Cases of COVID-19 have increased in Strathmore and Wheatland County, including outbreaks at the Strathmore Hospital and two seniors’ living facilities in town.
As of Jan. 5, there are 57 active cases in the Town of Strathmore and 24 active cases in Wheatland County. This is an increase from the end of December, when there were 47 and 18 cases in Strathmore and Wheatland County, respectively (as of Dec. 30).
Alberta Health Services (AHS) announced on Jan. 4 that an outbreak was declared on the acute care unit of Strathmore Hospital on Dec. 29, 2020. Three patients have tested positive who are linked to this unit, which has 25 beds and is in a separate wing of the hospital.
All patients have been offered testing, and from the three cases initially found, no additional cases have since been detected, said Jarrett Fawdry, Strathmore Hospital site manager. “There will be continuous testing for the patients, and contact tracing for anyone potentially exposed to these individuals is ongoing,” he said.
The hospital has responded by implementing outbreak control measures. All visitors and patients coming into the hospital are being screened upon entry. Those who test positive are isolated and treated, explained Fawdry. Spaces used to treat people with the virus are subsequently cleaned to help prevent any possible transmission.
“We’re just following our rehearsed infection prevention and control (IPC) standards, which have been raised since our acute care unit has been on outbreak during this time,” he said.
Visitation to the hospital is restricted to designated support persons and end-of-life situations. AHS is encouraging families to meet virtually with their loved ones.
However, the hospital remains a safe place to visit and receive care from the emergency department, lab and homecare, said Fawdry. “There’s no increased risk to any patient or outpatients coming to the hospital,” he said.
There are also current outbreaks of COVID-19 reported at both Agecare Sagewood and Wheatland Lodge in Strathmore. As per AHS, an outbreak is defined as one positive specimen result for COVID-19 in a resident or client, or in a staff member who has worked at the site without personal protective equipment. Sites with two or more individuals with confirmed COVID-19 are included in public reporting.
The outbreak at Wheatland Lodge started on Dec. 12. To date, there have been eight residents and two staff that have tested positive for the virus, said Vickey Cook, Wheatland Lodge chief administrative officer.
To control the spread of the outbreak at the lodge, residents were restricted to their rooms. But as of Jan. 6, all residents without symptoms will be off room isolation. The building will still be considered having outbreak status until the end of January, said Cook.
Glenn Koester, Wheatland Housing Management Board (WHMB) chair, commended the work of the staff at Wheatland Lodge made in response to the outbreak. “Staff and management have been great,” he said. “They were able to contain it as much as they could.”
Since March, when the virus started to spread in the province, WHMB has followed all protocols, chief medical officer of health orders and direction from Contagious Control Centre, Infection Control Centre, Alberta Health Services and Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer, said Cook.
Staff are screened daily, have their temperature checked daily and always wear personal protective equipment, she said. Additionally, residents have been temperature checked and screened every day. In addition, the lodge has increased the cleaning protocol to three times a day, limited visitors and reminded staff, family and friends of health protocols.
“I can only assure you that WHMB has and will continue to do our very best to protect the residents and our staff, said Cook. “We are well aware of the resident’s vulnerability and continue to work tirelessly to care for our friends and your family.”
Wheatland Lodge residents were scheduled to receive a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 6. “We are all very excited and apprehensive at the same time,” she said. “We are all looking forward to that light at the end of the tunnel.”
Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times