Tuesday was a grim day for the city’s long-term-care homes, with nine of the 11 new COVID-19 deaths in Hamilton occurring in home outbreaks.
The city reported four new deaths at Hamilton’s worst outbreak at Grace Villa on the east Mountain. It is unknown when these deaths occurred because public health no longer provides that information. The home has now had 42 deaths since the outbreak began 41 days ago on Nov. 25.
In a town hall Tuesday, Shalom Village’s new CEO, Ken Callaghan, said that 19 people at the home had died. That was down from the 20 deaths the home reported over the weekend. The home said some of the deaths previously reported were not due to COVID-19.
“Unfortunately, we’ve had patients that have passed away that haven’t had COVID, but it’s been during an outbreak and there’s been some moving back and forth with public health on ... whether or not we report those as deaths in the home due to COVID or not,” Callaghan said.
The city reported 17 deaths at the Macklin Street home in Westdale, an increase of two from the day before. This matches the number Shalom Village reported on its website late Monday. (The city’s numbers are as of Jan. 4 at 3 p.m., which may explain why Shalom reported two deaths more than the city on Tuesday.)
When counting deaths, public health includes “the number of COVID-19 cases who died,” according to the city’s website. “Deaths are included whether or not COVID-19 was determined to be a contributing or underlying cause of death.”
Those deaths include “confirmed positive cases at death or if the home chose to swab post-mortem and got a positive result,” said an email statement from city spokesperson Jacqueline Durlov.
Only confirmed cases are counted as deaths, Durlov said, indicating that those who show symptoms prior to death but haven’t been tested are not counted. Individual homes decide whether to test a resident after they have died, Durlov added. It is unclear whether any of the city’s long-term-care homes do so.
As far as deaths in long-term-care staff or their family members are concerned, Durlov said “only primary cases” are counted, which means if the staff or family member was infected directly from the outbreak, their death would be included on the city’s outbreak table. It is unclear how a direct infection is determined.
Based on numbers reported publicly by Shalom, the home is now tied with Chartwell Willowgrove for the second-most COVID-19 fatalities in a Hamilton outbreak. The outbreak at Chartwell Willowgrove was declared over on Jan. 2.
Grace Villa reported three new cases, for a total of 231, including 143 resident and 86 staff cases, according to the city. At Shalom, the city reported 170 cases, including 90 resident, 77 staff and three visitor cases.
However, Shalom itself reported 184 cases late Jan. 4, with 77 staff, 100 residents, three essential caregivers and four “individuals” who are in hospital. Of those, 131 cases were listed as resolved.
The number of active cases at Grace Villa is not known. The home has not released its COVID-19 numbers in the past, nor does it post them publicly. The province reports 37 active cases at the home, but provincial numbers have been inaccurate in the past.
The three remaining long-term-care deaths reported Tuesday occurred at Blackadar Continuing Care Centre in Dundas and Aberdeen Gardens Retirement Residence in the Kirkendall neighbourhood, which each reported their first death.
A new death was also reported at St. Elizabeth Retirement Residence on the west Mountain, for a total of three.
Meanwhile, Shalom Village workers continued to receive COVID-19 vaccines.
“We’re roughly at 70 vaccinations since last week,” said Callaghan at the town hall. The Spectator previously reported that workers at Grace Villa have also received vaccinations, however, the home did not provide specific numbers.
Maria Iqbal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator