Health Unit reports 12 COVID-19 deaths at Prescott and Russell Residence; workplaces ‘in general’ lax on break, at lunch; rapid tests will be ‘game changer’

Dr. Paul Roumeliotis stands in front of a graph showing the undesired peak development of COVID-19 cases, versus the flattened-out effect officials hope to achieve, with cases developing over a longer, more manageable period of time. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

Watch Eastern Ontario Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis’s full Nov. 2 briefing, above.

HAWKESBURY —  COVID-19 has now claimed a reported 12 lives at the Prescott and Residence — equalling the number of fatalities recorded last spring during the previous most deadly nursing home outbreak in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit region.

That’s according to the EOHU, where Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis relayed the rise in deaths at the Residence — up from nine before the weekend — during yesterday’s media briefing.

“This is terrible, and our hearts go out to the families,” said Dr. Roumeliotis.

The operator of the Residence — the United Counties of Prescott and Russell — says this morning that it has turned over all reporting of the numbers at the institution to the EOHU. “The public will have one single source of information moving forward, being the Medical Officer of Health,” UCPR spokesperson Justin Bromberg.

Pinecrest Nursing Home in Plantagenet had also reached 12 dead by the time the virus was eliminated from the institution last May (although its 12th death was only officially recorded as a result of the virus until later in the summer).

However, the outbreak at the Hawkesbury-based long-term-care facility remains ongoing with 83 residents having tested positive so far — 48 of those resolved and 23 still in the active phase of their infections.

Fifty-five staff have tested positive since the start of the outbreak three weeks ago — 34 of them now resolved and 21 active and remaining in self-quarantine.

Why are nursing-home staff part of nursing-home outbreaks if they are wearing masks? Is it their proximity to patients?

Asked by NVN last Friday if staff at nursing homes become part of outbreaks within those institutions because of their close proximity to patients — despite wearing masks — Roumeliotis replied, “We’re not sure about that. I can’t confirm or deny that … That’s something we want to look at.”

Taking pains to say he wasn’t singling out the Prescott and Russell Residence or the long-term care sector, the doctor suggested that employees “at workplaces in general” may be getting lax when on breaks and at lunch together, sitting “one foot apart” and going without masks.

“What we’ve been noticing … staff are OK when they’re dealing with the public, no problem,” he said, highlighting work environments characterized by mask-wearing and plexiglass dividers. “But when they go to the back … they eat lunch as if they’re family-at-home members. They don’t use masks, they go out and smoke together, they do all kinds of things without taking precautions…. We know that’s been the source of transmission in certain situations.”

Below, Dr. Paul Roumeliotis addresses lax behaviour at lunch and on break in workplaces as a factor in the spread of COVID-19, Oct. 30.
In his Nov. 2 briefing the doctor (below) also expressed optimism about the availability of rapid tests as a “game changer” in saving lives at long-term care homes — once they are deployed at an unknown date “sometime in the next little while.”

The EOHU region reached another new monthly peak in diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in October, with 26 new cases added over the weekend in the transition to November. The previous mark was set in September with 113 positive tests, compared with October’s 319. Two hundred and three cases are currently active, out of the 633 individuals who have tested positive since the start of the pandemic. The sickness currently has eight people in hospital — with two in ICU.

The stats in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit region as of Nov. 3.




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