It’s been a long time coming, but Guelph has its first confirmed case in COVID-19, and in terms of the people who are the most vulnerable to the pandemic, it’s been found in the worst possible place. Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health confirmed Tuesday that a case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in Guelph, and the patient is a resident of St. Joseph’s Health Centre.
As first broken by the Guelph Mercury Tribune last night, a man in his 80s has tested positive for COVID-19, and he’s currently in stable condition in one of St. Joseph’s post-acute units.
“We are working very closely with St. Joseph’s Health Centre to ensure that all appropriate infection control measures are being taken,” said Dr. Nicola Mercer, Medical Officer of Health and CEO of Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health in a statement.
“We know that COVID-19 is circulating in our community and this incident further emphasizes the importance of social distancing,” Dr. Mercer added. “We are asking members of our community to stay home as much as possible and to avoid visits to hospitals, long-term care facilities, or retirement homes unless absolutely essential.”
St. Joseph’s Health Centre released a statement late Monday night announcing that they had a positive test for COVID-19, and acknowledged that the situation was scary.
“We realize that this news is concerning,” said David Wormald, President of St. Joseph’s Health Centre in the statement. “SJHCG is following all directives from public health authorities on precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
Last week, the Mercury Tribune reported that there were three people in St. Joe’s being tested for the virus. Wormald said that St. Joseph’s Health is taking every precaution, and is also taking proactive steps to protect staff, residents, and volunteers. “We are all thinking about our staff, our patients and their families at this time,” added Wormald. “All of us at St. Joseph’s are ready to provide excellent care to all patients and residents, today and always.”
Dr. Mercer and Public Health is reminding everyone that they have a part to play to stop the spread of COVID-19 by handwashing frequently and cleaning high-touch surfaces with low-level disinfectants like soap and household cleaners. They’re also reminding people to monitor their own health, and that if they’re feeling mild symptoms to stay home and self-isolate. If your symptoms get worse, call your family doctor to arrange an assessment, and they will determine if you should receive a test. People with severe symptoms are asked to go to the emergency room at once.
In terms of the bigger picture, the Government of Ontario announced today enhanced temporary measures for long-term care homes to allow them to better protect the aged population who are so vulnerable to COVID-19. According to the Province, the measures are meant to free-up valuable staff, identify staffing priorities, and develop plans to redeploy staff to needed areas.
Among the new changes, government will allow for health service providers to redeploy staff from different locations within their netowrk, change work assignments and schedules as need, cancel planned vacations, hire extra part-time or temporary workers, and provide extra training as needed. The Province assures that these measure are being taken with the safety and security of long-term care homes residents in mind.
“We have been working for several months now, with all our partners across the system, from public health to hospitals and long-term care operators, to put processes in place to contain this virus and be ready to respond to any scenario,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, in a statement.
The Province also announced that they’re increasing the number of long-term care beds, and will redouble their efforts to make sure homes can provide isolation rooms as needed. Non-essential visits to long-term care homes will continue for the time being, and all staff, volunteers, residents and approved visitors will continue to be screened for COVID-19 to ensure the safety of the senior population in these facilities.