Fifteen people — including patient attendants, kitchen staff, maintenance workers and cleaners — have packed their bags and said goodbye to partners, parents and children to move into the Manoir Stanstead seniors' home where they work.
Also taking up residence is a bulldog-Shih Tzu mix named Snow White.
Last spring, staff did the same thing for a month and managed to keep COVID-19 at bay while maintaining a normal life for the residents.
This time around, the decision came after the province announced seniors' homes should serve meals in individual rooms instead of the dining hall.
"We just don't think that's human," said Manoir Stanstead assistant director and patient attendant Donna Rolfe. "By us locking in, they can go to the dining room and eat and socialize, which is very important for them."
Rolfe says the residence is like "one big family," and forming a communal bubble means they can all enjoy bingo, movie nights, hockey games on TV and more socializing.
However, staff members are still wearing masks and keeping a two-metre distance from residents, whenever possible.
"They're doing fine," Rolfe said. "They're happy with the dog, of course, but they're also happy we've moved in and they feel loved."
The move meant big sacrifices for some people, including patient attendant Angèle Trudel, who has a partner and five children at home.
But Trudel said her family was understanding and supported her decision.
"We do some FaceTime," she said. "It's not the same as being all together but it's good."
And Trudel brought Snow White with her, who enjoys rides around the home on seniors' walkers.
Rolfe said the staff and their families understand the importance of what they're doing by moving into the residence.
She said thankfully there aren't many COVID-19 cases in Stanstead but in the small town, even one case in the residence could be disastrous.
"We got all the support from the families that they will not come in while we're doing this," she said. "They'll FaceTime or call, but they won't come in. So this way we're in our own little bubble and the residents can get out of their rooms, not just four walls."
It's the second time the staff at Manoir Stanstead has moved in.
"We learned a lot from the last time, so it's going really well this time," Rolfe said.
She said she's trying to keep life and routine as normal as possible for the residents and staff, including giving employees privacy in their own rooms when they're off the clock.
Rolfe says the staff will move out Feb. 8, regardless of whether the province extends its current restrictions.
By Jan. 23, all of the patient attendants at Manoir Stanstead will have received the COVID-19 vaccine.