By Geoff Agombar
Local Journalism Initiative
The Wales Home announced Monday that two employees tested positive for COVID-19 and residents of the Central unit had been put into preventative isolation.
That made Central the sixth of Wales Home’s six units to enter preventative isolation in under a week.
On Dec. 22, two employees working in units Norton 1 & 2, Shaw/Manning 1 & 2 had tested positive, triggering preventive isolation and testing. Then, a third employee who had contact with residents in Norton 3 tested positive. A fourth tested positive on Dec. 23 and five of six units have been in preventive isolation since.
All positive cases were among staff, however, not residents.
In fact, Wales Home has yet to record a single positive Covid case among residents since the pandemic began nearly two years ago.
“Zero residents have tested positive,” reports executive director Brendalee Piironen. “All of our residents to date, touch wood, have been negative, so we hope it continues.”
Reached by phone Tuesday around 1:30 p.m., Piironen says Public Health has been on site since 9 a.m. conducting PCR tests on residents and staff. She predicts they will be finished within the hour and expects results within a day.
“When we’re being tested, it’s really a priority. We should have all the results within 24 hours,” Piironen explains.
The Wales Home has about 200 residents and 140 active employees.
Preventative isolation means residents have to stay in their rooms, “if they are capable,” Piironen nuances, referring to special cases of CHSLD and Central residents with dementia who cannot understand the need to isolate. Employees have to wear a gown, gloves, mask, and visor while caring for individual residents in isolation, and must change gown and gloves between every resident.
A resident can name up to four primary caregivers, but in preventive isolation only one primary caregiver may visit per 24 hours, per resident. Like the employees, they have to don a gown, gloves, mask and visor, and remove them when they leave the unit.
For the 12 residents of the intermediary care Central unit, today is the first round of PCR testing. Assuming they test negative today, they are not expected to be eligible to come out of isolation for at least seven days, at which time they must test negative a second time.
For 96 residents in the CHLSD units and an additional 60 in the residential units, today represents either a second or third test since entering isolation after last week’s positive cases among employees.
Previous rounds have not turned up any positives among the residents, so Piironen is eager for good news, “Then, hopefully, we can release some of the measures. Hopefully, we could release five of the six floors off of preventative isolation.”
All Wales Home’s residents have been triple vaccinated. “Before Christmas, they came to do the last 15 residents who did not have their third vaccine yet, and they had four extra doses so I was lucky to get one too,” says Piironen. She knows some of the staff have received their booster already and others have booked appointments. They are eligible as health care workers, and the delay between second and third shots has been shortened from six weeks to three.
Piironen also feels lucky to have a dedicated team. She credits her employees for the Wales Home’s success in keeping the coronavirus out. At the same time, she is nervous about the latest variant knocking at the door.
“I think we have been a role model,” Piironen says. “We put in measures before the government recommended the measures, and our employees have been extremely vigilant.”
“I don’t know how long our success record will last,” she admits. “There might be a little guardian angel up there, but I believe our employees, because of their due diligence, because of their dedication and hard work, they’re the ones who’ve kept the covid out of the building.”
“With the new variant, which seems to be the real coronabeast, it could be out of our control. I spoke to the two employees that just tested positive last night, and they have no idea how they caught it,” Piironen says. “They’ve been at home for two days. They had their Christmas statutory holidays on the Thursday and Friday, and they came in on the weekend (and tested positive).”
“We’re doing the best that we can, and it’s so much work. Our employees already had a very heavy workload, and now it’s just added to that.”
Covid cases and hospitalizations continue to surge
Tuesday, Quebec reported 12,833 new COVID-19 cases in the previous 24-hour period, bringing the total number of confirmed active cases in the province to 69,724.
To date, 559,270 people are known to have contracted the virus in the province since the start of the pandemic.
The positivity rate of tests continued to climb in the province, reaching 24.9 per cent on Dec. 25, or 1 out of every 4 tests.
The number of hospitalizations across Quebec increased by 88.
The number of people in intensive care increased by 6 to 115. There were also 15 new deaths recorded, pushing the total to 11,692.
In the Eastern Townships, there are currently 3,556 confirmed active cases with 58 in hospital, 11 of whom were in intensive care.
The provincial institute for public health has been tracking the ratio of omicron and delta variants at a few “sentinel laboratories.” The institute says, only omicron and delta variants are currently circulating in the province. The ratio has flipped, reaching 81 percent omicron versus 19 per cent delta on Dec. 26, compared to 20.5 per cent omicron versus 79.5 per cent delta just two weeks ago on Dec. 12.