In one tiny long-term care home, two-thirds of residents battle COVID

·3 min read

A second resident at a small South Huron long-term care home has died amid a COVID-19 outbreak that’s infected nearly two-thirds of all residents.

Thirty-one residents and eight staff at Exeter Villa have tested positive for the novel coronavirus since an outbreak was declared Dec. 18, but officials at the home say those currently infected are experiencing only mild symptoms.

“I have nobody who is feeling sick or who is not doing well,” said Erika King, Exeter Villa’s administrator. “We’ve been managing it well. The symptoms are very minor.”

The home has 53 long-term care beds, six of which are temporary and were added at the beginning of the pandemic.

Of the 31 total resident positive cases, 11 are "resolved": nine recovered and two dead.

King said the two residents who have died — which marked Huron-Perth’s 22nd and 23rd deaths due to COVID-19 — did not suffer severe COVID-19 symptoms but were considered high-risk and had other conditions.

“It was closer to a natural progression,” she said. “(They) might have passed with or without a positive, but they did get a positive.”

In Exeter Villa's separate retirement home wing, only one resident has tested positive and has since recovered.

Only one of the eight cases among staff is active.

Although King said the home instituted “very aggressive measures” to curb the spread of the virus, including isolating all residents, it wasn’t enough to stop nearly two-thirds of the residents from contracting COVID-19.

“We do tend to expect it to take the course it has taken” once it’s in the building, King said.

The reaction of staff has been "unhappiness rather than shock.”

Prevalence testing rather than swaths of symptomatic residents led to catching most of the positive cases, King added.

Huron-Perth Public Health reported 12 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday. There are 96 active cases in the region, with four people in hospital due to the virus.

Seven long-term care and retirement homes in that public health area have active outbreaks.

There have been a total of 793 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began in Huron-Perth, with 58 in South Huron, the small municipality where Exeter Villa is located.

The region’s top public health doctor, Miriam Klassen, commended staff at Exeter Villa for ensuring “the care of the residents is the first priority.”

She said it’s still unclear why some long-term care homes suffer massive COVID-19 outbreaks and others get stamped out at only a handful of cases.

“There’s a lot we don’t understand about this virus,” Klassen said, “We may learn there are certain people that spread more widely or certain factors that set up conditions for these super spreader events.”

She said between staff living their lives outside of work, visitors to homes and asymptomatic carriers, long-term care homes are still at risk of being exposed to COVID-19.

“There’s lots of infection prevention control that have decreased the chance of COVID” entering long-term care homes, Klassen said. “I don’t think you can stop it entirely.”

maxmartin@postmedia.com The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Max Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press