HAWKESBURY — To date, 110 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed at the Prescott and Russell Residence since the beginning of the outbreak, up from yesterday’s 61 as test results have continued to come in.
While noting that COVID-19 protocols have been followed “to a ‘T'” since the start of the pandemic, United Counties of Prescott and Russell CAO Stéphane Parisien offered that the two-week-old outbreak may have begun with residents carrying the virus back to the facility after short visits away. “For some time, there was some respite provided where some residents were allowed to step out and go into their families,” conceded Parisien, “and we think that residents that came back to the home from those short-duration visits actually triggered the outbreak.
“We can’t pinpoint it, but we know pretty darn close that’s likely the case.”
Below, a joint media conference with Eastern Ontario’s Medical Officer of Health and UCPR officials.
The province has recently reimposed a rule prohibiting residents in long-term care from leaving those institutions.
Out of the Residence’s total 110 infections, 78 (46 residents and 32 employees) remain active. The balance of those infected are counted as resolved after making it through 10 days of isolation. One resident has also passed away in the outbreak. (The United Counties of Prescott and Russell [UCPR], operator of the Hawkesbury-based facility, notes that the deceased was earlier counted as resolved, and Eastern Ontario Dr. Paul Roumeliotis explained this week that the coroner later ruled the death was a result of COVID-19.)
The UCPR is receiving emergency assistance from multiple health care agencies, including the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU), to support infection control protocols and to address the staffing shortage driven by a large number of employees who can’t work after testing positive.
“It’s a serious situation right now,” said Parisien of what has become the single-largest outbreak of the pandemic in the EOHU’s jurisdiction. “We’re having staffing issues, which we are trying to mitigate with some of our partners.”
Officials report that most cases have been asymptomatic.
The Canadian Red Cross, the Champlain Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), the Ministry of Long-Term Care, and paramedics with Prescott and Russell Emergency Services also have teams on the ground at the Residence.
“This has been a very serious outbreak,” stated Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medical Officer of Health. “However, we want to reassure families and the community that the Prescott and Russell Residence is receiving support from multiple health care partners in an effort to bring the outbreak under control, and to ensure that residents are being well cared for.”
“On behalf of Council, I want to acknowledge that we are in an unprecedented situation given the latest positive results received, and that we are all concerned and worried about all of our residents and staff at the Residence,” explained Pierre Leroux, Warden of the UCPR Council.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out for the residents and the staff and their families. We’re there for you. Whatever you need from County Council, we’re there to help,” he said during a media briefing this afternoon.
Parisien lauded the employees for working around the clock “to ensure the continued care of our residents, as they have been doing since the beginning of this pandemic, with professionalism and a commitment to keeping our residents safe and sound. We will get through this situation, as a community.”
Dr. Roumeliotis said his jurisdiction region now counts a total of 533 cases since the start of the pandemic, having jumped up today with the newly reported cases at the Residence.
The doctor also reported that he will use his “Section 22” powers to add some new restrictions on bars, restaurants and gyms — without closing them. He has described the measures as “modified Stage 3” — as opposed to the harsher “modified Stage 2” the province has slapped on a number of urban jurisdictions, including Ottawa. Roumeliotis has also dismissed Premier Doug Ford’s suggestion that he was trying to “pass the buck” by attempting to have the provincial government impose the measures, rather than exercise his authority as local medical officer of health.