1 resident dead, 46 others infected amid COVID-19 outbreak at Regina's Parkside Extendicare home

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One resident is dead and 45 others are infected with COVID-19 as Regina's Parkside Extendicare care home grapples with the largest known outbreak of the virus at an extended care facility in the province.

"This resident passed away last week and has been determined to have passed in relation to COVID-19," according to an update that was sent Sunday to family members and was obtained by CBC News.

Of the residents currently infected, four are in hospital.

As of Friday, 25 staff members had tested positive and were self-isolating at home. Seven others were also isolating outside of work as a precaution.

The situation has Extendicare's chief medical officer, Matthew Morgan, calling for quick action to contain any further spread.

"Ongoing testing of staff on a regular basis is required to identify sources of the virus and remove them from the home before residents become infected," Morgan said in an emailed statement to CBC News.

"We can't fight the virus if we don't know where it is or who might be carrying it."


Rapid testing devices coming to homes

On Friday, provincial health officials announced some long-term care homes were receiving Abbot Panbio rapid antigen tests, which produce results in 15 minutes and are used "for rapid recurrent asymptomatic screening of staff and residents."

"All rapid positive tests will be presumed positive and will need to be confirmed by a laboratory test for now," according to the Ministry of Health.

In his statement, Morgan said screening for fever is not enough to keep COVID-19 out of homes because "transmission by asymptomatic individuals is a major source of spread in long-term care."

"We have continued to press for asymptomatic testing and strongly believe it is critical that we implement weekly testing of all staff," he said.

Morgan said he was encouraged by the province's rapid antigen test pilot project.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority declined to say which care homes are receiving devices, noting that the health authority is still preparing to roll out the program.

"The first phase of the roll-out is to pilot these testing options in selected locations to test the new processes in a controlled environment," an SHA spokesperson said.

The type of antigen test that will be used in care homes is considered less sensitive and more risky than a lab test, which can carry some risk, the spokesperson added.

"But they can be mitigated by using them in defined situations combined with careful interpretation of results and follow-up with confirmatory testing when indicated. That is why these [tests] will undergo a pilot as the first phase of deployment."


New staff coming in

Health officials publicly reported the outbreak at Parkside Extendicare on Nov. 20. In a later weekly update on care homes, the 200-person facility was said to have 14 cases of COVID-19 as of Nov. 26.

Sunday's update to families indicates cases have surged. To date, the home has reported 50 cases of the virus among residents.

Morgan said the home is adding new staff to make up for those who have had to stay home.

"Like our existing staff, all new staff members joining Parkside to support are seconded to our home and are exclusively working at our home," he said.

Another Extendicare facility, in Moose Jaw, is also facing an outbreak. CBC News has asked for information on that situation too.

Another long-term care home, Luther Special Care Home in Saskatoon, reported 40 active cases on Sunday, making it the second largest known outbreak in a Saskatchewan care home.