical officer of health for the Region of Waterloo, said during Wednesday's media briefing she didn't have exact numbers on how many COVID-19 cases are in group homes, but, "we are detecting more cases in other settings like these homes" as testing becomes broadened.

She says right now, public health is focusing on helping homes, whether they're group homes, retirement homes or long-term care home, manage and mitigate any concerns surrounding the virus and its spread.

Bechard says now, they wait to see if they have another outbreak. He hopes they don't, but admits it's a fluid situation.

In the meantime, he says the homes don't need much. Surgical masks are always needed and donations would be accepted, but he says the well wishes from members of the community are always welcome.


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