CBC Windsor's April 1 COVID-19 update: WECHU confirms outbreak at 2 seniors' homes

Here's a look at what's happening in our area on Wednesday, April 1.

Public health unit reports Windsor-Essex has 92 cases

CBC Windsor brings you the latest local update on COVID-19 in our area. 14:30

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) confirmed on Wednesday a COVID-19 outbreak at two long-term care facilities in the region.

There are currently two confirmed cases among staff working at Country Village Homes in Woodslee, Ont., as well as one confirmed case among the staff at the Amica Riverside seniors' home in Windsor. 

In a media release published Wednesday evening, WECHU explained that new directives from Ontario Ministry of Health mean that even a single lab-confirmed case of COVID-19 among "a resident or a staff member is considered a confirmed COVID-19 outbreak for a facility."

Both Country Village Homes and Amica Riverside have implemented appropriate outbreak management protocols, while staff continue to wear personal protective equipment. 

Residents and staff at both facilities have been informed. 

1st Windsor-Essex COVID-19 death confirmed

Earlier on Wednesday, Windsor Regional Hospital reported the first death due to COVID-19 in Windsor-Essex. 

As of Wednesday morning, WECHU said the area now has 92 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The three cases connected to Country Village Homes and Amica Riverside were not included that figure.

"It is with great regret and sadness that we report our first death due to COVID-19," said Dr. Wajid Ahmed, medical officer of health with WECHU, during a daily media briefing on Wednesday morning. 

The deceased was a man in his 80s with underlying chronic conditions. He was admitted to hospital with respiratory issues and died in the ICU Monday night. The man had recently travelled to Michigan. 

"Please, please I urge you not to go outside if you don't have to," said Ahmed, urging people to enjoy time with their families at home and to not see anyone else. 

In the area, 1,134 individuals have been tested for COVID-19 with 317 tests still pending. 

Watch the health unit's April 1 update here:

"It is sad. It is making the risk more real and people not realizing the potential impact of what they are facing — they should open their eyes now," said Ahmed. 

Ahmed said models and projections of deaths, like those posed in the U.S. Tuesday by President Donald Trump, are hard to predict. 

If there is anything we as a community need to do, that's where my focus is. I'm not concerned what people are thinking of these recommendations- Dr. Wajid Ahmed, chief medical officer of health

"I think it's no secret, people will die. It's a matter of how many will die and how many will be saved because of these measures," said Ahmed, adding that the Canadian government is taking the pandemic very seriously. "It is us that will save us ... any death that we can save, that is a gift to our community."

On Tuesday the Health Unit reported 65 confirmed cases in the community. On Wednesday, Ahmed said about 70 per cent of those cases are people who have travelled and one-third are health-care workers who travel to Michigan for work.

"I'm not blaming those health-care workers for doing their job ... that's what their passion is to save people who are suffering," said Ahmed. "What we want to identify is what is our risk to our community and how we can minimize that risk." 

Ahmed said his job is to protect his community. 

"What my recommendations are, what my thoughts are to the best interest of my community," he said. "If there is anything we as a community need to do, that's where my focus is. I'm not concerned what people are thinking of these recommendations." 

His comments come after president and CEO of Windsor Regional Hospital David Musyj said it was "short sighted" for those advocating to further restrict travel over the border for health-care workers. 

"Continuing to indicate daily the number of Windsorites who work in healthcare in Detroit and their positive COVID-19 results is not appropriate," said Musyj. 

Here's what else is happening in our area"

At least 6 confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Sarnia seniors' home

Landmark Village seniors' home in Sarnia, Ont. is experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak with at least six confirmed cases, including four deaths connected to the facility as of Wednesday.

Lambton Public Health said it's unclear how the coronavirus was first brought into the retirement home.

"So far we cannot connect that link," said Dr Sudit Ranade, medical officer of health in Sarnia-Lambton.

On Wedneday, the health unit in Sarnia-Lambton reported 56 confirmed cases and six total deaths — including the four connected to Landmark Village — in the region. 

Chatham-Kent cases

Chatham Kent Public Health reports there are eight confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the region. 

As of Monday evening, Chatham-Kent medical officer of health Dr. David Colby confirmed that the region's first confirmed COVID-19 case — a man in his 50s — has made a full recovery. 

"He has done wonderfully," Colby wrote in a media release published Monday. "He has satisfied every quarantine measure that was put in place to prevent the spread of the infection."

Border is dividing line for pandemic that health-care workers cross daily

The border between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan is the divider of two very different situations when it comes to the battle against COVID-19, leaving Canadian officials scrambling to protect citizens from the spreading virus. 

On the one side, Michigan's outbreak is pushing the health-care system to a breaking point, as the number of cases continues to surge. Meanwhile in Windsor, that number sits much lower. 

Though the border is closed to non-essential travel, it remains open to trade and to the nearly 1,500 to 2,000 health-care workers who cross over each day

That traffic of health-care workers is a huge concern for Canadian officials. 

On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said she spoke with Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens Monday night about the issue. 

"[Dilkens] is very focused on it, as are the local MPs, and he has been in very close touch with all — he reported to me that he's been in close touch with both the Canadian hospitals and the U.S. hospitals," said Freeland, adding that the number of health-care workers who cross the border to Detroit is a "measure of how closely intertwined" the country's economies are.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland spoke with Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens Monday night about those who travel from Canada to the U.s. for work. 2:37

It's hard to say whether the federal government will impose further restrictions, given that health-care workers are so badly in demand on both sides of the border. 

However, Windsor's top doctor has been consistently asking for clarity and guidance on those restrictions. It's been something he has alluded to every day during the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit's morning updates. 

"We hope to work with federal and provincial governments to address cross-border travel and limit border crossing when possible," said chief medical officer Dr. Wajid Ahmed.

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