45 residents, 9 staff test positive in COVID-19 outbreak at Extendicare St. Paul, Alta.

·3 min read
Extendicare St. Paul is currently experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak among residents and staff. (CBC - image credit)
Extendicare St. Paul is currently experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak among residents and staff. (CBC - image credit)

A COVID-19 outbreak has been spreading quickly at a continuing care facility in east-central Alberta.

Out of the 76 residents at Extendicare St. Paul, 45 have tested positive for COVID-19 and all are considered active. Nine staff members have also tested positive, including seven active cases.

One of the residents who just tested positive in the outbreak that began about a week ago is 103-year-old Germaine Champagne.

"My mother had to stay in a room for a few days with someone who had COVID because there isn't enough room at this home to isolate people individually," Champagne's daughter, Marie Sharpe said at an NDP news conference held Thursday afternoon.

"Losing so many staff in a small building means a lot less help for people who live there. My mother has only been able to have one bath a week."

An Extendicare spokesperson said that the residents who have tested positive to date have displayed mild flu-like symptoms or are asymptomatic. As a result, no one has been hospitalized and no deaths have occurred.

The spokesperson added that staffing levels remain stable and additional staff have been called in to help with residents' care.

A spokesperson with Alberta Health Services tells CBC News that AHS is working closely with Extendicare to monitor the outbreak. Kerry Williamson said two teams were at the facility Thursday to complete site reviews.

Williamson said that residents are having their temperatures taken twice a day and there are enhanced cleaning protocols along with continuous N95 masking and eye protection.

Neither AHS nor Extendicare commented on Sharpe's assertion that COVID-positive patients were staying in the same room as someone who was not COVID-positive.

"I wish that the government would have had more of a plan because we'd been warned there would be another wave coming in the fall," Sharpe said. "There should have been more planning done so that people could be isolated."

On Wednesday, two NDP MLAs sent a letter to Health Minister Jason Copping asking for an immediate answer on what actions he was taking to tackle what they describe as the inadequate staffing and care at the facility.

Health critic David Shepherd said Copping has not responded to their letter.

"A national company as large and as profitable as Extendicare should be able to ensure they have adequate staffing in their facilities," Shepherd said at the news conference. "It's essential that the provincial government hold them accountable to do so."

Copping's press secretary did not respond to CBC's request for comment.

Submitted by Juliette Champagne
Submitted by Juliette Champagne

One of Germaine Champagne's other daughters said her family did everything they could at the start of the pandemic to keep their mother safe. She's angry that her mother was exposed to the virus, but grateful that so far her mother seems to be asymptomatic and calm about the situation.

"This is her second pandemic," Jacqueline Champagne said. "She was born in 1918."

With Germaine's 104th birthday just a couple of weeks away, her family hopes she'll be feeling better and able to celebrate the milestone with them.