2 of Ontario's 4 long-term care outbreaks are in Waterloo region

Two of Ontario's four long-term care home outbreaks are in Waterloo region: at the Village of Winston Park in Kitchener, and Columbia Forest in Waterloo, totalling three deaths.

'If the virus is circulating in the community, eventually it'll make its way in,' says Dr. George Heckman

The Village of Winston Park is one of two long-term care homes in Waterloo region that are experiencing outbreaks. As of Thursday, there were four outbreaks in long-term care homes in Ontario. (Google StreetView)

Two of Ontario's four long-term care home outbreaks are in Waterloo region. 

One is at the Village of Winston Park in Kitchener, Ont., where two people have died; the other is at Columbia Forest in Waterloo, with one death. 

The relatively high proportion of outbreaks in the region is due to the highly contagious delta variant, according to Dr. George Heckman, an associate professor in the School of Public Health Sciences at the University of Waterloo.

Regional public health says delta (which originated in India and is known as B.1617.2) is now the dominant variant circulating in the region. 

"If the virus is circulating in the community, eventually it'll make its way in, especially one that's so contagious as the delta," said Heckman, who's also Schlegel Research Chair in Geriatric Medicine at the Research Institute for Aging. 

There are also three retirement home outbreaks in the region:

  • Highland Place Retirement Residence.
  • Marian Residence Retirement Home.
  • Zora Srpski Dom Retirement Home. 

'They've had isolation for so long now'

For Selina Pasko, the outbreak in her long-term care home where her mother is a resident — the Village at Winston Park — has been a source of stress since it began June 13. 

Pasko said her mother has been confined to her room and has been unable to get fresh air. She worries about the toll the isolation is taking on her mental health. 

"They've had isolation for so long now," said Pasko. 

"Nothing's changing, nothing's moving forward." 

In a statement to CBC News, Schlegel Villages, which owns the Village of Winston Park, said while the outbreak has affected two "neighbourhoods" in the home so far, one has been cleared of outbreak protocols while the other is still following them. 

During this time, the company said residents are kept separate from each other; meals, programs and care are delivered to their rooms. 

"We look forward to the outbreak protocols lifting soon once these final two cases are resolved," the company said in a statement. 

'Step up and get vaccinated'

Heckman said vaccination is the key to reducing the spread of COVID-19 in the community, and by extension, in long-term care and retirement homes. 

The shot reduces the risk of serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19 — though it doesn't eliminate the risk entirely, especially for frail and elderly people, Heckman said. That's why it's important everyone gets it, he said. 

"If we really value our fragile seniors, and other people with disabilities and developmental disorders and chronic illnesses, if we really value these folks, we need to step up and get vaccinated." 

According to regional public health, as of Monday, for staff and residents in all active long-term care and retirement home outbreaks, staff cases are:

  • 50% unvaccinated.
  • 14% partially vaccinated.
  • 36% fully vaccinated.

Resident cases are: 

  • 30% unvaccinated.
  • 70% fully vaccinated.

With data current as of Monday, the vaccination status of outbreak-related cases by facility currently in outbreak is:

  • Columbia Forest (2 cases): 100% of cases are fully vaccinated.
  • Highland Place Retirement Residence (2 cases): 50% of cases are partially vaccinated, 50% are fully vaccinated.
  • Marian Residence Retirement Home (6 cases): 33% of cases are unvaccinated, 67% are fully vaccinated
  • The Village of Winston Park (20 cases): 25% of cases are unvaccinated, 5% are partially vaccinated and 70% are fully vaccinated
  •  Zora Srpski Dom Retirement Home (11 cases): 73% of cases are unvaccinated, 27% of cases are fully vaccinated

CBC Kitchener-Waterloo asked the companies behind the two Waterloo region long-term care homes that are in outbreak about their staff vaccination rates. 

In a statement to CBC News, Schlegel Villages, which owns the Village of Winston Park, said 93 per cent of team members at the home have had a first dose and 90.4 per cent have had a second dose. 

Revera, which owns Columbia Heights, said it does not provide resident or staff vaccination rates.