An Oshawa long-term care home is fighting an outbreak of COVID-19 that has claimed the life of one resident and sent 28 others into isolation, according to Durham Region health officials.
Dr. Robert Kyle, Durham Region's medical officer of health, said in an email to CBC Toronto on Wednesday that 28 residents of Hillsdale Terraces are confined to three units in the home.
Five residents at Hillsdale Terraces have tested positive for the virus.
One of the five, a woman in her 90s, displayed symptoms on March 19. She was transferred to Lakeridge Health Oshawa on March 22 and died in hospital on March 23.
The woman was tested after her death, Kyle said. The health department received her test results the day she died.
Kyle said the health department is "taking every precaution" to prevent further spread of the virus in the home. Two or more cases of COVID-19 constitute an outbreak.
"Staff are diligently monitoring all residents for unusual respiratory symptoms such as cough, runny nose, nasal congestion, sore throat. We have isolation protocols in place for those who show symptoms, to help prevent the spread of this virus," Kyle said.
"We have enhanced sanitation measures and continue to encourage those in our homes to practice good hygiene. We are also limiting close interactions among those within our homes."
Kyle added the department is taking active steps to protect staff by following infection control protocols.
"Staff are wearing personal protective equipment, including a surgical mask with a shield, a gown and gloves when providing care to residents in isolation. We are also actively screening all employees, and encouraging good hygiene and social distancing where possible," he said.
As for family members of residents, Kyle said he would like to reassure them that staff are working hard to contain the outbreak. He said the health of residents and staff in the home is "very important to us" and safety is a top priority.
"We are incredibly proud of our health-care staff working on the front line to provide a continued high level of care for all residents," he said.
Meanwhile, in Toronto, city officials reported the deaths of two residents in a Scarborough care home on Wednesday. No details were provided about the residents at Seven Oaks.
Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto's medical officer of health, expressed condolences to family and friends of the two residents on Wednesday at a news conference. She also announced a third COVID-19 death in Toronto, saying an elderly man with pre-existing health conditions who tested positive at North York General had died.
TPH working with 11 care homes on COVID-19
Toronto Public Health officials say they are working with 11 long-term care homes in the city to ensure proper procedures are being followed after those facilities reported having either COVID-19 cases or visitors who were infected with the virus.
Dr. Elizabeth Rea, associate medical officer of health, said: "Part of our core work in public health is working with long-term care homes to ensure proper Infection, Prevention and Control (IPAC) Measures are in place to prevent disease spread."
Rea said long-term care home have high standards when it come to infection prevention and control and procedures have been "enhanced" due to the global outbreak of COVID-19.
She identified only one of the 11 care homes with which Toronto Public Health is working. St. Clair O'Connor Community Inc. declared an outbreak on March 22. There are now three confirmed cases involving residents at the facility, she said.
"We are working with them closely," she said.
"When we learned of this situation at St Clair-O'Connor nursing home, we acted on this information immediately and followed up directly with the facility to ensure appropriate IPAC measures were in place," she said.
Lack of social distancing puts residents at risk, official says
These measures include putting residents in isolation in their rooms, increasing cleaning, enhancing surveillance to detect if any more staff or residents are ill and ensuring staff work only at the facility and not at others.
It also means following Ontario health ministry instructions to restrict visitors, screen staff for symptoms at entry and cancel group activities. As well, staff who work there are told to stay home if sick.
Rea said Toronto Public Health recommends that family members and friends connect with long-term care residents by phone, video or online.
"Those who are not social distancing are putting people at risk, including residents in long-term care homes and those who take care of them," she said.