COVID-19 outbreaks declared at more than 80 continuing-care homes in Calgary Zone
According to the government of Alberta's provincial outbreak list, dozens of continuing-care homes in the Calgary Zone are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks.
In total, 31 long-term care homes and 52 supportive living facilities are on 'outbreak status' meaning two or more cases are linked to a certain facility.
Carewest currently operates 11 facilities in the Calgary area, with 10 having outbreaks as of Jan. 13. There are a total of 84 active cases amongst staff and 27 active cases amongst residents.
In a statement to CTV News, Carewest says it is "doing everything possible to ensure the continued safety" of residents and clients given the rampant transmission of the Omicron variant in the province.
"While there has been a growing number of staff testing positive, safe staffing levels have been maintained due to the commitment of healthy staff to take on additional shifts, as well as the use of contracted providers," read the statement.
"Carewest has received excellent support from public health officials in the form of infection prevention and control guidelines, access to consultation from public health nurses and the medical officer of health while managing outbreaks at our sites."
Visit limitations and screenings, worker testing, increased proper protective equipment and added cleaning measures are just some of the actions being taken in an attempt to prevent further spread of the virus.
Also on the outbreak list are two homes operated by Extendicare; Cedars Villa and Hillcrest,
Laura Gallant, a spokesperson for the company, says Cedars Villla is no longer on outbreak status, but continues to implement outbreak protocols.
"All positive residents have either minor symptoms or are asymptomatic, and several resident cases are now fully resolved," Gallant said.
"As cases of COVID-19 increase in the communities surrounding long-term care homes, so does the risk that the virus will enter. We are providing regular updates to our residents, team and families during this challenging time."
Although despite the increased safety measures, Calgarians including Ginger Garlough are still concerned about staff infections.
"We just got another email today that a fifth staff member from my mother-in-law's floor has COVID and so now we're seeing the numbers increasing again, and it's all staff members," she said.
"There's no residents that are getting this and we just don't understand why they're risking their jobs and the lives of their residents."
Garlough adds that she moved her 79-year-old mother in-law to the AgeCare Walden Heights location in January 2020 and has only been able to visit her a total of six times in the two years since.
She says her children went a year-and-a-half without seeing their grandmother because protocols limit visiting groups to a maximum of only four people, which means one of her family members is always left out.
"I have nothing bad to say about the care she is receiving at the facility, I just wish the visiting protocols were different for families with younger kids like mine."
Stephanie Rees is going through a similar situation with her 65-year-old mother who currently resides at Providence Care Centre where an outbreak has been identified.
She's only able to wave through the window on most visits, but has been asked to come in and help care for her mother due to staff shortages.
While most residents are able to stay in their rooms and isolate, that wasn’t possible for Rees' mother because she suffers from Huntington's Disease, a brain degenerative condition.
"Over the holidays when the outbreak started and they were looking at testing my mom, they did need some help just keeping her contained in her room because it's really difficult and Providence had asked for the potential for me to come in," Rees said.
"We got lucky in that she was negative for COVID and she was able to walk around but it was just that 24-hour period, we called her, we Facetimed her, we did everything we could to keep her isolated in her room away from others."
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw issued an order on Dec. 23 updating protocols at congregate care facilities that required residents be screened after an absence longer than 24 hours.
Any fully immunized, non-symptomatic residents who were a close contact to a case also have to wear a proper mask for 14 days while out of their rooms and will be rapid tested on days one, three and seven when capacity allows.
The order also noted that local medical officers of health will lead outbreak responses and staff will be limited to one place of work when there is a confirmed outbreak, unless there are exceptional circumstances.
Any admissions or hospital transfers have still been able to take place during outbreak settings, but only if they can be done safely.
CTV News has contacted Alberta Health for information regarding the possible implementation of additional measures at continuing care facilities, but has yet to receive a response.