As people pass through the six COVID-19 testing centres set up in Akwesasne, Cornwall, and the Five Counties region, the Eastern Ontario Health Unit turns its focus now on making sure seniors in long-term care and retirement homes in the region are safe and not facing the same kind of disease-outbreak risk plaguing other such facilities elsewhere in the province and the rest of Canada.
As people pass through the six COVID-19 testing centres set up in Akwesasne, Cornwall, and the Five Counties region, the Eastern Ontario Health Unit turns its focus now on making sure seniors in long-term care and retirement homes in the region are safe and not facing the same kind of disease-outbreak risk plaguing other such facilities elsewhere in the province and the rest of Canada.

EOHU focus on protecting seniors during COVID pandemic

The pace of the COVID-19 pandemic for the Eastern Ontario region seems slower now but the region’s chief medical health officer is not calling it a victory yet.

“We are still waiting to see how the curve flattens out,” said Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, chief medical health officer for the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU), during his regular media teleconference.

“We are flattening out,” he said. “I’m quite happy about this, but I’m not going to say it’s over. These viruses wax and wane.”

The number of COVID-19 cases for the Five Counties and Cornwall area of Eastern Ontario is now 91, with the Prescott-Russell region tally at 60, while Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry has 17, and the City of Cornwall 14. As of Tuesday, April 28 the number of people in the area who have recovered from COVID-19 infection is 45.

More than 1900 tests for COVID-19 have been done through the six EOHU assessment centres set up in Winchester, Rockland, Casselman, Hawkesbury, Cornwall, and at the Akwesasne reserve in partnership with the Mohawk Council’s health department.

Dr. Roumeliotis noted that one of his main concerns now is to step up assessment and testing for the region’s senior population, with emphasis on people living in long-term care facilities and retirement homes. In other parts of Ontario and the rest of Canada there are problems with COVID-19 outbreaks in seniors homes, which also account for much of the national death toll for the disease.

The EOHU confirmed the first COVID-19 outbreak in a long-term care facility for the region at the Pinecrest Nursing Home in Plantagenet. One staff member went into self-isolation after showing symptoms of COVID-19 and then testing positive for the disease.

Prescott-Russell Ambulance Service paramedics rushed to the nursing home at the EOHU’s request to take swab-test samples from all residents of the nursing and the rest of the staff. Test results came back on April 24, confirming eight residents and two more staff members at the nursing home are positive for COVID-19 though they do not show any symptoms at present.

“We are going to be testing all the long-term care facilities around us,” said Dr. Roumeliotis, noting that there are 17 senior care facilities in the Five Counties and Cornwall area.

Local hospitals are assembling teams to help the EOHU and ambulance services with a comprehensive testing strategy. Dr. Roumeliotis noted that the testing labs will give priority to examining swab samples coming in from seniors care facilities.

“Our priority is to get a handle on our long-term care facilities,” he said, adding that maintaining pandemic guidelines for social distancing, limits on non-essential travel, and other measures also remains important.

“Our focus is on keeping control,” Dr. Roumeliotis said. “The less spread of COVID-19 in the community, the less chance there is of it getting into these (senior care) homes.”

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