8 new deaths in region, outbreak declared at St. Mary's General Hospital

There were eight new deaths from COVID-19 in Waterloo region in new numbers released by Region of Waterloo Public Health Thursday morning. Officials at St. Mary's General Hospital have also declared an outbreak on the hospital's fifth floor medicine unit.

What you need to know about COVID-19 in Waterloo region on April 23

Signs like this one are posted at municipal buildings throughout Waterloo region reminding people on how to stop the spread of germs during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

There were eight new deaths from COVID-19 in Waterloo region in new numbers released by Region of Waterloo Public Health Thursday morning.

The new deaths were all residents in long-term care homes, including six at Forest Heights Revera in Kitchener, one at Trinity Village in Kitchener and one at A. R. Goudie in Kitchener.

That brings the total number of people in Waterloo region who have died from the virus to 39.

In a statement, Revera, the company that owns and operates Forest Heights, said four of the deaths involved people who tested negative, but those individuals were subsequently confirmed to have COVID-19.

Dr. Rhonda Collins, the medical officer of health for Revera, said they are focused on "containing the spread of this outbreak and protecting our residents and staff."

As of Thursday, 23 people who live at Forest Heights have been moved to area hospitals.

It's anticipated 40 people will be moved to hospitals, with Cambridge Memorial taking half of them and the rest being split between St. Mary's General Hospital and Grand River Hospital, both in Kitchener.

The plan to move people out of the home and into the hospitals was announced earlier this week.

The region's acting medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-li Wang was not available for an interview Thursday, but in an emailed statement said as cases rise in the region, so will deaths.

"This is because deaths occur later, usually days subsequent to when people become ill, which is also days after transmission of the virus has occurred," Wang said.

She added these deaths are deeply felt by friends, family members, caregivers and other loved ones.

"Each person who has passed away will be missed by those they leave behind," Wang said in offering her condolences.

There are now 582 confirmed or presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Waterloo region, according to numbers from Region of Waterloo Public Health released Thursday morning. That's up from 550 on Wednesday.

The numbers also showed:

  • 5,025 tests have been done.
  • 26 people are in hospital.
  • 185 confirmed or presumptive cases are healthcare workers, making up 32 per cent of all cases.
  • There are active outbreaks at 11 long-term care facilities.

There are also now 199 resolved cases in the region, up from 193 resolved cases reported on Wednesday.

Testing still limited

The region is not currently testing everyone with symptoms for COVID-19. Public health expanded criteria on Friday, but has said there are certain groups who are prioritized for testing including health-care workers, essential workers, hospital patients and people living and working in long-term care homes.

The region says negative test results are also no longer being reported on its website because the province is no longer providing information about the negative results.

Wang has said community spread of COVID-19 is going down, but now is not the time to relax physical distancing recommendations. She said doing so means the region would likely see a rapid rise in new cases.

11 active outbreaks at long-term care homes

The number of active outbreaks at long-term care homes remained at 11.

St. Mary's declares outbreak

Officials at St. Mary's General Hospital in Kitchener have declared an outbreak in the fifth floor medicine unit.

A release from the hospital says the outbreak involves three patients: two people contracted the virus from another patient who initially tested negative, was discharged, and then tested positive for the virus upon readmission.

Dr. Peter Potts, chief of staff for both St. Mary's and Grand River Hospital, said this shows how tricky the virus can be to treat and that it has a long incubation period.

"Hospitals have seen, in some situations, patients initially test negative and subsequently test positive. Our clinicians have been re-testing patients where there is a progression of symptoms, or in the absence of another diagnosis, and this is identifying more cases of COVID-19," Potts said in the release.

Hospital officials say the fifth floor is now closed for routine admissions. All patients on the floor have been tested for the novel coronavirus and those who have tested positive have been moved to the COVID unit on the sixth floor.

Health-care workers are also using their judgment to decide whether someone who has tested negative needs to be retested, the hospital release said.

This outbreak follows one declared on April 18 in the COVID unit, which saw staff-to-staff transmission, as well as an outbreak on the third floor cardiology unit where there was patient-to-patient and potential patient-to-staff transmissions.

Ramadan begins

As Ramadan begins on Thursday public health officials are asking those marking the month-long religious event not to gather in groups.

Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, the region's acting medical officer of health, said there should be "no gatherings" during Ramadan and Muslims, along with everyone else, should continue to physically distance from each other.

The region's chief administrative officer Mike Murray says all the faith groups in Waterloo region have embraced the recommendations not to hold events or services.

"I am confident that they understand what they need to do and that they'll respect that," Murray said.

Members of the region's Muslim community recently started their annual Ramadan food and donation drive early to benefit The Food Bank of Waterloo Region.

219 cases in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health reports there are now 219 cases of COVID-19 in the area the health unit covers. The health unit is only reporting lab confirmed cases and not presumptive cases.

There are 11 people in hospital and five in intensive care. There have been 15 deaths. 

As well, 76 cases have been marked as resolved.

There are active outbreaks at the following locations:

  • Homewood Health Centre in Guelph where 14 residents and five staff have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Norfolk Manor in Guelph where 22 residents and four staff have tested positive.
  • St. Joseph's Health Centre in Guelph where one resident and six staff have tested positive.
  • Stone Lodge in Guelph where one resident has tested positive.
  • Caressant Care in Fergus where one resident has tested positive.
  • Royal Terrace in Palmerston where one resident has tested positive.
  • Dufferin Oaks in Shelburne where four residents and five staff members have tested positive.
  • Shelburne Residence where 21 residents and six staff have tested positive.
  • Headwaters Health Care Centre in Orangeville where five patients and 18 staff members have tested positive.

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