'We have an outbreak situation in La Loche,' top doc says

One care home resident and one care provider in the northern community have tested positive, as have two others.

1 care home resident and 1 care provider in northern community test positive, plus 2 others

'We have an outbreak situation in the La Loche,' said Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer. (Bridget Yard/CBC)
  • A long-term care home in the northern community of La Loche is at the centre of an outbreak, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer says. 
  • People who work in long-term care homes will soon be barred from moving from home to home.
  • There are now 307 reported cases of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan, up by two cases since Thursday and continuing a streak of low daily increases.
  • One patient is under intensive care, after several days during which no infected people were in ICU.
  • Seventy-four per cent of Saskatchewan's cases have now recovered from the virus. 
  • The Saskatchewan government has released some projections for how big a financial hit it might take from COVID-19. 
  • The Saskatchewan Jazz Festival is the latest event to be postponed indefinitely amidst the pandemic. 

Two Saskatchewan communities now have a care home with more than one person infected by COVID-19, health officials said Friday, capping a week that had otherwise been humming along with a low rate of new cases.

Another worker at an Eden Care assisted-living centre in Regina has tested positive for the novel coronavirus. So has a resident at a long-term care home in the northern community of La Loche — the first such patient to be counted among the infected in the province.

The assisted-living worker is the second at the same Eden Care home in Regina to test positive. The first was found through contact tracing and was reported by the province on April 3

Three residents at the facility are now under investigation due to symptoms of COVID-19.

20 people being monitored in La Loche

In addition to the infected long-term care resident in La Loche, a staff member at the same facility has tested positive, as have two other people.

"We have an outbreak situation in La Loche," said Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer.

Shahab said about 10 of the care home's residents (including the infected resident) and 10 staff "who are not close contacts" are being monitored for symptoms. 

Just moments before Shahab dropped the news about the La Loche outbreak, Premier Scott Moe said, "We can probably still expect some localized outbreaks from time-to-time."

Here's how Saskatchewan's COVID-19 cases break down as of the latest case numbers on Friday. It's not clear if the latest figures include the new infected in Regina and La Loche. 

New steps to protect seniors

Friday's developments came hand-in-hand with the announcement of an extra step to protect seniors from COVID-19 by requiring staff who work at long-term care and personal care homes to only work at one facility.

"As of April 28, 2020, long-term care and personal care homes must ensure that each staff member works in only one facility," the Ministry of Health said in its daily COVID-19 case update.

Exceptions could be made, however.

"A care home may seek approval from a medical health officer to permit a staff member to work in more than one facility if they are unable to ensure adequate staffing levels as a result of complying with this order."

The ministry also announced two new cases of COVID-19, bringing the provincial total to 307. 

Just under 75 per cent of all known infected people in Saskatchewan have now recovered from the virus.

Here's how Saskatchewan's active and non-active cases spread out regionally. Non-active cases include deaths and recoveries. 


Revised age breakdowns

On Friday, health officials revised the age breakdowns provided for COVID-19 cases, adding a fifth age group and altering others.

For weeks, the age ranges were broken down as 19 and under, 20 to 44, 45 to 64, and 65 and up.

Under the new breakdown, the 19 and under category remains the same, but the remaining categories are different:

(Ministry of Health)

Notably, there are seven people aged 80 or older with the virus. 

The Ministry of Health said it made change to "to more closely align with national data, now that there is sufficient numbers to protect privacy."

People again reminded to seek urgent care

For the second time in one week, Saskatchewan health officials reminded people who need urgent medical care that they can still visit local emergency rooms during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first such prompting came on April 11, with another coming Thursday.

"Medical professionals are there to care for you, just as they were before the COVID-19 pandemic," the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) said in an April 11 news release. "Local emergency departments and hospitals remain safe places for individuals to go for acute care services."

Hospitals and clinics are increasing the amount of cleaning they do and also heavily screening anyone entering, as illustrated by this poster found on a website for health care workers:

A poster for hospital workers in Saskatchewan. (Saskatchewan Health Authority)

Viewing of bodies discouraged

Staff are limiting visitors to facilities except for those coming for "compassionate reasons," which might include immediate family during end-of-life care, family visiting patients before a major surgery or visitors aiding in clinical care.

In more recent guidance to health care workers, SHA said family members' viewing bodies of people who died while infected with COVID-19, or suspected to be infected, is discouraged. If people still wish to do so, they must wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and only one family member at a time is allowed to stay with the body.

All such bodies need to be zipped up in two "post-mortem bags," according to the note.

COVID-19-specific assessment sites

CBC News asked SHA on April 11 if the note about visiting emergency rooms was prompted by any incidents of patients dying or getting more ill because they held off on seeking care.

"It was not prompted by any specific incident," an SHA spokesperson said. "We just wanted to ensure the public was clear on how and where to continue to seek care."

The April 11 release reminded people that there are assessment and treatment sites for COVID-19 in place in many communities. 

Those sites are meant for:

  • People with escalating COVID-19 symptoms.
  • People who tested positive for the virus and have other health conditions.
  • People in self-isolation due to travel or a public health directive.

Click here for the list of 13 communities with such sites.

2nd note says, 'Don't Delay'

On Thursday, the province doubled down on its messaging, adding a new note (titled Don't Delay Necessary Non-COVID-19 Care) to its daily release about new cases of COVID-19.

"People needing emergency or non-urgent medical care not related to COVID-19 are reminded to continue seeking treatment," the Ministry of Health said. "Emergency departments and family practices are open and receiving patients.

"Delaying visits for necessary care may affect your health."

People are also encouraged to seek care from their family doctor, but urged to call the office first.

Shahab has cited several incidents where health care workers were not wearing the proper PPE because they did not initially know they were treating someone with COVID-19 symptoms.