An outbreak of COVID-19 at the Bay St. George Long-Term Care Centre in Stephenville Crossing has grown to 25 residents and 22 employees, according to Western Health.
In an interview with CBC Radio's Newfoundland Morning on Friday, the care home's regional director of long-term care, Paul Briffett, said infected residents have symptoms ranging from congestion to coughs and wheezing. The building's other residents are in isolation, along with several staff. The centre houses 107 residents.
"There's been a big impact upon the lives of our residents that live there and our staff that worked there," Briffett said.
He said no residents have had to be sent to hospital, and other measures are in place to help limit spread. Visitation at the facility is suspended and is restricted at other long-term care facilities in the region.
For Jeff Young, who lives in nearby Kippens, the spike in cases is scary.
"Every day it seems like there's more people isolating," he said. "Everyone knows everyone, so everyone knows at least one person with COVID-19."
With so many employees having either tested positive or entered isolation, Briffett said, staff have been brought in from other areas of the health-care system to help make sure residents are looked after.
"We can reach out to our counterparts in public health and community health and in acute care and we've been able to secure staff from those areas," he said.
"Even our staff in our own facility are doing non-traditional duties. A physiotherapist may be in doing something they might not usually do … but these are things that provide the care the residents need."
The health authority has also implemented the use of rapid tests for employees in isolation, allowing them to work in instances where it is safe to do so.
More rapid testing is key: PC MHA
Tony Wakeham, Progressive Conservative MHA for Stephenville-Port au Port, says he's worried about the vulnerable population at the centre.
"We've seen what has happened in other parts of the country, so it's very concerning that we make sure that the government has plans in place to address this type of outbreak," he said.
Wakeham said he also has concerns over the location of the outbreak, as the Bay St. George facility, opened in 1976, is one of the oldest long-term care homes in the province.
"I think the staff are doing a magnificent job [but] the reality of it is it was never designed for the type of care it's currently providing."
He said Public Health could make better use of rapid tests.
"I think that's something that this province could certainly look at.… It becomes another way of helping out the health-care workers," he said.
"If we can use rapid tests as part of that solution so people can test themselves and isolate, to me that's just part of the solution."
Meanwhile, four cases of COVID-19 have also been confirmed at a long-term care centre in Happy-Valley Goose Bay, according to Labrador-Grenfell Health CEO Heather Brown Friday morning.
Independent MHA Perry Trimper called the finding of cases "a great deal of worry," adding it was a situation he and residents of Labrador were concerned about when the pandemic began.