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Jan. 29, 2022 | Saturday
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COVID outbreak at NOTL care home grows to 28 cases
Niagara Long Term Care Residence. (File)

Vaccine credited with keeping symptoms mild for many patients

An outbreak of COVID-19 at Niagara Long Term Care in Niagara-on-the-Lake has grown to 28 cases, with 14 residents and 14 staff members testing positive for the virus as of Wednesday.

Most of the cases have been mild, with people experiencing few or no symptoms, said Chris Poos, executive director of Niagara LTC. One earlier staff case has been resolved, he said.

As the Omicron variant swept the country, the initial outbreak at the Wellington Street home was declared on Dec. 27. All residents and staff were tested for the virus after one resident and two staff members tested positive.

Poos said no residents or staff have been hospitalized due to the outbreak and noted he thinks the vaccine is proving effective.

The home is holding a booster clinic Friday for residents who still need an extra shot.

"We definitely feel that the vaccine is playing a big role in keeping symptoms mild, and in some cases positive staff and residents remain asymptomatic," Poos said.

"Rapid testing is also a great defence, as it is catching cases prior to entering the home."

He said all staff who have tested positive on a rapid test, may have had an exposure or who are symptomatic, are self-isolating at home awaiting PCR results or completing the 10-day isolation as directed by public health officials. 

"We continue to follow all directions from public health and have all outbreak protocols in place. Our priority remains our residents, their families and our hard working staff."

Poos said families are receiving regular email updates and that the home has been holding virtual town halls with families of residents two to three times per week "to provide live updates and answer any questions they may have."

A year ago, in January 2021, a COVID outbreak at the facility led to 11 deaths and more than 120 infections.

As of Wednesday, regional data showed Niagara-on-the-Lake had 156 active cases, and the sixth-highest active case rate (86.9) per 10,000 people in the Niagara region. The region reported 342 new COVID cases Wednesday and 4,627 total active cases.

However, during a news conference Monday, Niagara's chief medical officer of health Dr. Mustafa Hirji said with the provincial shift away from testing, the number of cases is likely far higher than is being reported.

He estimates the actual number of active cases could be anywhere from two to three or more times as high as official statistics show.

As the Niagara LTC outbreak began, Poos last week noted, "Out of an abundance of caution we have implemented all outbreak precautions on the third floor and due to the high rate of community spread, we proactively placed the second floor on outbreak protocols."

General visitation is currently not permitted in the home. Fully vaccinated essential caregivers are allowed to visit but must pass active screening, receive a negative rapid test and wear full PPE, including a respirator mask.

All staff must also pass active screening and receive a negative rapid antigen test daily prior to entering the home and are cohorted to specific home areas for their shifts, Poos said.

"We are well-stocked with all PPE and staff are working hard to provide great care to our residents. My hope is that everyone follows the guidelines set out by public health and that more people in the community will get vaccinated, including receiving their boosters when appropriate."

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