COVID-19 hits Grand Manan nursing home, affecting 23 of 28 residents

·3 min read
The first publicly known case of COVID-19 was reported on Grand Manan last December. (CBC - image credit)
The first publicly known case of COVID-19 was reported on Grand Manan last December. (CBC - image credit)

A month after the first-ever known case was reported on Grand Manan, COVID-19 is affecting some of the island's most vulnerable residents.

An outbreak of the disease has infected 23 of 28 residents at the Grand Manan Nursing Home, said Heather Bass, the home's nursing director.

Another 26 of the home's 65 employees have become infected and are now isolating at home, further putting strain on staff's ability to respond to the outbreak, she said.

"Everybody's getting tired, but spirits are good," Bass said, adding that many employees are working 12-hour shifts seven days in a row.

"We're trying to encourage one another and the staff is an amazing bunch of individuals, and I just say kudos to them because they they are hanging in there, and they're doing the very best they can for our residents."

Bass said an employee first tested positive using a rapid test last Friday. Further testing of residents and staff led to the confirmation of more cases.

Things are looking good, though, she said.

None of the residents have had severe symptoms, with most of them experiencing a cough and sore throat.

Three of the residents are new admissions who haven't yet received their booster vaccine dose, and she has noticed that their symptoms were worse than residents who have received theirs, Bass said.

"So all of our residents are doing well. Nobody is in distress. Nobody is having difficulty breathing. Many of them, fatigue is one of the biggest symptoms. They're just very sleepy."

Bass said all of the infected staff are still isolating, but they're being assessed on a case-by-case basis and are being brought back on so long as they've passed the minimum five-day isolation period and are no longer symptomatic.

COVID new to community

The outbreak comes just about a month after residents heard of the first known case of COVID-19 on the island, said Grand Manan Mayor Bonnie Morse.

We've certainly heard from a lot of people who have contracted it. - Grand Manan Mayor Bonnie Morse

Morse said while case numbers aren't being reported specifically for the island — which falls under the Zone 2 health region — word has spread about infections hitting families and workplaces.

"I think that COVID is spreading on the island with this wave, much like it is on the mainland. … We've certainly heard a lot from people who have contracted it," she said.

She said with Grand Manan being an island, the virus poses even more challenges for employers who find themselves with sick employees.

"It's not like we have a huge population or somebody can drive in that's an hour away. It makes it that much more challenging to fill in some of those positions."

2 deaths reported in N.B. nursing homes

Michael Keating, interim executive director of the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes, said two nursing home residents have died from COVID-19 in the province in recent days.

Meanwhile, 197 staff are currently isolating, referring to statistics gathered on Tuesday.

Shane Fowler/CBC News
Shane Fowler/CBC News

Asked about issues around staffing levels, Keating said all nursing homes have a contingency plan in place, which they'd refer to in times of an outbreak.

"And nobody wants to have to put them in place, but they're ready when these things happen."

Rebecca Howland, spokesperson for the Department of Social Development, said in an email that there are currently 99 nursing home residents with COVID-19, spread out across 53 of the province's 71 nursing homes.

She said the department does not track the number of staff who are out because of COVID.

"The level of assistance required by each facility varies according to their needs, but we remain dedicated to offer support to facilities and their workers," Howland said.

"In some cases, extra resources have been provided with assistance from the Red Cross, or from contracted parties and other facilities."

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