Nfld. & Labrador

St. Lawrence mayor concerned after 1st COVID-19 case found in long-term care

Paul Pike says news of the first COVID-19 case in a long-term care facility in the province has hit his community hard as they wait for further testing.

Paul Pike is concerned over staffing and spread

St. Lawrence Mayor Paul Pike says he is concerned about inadequate staffing and the spread across other communities on the Burin Peninsula. (Ramona Dearing/CBC)

The mayor of St. Lawrence says news of the first COVID-19 case in a long-term care facility in the province has hit his community hard as they wait for further testing.

"There is a fear here," Paul Pike told CBC News. "In this community we have one store and one post office and so on … So people are scared to certainly be around other people."

The case was announced at Monday afternoon's provincial COVID-19 briefing. Provincial Health Minister John Haggie said the patient was at the U.S. Memorial Hospital, which also has a walk-in emergency department, a family practice and a pharmacy. 

The emergency department will temporarily shift to the Burin Peninsula Health Care Centre, about 30 kilometres north of St. Lawrence. Eastern Health said in a news release on Monday emergency services are expected to resume April 20 at U.S. Memorial. 

The person's exposure to the virus spans a time when single visitors were allowed inside the facility, but it's not clear if the virus was passed on from a visitor or staff member.

The U. S. Memorial Health Centre is a long-term care facility but also has a walk-in emergency department, a family practice and a pharmacy. (CBC)

"There is a sense of shock, and most people are really surprised that we had a case here because the hospital has been closed to visits since the 28th of March," said Pike. 

"We felt that with all the precautions put in place and the measures by Eastern Health that hopefully we would avoid the situation that we are in today."

The staff at the facility and the other patients neighbouring the positive case are in the process of being tested for the virus and are waiting for results.

Concerns over staffing and spread

Pike said all the patients are in isolation as much as possible but the biggest issue he predicts in the foreseeable future is inadequate staffing. 

"There is going to be a lot of staff that aren't going to be able to go to work for 14 days and that is going to become a real issue."

U.S. Memorial Health centre has 40 beds, housing patients in both long-term care and protective care. (CBC)

Pike is also concerned about surrounding communities because of how transient the health-care workforce in St. Lawrence is. 

"People who work in St. Lawrence, for example, might work in Burin the next day … because of the nature of their positions.

"All communities now need to be very careful on the Burin Peninsula." 

Although the mayor said he is concerned about the residents in his community and the facility, he says the majority of people in the town have been taking the virus seriously and are abiding by the social distancing rules.

Pike said the town is expecting more information from the province in the next 24 hours, but for now he is asking people to be safe.

"It's a virus that we really don't know a whole lot about. I think we are doing what we can."

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