Five infected in COVID outbreak at Caledonia retirement home

·3 min read

The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit is monitoring an outbreak at RVilla Caledonia Retirement Living in Caledonia, where five residents have tested positive for COVID-19.

Health officials say the residents were tested after showing potential COVID-19 symptoms.

The infected residents are all fully vaccinated, making these breakthrough cases of COVID-19, said Norfolk County EMS Chief Sarah Page, who is in charge of the local vaccine rollout.

One resident was briefly hospitalized “for some additional assistance due to a comorbidity — a disease they already had prior to contracting COVID,” Page explained.

All five are now back at the retirement home with “mild symptoms,” she said.

“It’s what we’ve seen all along. Yes, there are breakthrough cases of people becoming infected, but they are not as seriously ill as they have been before the vaccines were available,” interim medical officer of health Dr. Alex Hukowich told reporters on Monday.

“It’s a good thing that we’re going to be providing third doses to (long-term-care residents) right now, because I think that’s quite important to continue their protection.”

Last week saw residents at five of the larger long-term-care and retirement homes in Haldimand-Norfolk get vaccine booster shots, with about 20 facilities still to go, Page said.

Hukowich noted that RVilla residents are taking meals in their rooms and group activities have been temporarily suspended.

“The facility is making changes because of this outbreak to try and minimize any spread,” he said.

In other COVID-19 news, the Mu variant has reached Haldimand-Norfolk. The provincial health ministry said a single case of the latest variant was confirmed in the region over the past month.

The health unit says the Delta variant remains the main contributor to the spread of COVID-19 in the two counties.

“From other areas that have had higher rates of that (Mu variant), I don’t think they’ve been seeing worse disease or a greater transmission rate than we have had with the Delta variant,” Hukowich said.

“It’s still a bit early, but right now it doesn’t seem like this is going to be something worse than what we’re already dealing with.”

The return to in-person learning last week did not result in any COVID-19 outbreaks at area schools.

“But it’s only been a week,” Hukowich said. “We usually think that things start after a couple of weeks, so we’ll have to wait and see.”

As of Monday, there were 23 active cases of COVID-19 in Haldimand-Norfolk, with a rolling average of three new cases per day.

In his last news conference as chief medical officer, Hukowich said while Haldimand-Norfolk’s lower population density continues to help slow the spread of the virus, vaccination — including of children under 12 when possible — remains the best way to counter COVID-19 and keep residents safe.

Hukowich’s successor, Dr. Matt Strauss, was due to start his term as acting medical officer of health on Tuesday.

But several members of the board of health expressed reservations about Strauss last week after public outcry in some corners over the noted lockdown skeptic’s hiring.

The board of health, which consists of Norfolk County council, was expected to meet Monday evening to hear from representatives from Haldimand County about Strauss’s appointment and get legal advice behind closed doors.

J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator

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