A Regina nursing home says six people have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19.
Saskatchewan health officials declared an outbreak at the 62-bed Elmview home owned by Extendicare on Tuesday, with two cases reported at the time.
By Thursday, Extendicare confirmed the outbreak had grown to six cases: four residents and two workers.
Residents and staff of Elmview that were willing and able to do so have already received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, according to the home. It's unclear if the six positive cases are among people who are fully vaccinated or those who did not receive shots either because they refused or were unable to be vaccinated.
Extendicare said it strongly encouraged everybody to get vaccinated.
More than 95 per cent of residents received two doses, while 88 per cent of staff received at least one dose and 50 per cent were fully vaccinated, an Extendicare spokesperson said via email.
According to a post on the home's Facebook page, second doses were given out on Feb. 19.
"Further vaccinations continue to progress," the spokesperson said.
"COVID-19 vaccines are a powerful tool to strengthen our defence against the virus. However, until mass vaccination is completed and broader immunity is achieved in the community, the virus will continue to circulate and potentially enter homes. We must remain vigilant and use every available precaution to prevent the virus from reaching residents."
Extendicare is working closely with the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) to contain the virus, the spokesperson added.
Extendicare said Friday that the infected residents and staff were largely asymptomatic, with some displaying mild symptoms.
Disease much less harmful to people after vaccine: specialist
Each COVID-19 vaccine has a different efficacy rate. Vaccine efficacy refers to the percentage reduction of disease in a vaccinated group of people compared to an unvaccinated group, under ideal conditions.
Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna, the first two vaccines circulated in Saskatchewan, both have been determined by Health Canada to have efficacy rates of around 95 per cent.
Regardless of vaccine type, trials have shown that those who did become infected after getting vaccinated experienced only mild illness, Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease specialist in Mississauga, Ont., recently told CBC News.
Of the thousands of participants in trials for the vaccines, not a single person who received a shot died or was hospitalized from COVID-19, he told The Canadian Press.
Province testing samples for variants: union
Barbara Cape, president of SEIU-West, a union representing workers at Elmview, said the facility had strong protocols to guard against the spread of COVID-19. She saw this first-hand when she dropped something off at Elmview 10 days ago, she said.
"I was impressed," Cape said. "They worked their asses off, to be blunt, and now to see an outbreak there....I know that they're crushed.
"I have no idea how it would have gotten in there."
The SHA is testing samples from the four positive cases for signs of any COVID-19 variants of concern, Cape said.
On Thursday, health officials warned of an increase in variant cases in Regina, reporting 62 cases of the B117 UK variant in Saskatchewan's capital city.
Other cases noted
Elmview is not the first nursing home in Saskatchewan or elsewhere in Canada to recently experience new COVID-19 cases in the wake of vaccinations.
A new outbreak was declared this week at the Cottonwoods Care Centre in B.C.'s Interior Health region, where 82 per cent of staff and residents had already received vaccines.
Here in Saskatchewan, two staff members at Sunnyside Adventist Care Centre in Saskatoon tested positive for the virus over the weekend of March 6 and 7.
Maria Villarosa, the facility's director of care, said in an email that no residents were infected.
The home's staff and residents received their first doses of Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine on Jan. 15 and their second doses of the same vaccine on Feb. 22.
All residents took the vaccine, Villarosa said.
"As for staff, the SHA contacts staff for vaccinations but we do not have the information as to the uptake for our home," she said.
SHA not tracking refusal rate
The SHA has told CBC News it is not tracking how many health-care workers or long-term care residents are refusing vaccines.
"Although COVID vaccinations are strongly encouraged for everyone, they are not mandatory," an SHA spokesperson said last week. "Note that once you become eligible, you are always eligible and vaccination rates may yet change."
Sunnyside has rapid test kits allowing people with symptoms of the virus to be tested, according to a Facebook post on the home's page on Tuesday. Results are available in 15 minutes.
Rapid test kits are also in place at Elmview, the Extendicare spokesperson said.
"We will continue to test all residents and staff rigorously to detect any new instances of the virus as soon as possible," she said.
First outbreak for Elmview
This is the first COVID-19 outbreak to hit Elmview, though Extendicare is no stranger to the virus.
The company's Parkside facility, located only a few blocks south of Elmview, was home to the worst outbreak of any long-term care home in Saskatchewan. Forty-one residents died in connection with that pre-vaccine outbreak, which began in November 2020 and was declared over in January.
The Parkside outbreak has sparked one recently-filed class action lawsuit alleging Extendicare was ill-prepared to handle the outbreak, as well as an investigation by Saskatchewan's ombudsman.
Elmview, Parkside and three other Extendicare-owned nursing homes in the province are operated under the terms of a contract between Extendicare and the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA).
"We recognize this news is concerning to our community and are doing everything we can to support the wellbeing of our residents safe and keep them safe," the Extendicare spokesperson said.
"Our team is connecting with each resident to offer modified programs and one-on-one support, and arranging regular virtual visits with loved ones. We will keep families informed as new information becomes available."