The death toll in the severe COVID-19 outbreak at Regina's Parkside Extendicare home has risen in recent days to 33, as the spread of the virus slows and many of the residents recover.
From Dec. 18 to Dec. 23 — when the last update to residents' families was provided — Extendicare reported another 13 deaths among residents who had been infected with the virus in the 228-bed facility.
The next update is expected on Monday.
Cases at home declining
As of the Dec. 23 update, the number of active infections among residents and staff continued to decline, with only four infected residents at the home. That's down from 160 of the facility's 200 residents who tested positive when the outbreak was at its worst in early December.
The Dec. 23 numbers do not account for active cases among the approximately 25 people who were moved to another Regina facility, Pioneer Village, or the dozen residents who were transferred to Broadview Union Hospital, located east of the capital.
Seven Parkside positive residents were in hospital.
As residents have recovered — a total of 113 as of last Wednesday — the home has seen something of a return to normalcy.
"Residents have started to transfer back into their own rooms," according to Extendicare. "Cleaning staff are doing deep cleans in various parts of the building and resident belongings have begun to be brought out of storage, cleaned and returned. This process will take some time."
"All recovered and negative residents are now able to be off isolation and come out of their rooms," the company stated in its Dec. 22 update. "There is planning underway for residents to eventually have physically distanced meals in the dining room."
On Dec. 18, Extendicare said it was starting to see improvements in its staffing levels. By the Dec. 23 update, Parkside had 45 active cases among staff, compared to a high of 86 infected workers in earlier in December.
'Heightened' PPE use discontinued
Earlier this month, a spokesperson for the Saskatchewan Health Authority — which temporarily took over operations at Parkside on Dec. 9 and began speaking on behalf of Extendicare — said it had "heightened our measure for N95 [mask] usage" at Parkside. Extendicare also said several areas of the home had "extremely poor" air flow.
In its Dec. 23 update, Extendicare said that heightened PPE measure had been lifted.
"The system was inspected and air flow assessed," the company stated. "In addition, HEPA filters were put in place and have significantly improved air exchange rates. With nearly all the residents now COVID-19 recovered, this has significantly reduced the environmental contaminant load throughout the building and therefore HEPA filters are no longer required, with the exception of COVID positive resident rooms.
"All staff at Parkside must still follow appropriate PPE and infection, protection and control practices for a long-term care setting and wear medical grade masks at all times, using proper donning and doffing procedures."
The outbreak at Parkside is the worst known situation in a long-term care home in the province.