45 cases of COVID-19 at Seven Oaks long-term care home, 16 deaths linked to virus
Homeless advocates demand action after COVID-19 confirmed in busy Toronto shelter
The death toll at Seven Oaks long-term care home in Scarborough has reached 16, Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto's medical officer of health, announced Wednesday.
"I am very sorry and saddened to report that as of this morning at Seven Oaks there are 45 cases of COVID-19 and 56 probable cases amongst the 249 residents at this long-term care home," de Villa said at a news conference.
Four deaths at the same home are also being investigated as potentially linked to the virus.
De Villa also announced 13 cases of COVID-19 among staff at the home.
On April 1, CBC News reported that eight residents of the home had died as result of COVID-19 amid an outbreak at the facility.
More deaths are likely, de Villa says
Meanwhile, de Villa said people should brace for more deaths at the home, as she called on the public to respect the privacy of those in the Seven Oaks community.
"Unfortunately, we anticipate that there may be additional deaths amongst those residents who have become ill with COVID-19 over the past few weeks," de Villa said.
"I recognize and I appreciate that we are all concerned about those in the Seven Oaks home community, but we ask that you respect the privacy of those who reside in the Seven Oaks community."
Health officials are working closely with Seven Oaks to ensure that all outbreak measures are in place and that staff, residents and families are supported as best as possible "during these very challenging circumstances," de Villa said.
Paul Raftis, the city's general manager of senior services and long-term care, told CBC News that Seven Oaks received some of the faulty surgical masks that were distributed to workers at long-term care homes in late March.
"We're doing an investigation to see … exactly how many people had worn them," Raftis said.
"Our preliminary investigation identified about 160 people at Seven Oaks that could have been wearing one of the masks and could have had contact with someone who tested positive for COVID, or maybe someone who could test positive for COVID who were being very conservative about it."
The faulty masks were recalled and the city announced Wednesday that the province has replaced them with new ones.
Local 79 President Dave Mitchell says the general supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for front-line workers is a major concern in Ontario.
"We are joining the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions in a day of action tomorrow to call on the provincial government to bolster its supply of PPE, which includes masks," Mitchell wrote in an email to CBC News on Wednesday.
According to Brad Ross, chief communications officer for the city, three long-term care homes received the faulty masks — Lakeshore Lodge, Kipling Acres and Seveon Oaks — but only Kipling Acres and Seven Oaks used them before they were recalled.
1,570 cases of COVID-19 in Toronto
As of 12:30 this afternoon, there are 1,570 cases of COVID-19 in Toronto, de Villa said. This includes 1,332 confirmed cases and 238 probable cases.
There are 156 patients in hospital — 71 of them in intensive care units.
There have also been 49 deaths from COVID-19 in Toronto.
Meanwhile, advocates for those experiencing homelessness are calling for an increased response from the city after a person inside one of Toronto's busiest shelters tested positive for COVID-19.
On Tuesday, de Villa confirmed that a man staying at Seaton House had the virus, one of 69 shelters for those experiencing homelessness in the city.
She said her team continues to work with staff at Seaton House to ensure they are implementing enhanced infection prevention and control measures, including ongoing efforts to increase physical distancing among clients.
"By the end of this week, another eight clients will be moved from Seaton House to new spaces within this facility," de Villa said.
"On-site testing is also being completed to identify if there are additional COVID-19 cases."
Homeless advocates demand action
"We are actively collaborating with Seaton House to carefully investigate this matter," de Villa said. The man is currently in self-isolation, she added, along with the one other person with whom he shared a room.
"My team is actively following up with any other close contacts identified."
In a news release issued Tuesday, advocates for homeless people slammed the city's response.
"Every day we hear the Mayor issue stern warnings to Toronto residents to obey public health measures. It's time he heed his own warnings and stop jeopardizing the lives of homeless people stuck in facilities that can't implement basic public health measures," street nurse and advocate Cathy Crowe said in a statement.
At a city news conference this afternoon, Mayor John Tory provided an update on the work being done to help those experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Twelve hotels with 1,200 rooms have been secured to be part of our shelter response. Five are operational over the coming weeks," Tory said.
"We are working to identify those at greatest risk and moving them into hotels."
Additional space being created, mayor says
Tory said the city has created 350 new spaces so people can properly practise physical distancing in shelters, respites and 24-hour drop-ins.
This includes five community shelters across the city and three sites operated by community providers.
"We've also put up three isolation sites and we have a 200-room hotel site, and a 400 bed recovery site is being planned now," Tory said, adding that city staff continue to work on securing additional space.
Advocates have been calling for the city to move people into hotel rooms that are currently sitting empty, noting that it has been more than a week since the city announced it would move homeless people into hotels, but it seems few have actually moved, as shelters are still "dangerously crowded."
"It's beyond frustrating to watch the city pat itself on the back, while abandoning homeless people to hopeless situations. The dangerous lag between the city announcing measures and implementing them needs to end," Yogi Acharya, organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, said in a statement.
With files from Angelina King