COVID cases at Villa des Jardins nursing home in Edmundston reach 32
10 more residents and 9 employees test positive, says chief medical officer of health
Nineteen new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed at the Villa des Jardins nursing home in Edmundston, N.B., pushing the total to 32 cases, the province's chief medical officer of health announced Tuesday.
Ten residents and nine employees and support workers tested positive in the latest round of follow-up testing, said Dr. Jennifer Russell.
Members of the provincial rapid outbreak management team, known as PROMT, are on site to provide care and support and assistance to staff in infection control, she said.
The home has 84 rooms, 18 of them reserved for people who require care and the rest for independent seniors.
Out of 33 employees, only two are still at work, since the rest either tested positive or are in isolation, after having had close contact with positive cases, said acting general manager Allan Bouchard.
The Public Health team has taken over most of the operations, said Bouchard.
Since closing its kitchen, Villa des Jardins had been looking for a food service. This will now be provided by another home in the region.
Another round of mass testing will be conducted later this week.
Residents confined to rooms
The first confirmed case at the Villa was announced on Jan. 25, after an employee tested positive.
Resident Maggie Cormier, 85, says "things have changed a lot" since then.
"We're confined in our rooms, on account of the virus. … We don't have entertainment [like cards or bingo] anymore."
And meals are being dropped off outside residents' doors to minimize any contact with employees.
"It's not so bad. I mean, there are worse things," said Cormier, a mother of five, grandmother and great-grandmother.
"At least I'm still healthy," she said, noting she has been tested for COVID-19 three times so far and every time the result has come back negative.
We're being well taken care of.- Maggie Cormier, resident
"We have to co-operate with what they're trying to do because they're trying to save us. They're not trying to make it worse. They're trying to make it better."
"We're being well taken care of, really."
Cormier said she was unaware of the positive cases at the home. "Oh well, there's nothing I can do about that. I can't control it. All I can do is do my part, is do what they ask me to and hope for the best.
"I sit in my rocker, watch TV, play cards on my iPad. That's the way the days pass."
'Everyone's going crazy'
Fellow resident Joanita Chamberland posted in French on Facebook, "Everyone's going crazy" being confined to their room 24 hours a day.
"Our clothes are not being washed. I'm telling you it's not funny. We're going crazy. Help us please," she posted.
"We no longer have services," Chamberland said. "They no longer come to clean our rooms, our food is not edible, I assure you, it is the end of the world. What is happening?"
There's also a major COVID-19 outbreak at the Manoir Belle Vue special care home in Edmundston, with 55 confirmed cases — 34 residents and 21 employees — as of the last update Monday afternoon.
It's the largest active outbreak at a long-term care home in New Brunswick since the pandemic began in March.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Public Health was still awaiting the results of Monday's follow-up testing of residents and staff.
The home has 141 residents and approximately 70 staff.
Cecile Cassista, executive director for the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents' Rights, has called on the government to bring in the military to assist at the home, warning the situation will only escalate.
But there are PROMT teams at both the Villa des Jardins and Manoir Belle Vue, the chief medical officer of health said during Tuesday's COVID-19 briefing.
Number of vacant positions unclear
Asked to detail the staffing levels at the two homes, Russell said only that a combined 37 health-care workers are off.
Department of Health spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane said later this includes 21 employees at Manoir Belle Vue, which is how many have tested positive, and 16 staff at the Villa.
It's unclear how many more workers are off isolating and how many positions are vacant.
"My understanding is they have had great success in getting volunteers to go up there to date, but that is still being worked on," Russell added.
Premier Blaine Higgs said he doesn't believe the military is needed at the homes.
"We certainly feel that we're able to get resources from around the province to work in the health-care field, in the long-term care facilities as needed right now," he said.
If the COVID all-party committee and cabinet decide the province needs additional resources to monitor the borders with Quebec and Maine, however, they "will not hesitate to request additional help" from the military through the federal government, he said.
Liberals propose emergency measures centre
Earlier in the day, acting Liberal Leader Roger Melanson called on Health Minister Dorothy Shephard to establish a co-ordinated emergency measures centre in the Edmundston region to ensure the Health, Public Safety and Social Development departments and the Vitalité Health Network are "on the ground and responsive to critical staffing, logistics and communications needs arising from the COVID-19 crisis in Zone 4."
He said he believes the situation has reached a critical level that requires "immediate and urgent action."
Melanson also urged the government to increase testing in the region by establishing pop-up testing sites and drawing on the "significant number" of rapid testing kits made available to the province by the federal government.
Higgs said "a lot of great work" has already been done to contain the virus and the COVID all-party committee has always had open discussions about next steps.
"The idea that, you know, that we kind of start criticizing each other at this point is not what has got us to the success we've had to date," he said.
The province has always known the Edmundston region, being right on the Quebec border, was considered a "high-risk location," said Higgs.
And now that the highly-transmissible U.K. variant has been confirmed in New Brunswick in three cases announced Tuesday, he said, travel will be the focus of the COVID all-party committee Wednesday night and the cabinet meeting Thursday.
"The idea is to review all essential travel and make decisions in relation to what we can change in that regard to minimize risk," Higgs said.
"We are all COVID-tired. You know, tempers can be short and political opportunism can flourish. This is no time to start finding reasons to criticize one another. This is a time like no other to find reasons to work together.
"The new variant addition that we've just learned of brings a whole new dimension to what we're going to be facing here in our province. And we will continue to be successful.
"But we'll have our most success if the politics is set aside and we deliver for the people of this province in the way that we've been doing together for the last many months."
The Edmundston region, Zone 4, remains in full lockdown because of the significant increase in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.
The province reported 24 new cases of the disease in Zone 4 on Tuesday, bringing the number of active cases in that region to 173.
One new case was also reported in the Moncton region, Zone 1.
There are now 267 active cases of COVID-19 in the province. Two people are in hospital, both of them in intensive care.
Two of the confirmed U.K. variant cases are in the Saint John region, Zone 2, and one is in the Miramichi region, Zone 7. Two of the cases are tied to international travel, while the third is related to travel within Canada. All three people are self-isolating.
With files from Radio-Canada