COVID-19 outbreak confirmed at Amherst, N.S., group home

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A nurse uses a swab to perform a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal on Oct. 21, 2020. Recent community spread in the Amherst, N.S., area has been tied to a large religious gathering that took place last month. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press - image credit)
A nurse uses a swab to perform a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal on Oct. 21, 2020. Recent community spread in the Amherst, N.S., area has been tied to a large religious gathering that took place last month. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press - image credit)

A group home in Amherst, N.S., is the site of a COVID-19 outbreak.

Shannon McLellan, executive director of the Amherst and District Residential Services Society, confirmed an outbreak at one of her agency's homes, but declined to provide any other details citing privacy of staff and residents.

Licensed group homes in Nova Scotia house anywhere from four to 12 individuals with intellectual or physical disabilities or long-term mental illness.

McLellan said the agency is "following all Public Health guidelines and [has] received the necessary supports from Public Health and the Department of Community Services."

Community spread in Amherst area

The province declined to comment on the outbreak, also citing privacy. A spokesperson for the Health Department said details of outbreaks "are only provided publicly if Public Health determines there is a need to do so for contact tracing or other public health reasons."

Public Health has been monitoring community spread of COVID-19 in the Amherst area since cases spiked following a large religious event at the end of October.

More than 100 people from several faith groups — which the province has not identified — attended the multi-day event. According to Public Health directives, organizers should have asked attendees for proof of vaccination. Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, has said they did not.

Strang has since reached out to all faith leaders to ensure they understand when proof of vaccination is required.

No fines or charges have been issued for the breach of Public Health orders, but Amherst police Chief Dwayne Pike told CBC News he's been working closely with Public Health to "figure out exactly how we're going to address these issues."

The religious event has been tied to an outbreak of COVID-19 at a nursing home in Pugwash, N.S., where as of Friday, a total of 22 residents and four staff members had tested positive.

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