COVID-19 outbreak declared at long-term care home in Port Alberni

COVID-19 outbreak declared at long-term care home in Port Alberni
WatchIsland Health has declared a COVID-19 outbreak at the Tsawaayuss (Rainbow Gardens) long-term care home in Port Alberni. But it's calling the outbreak low-risk. April Lawrence explains.

Island Health has declared a COVID-19 outbreak at the Tsawaayuss (Rainbow Gardens) long-term care home in Port Alberni.

This is Vancouver Island’s first COVID-19 outbreak in a long-term care facility.

According to Island Health, one staff member has tested positive for COVID-19 to date. No residents are currently experiencing symptoms.

“There have been three residents that have been identified as close contacts based on interactions with this staff. None of those residents have symptoms so they’re all asymptomatic,” said Dr. Charmaine Enns, North Island Medical Health Officer for Island Health.

Communication with residents and families is underway, the health authority said.

There are 44 beds at Tsawaayuus Rainbow Gardens, many of which are occupied by local First Nations elders.

“There’s many many of our speakers, our storytellers and I just worry for their health because you know some of them just don’t have good health that are there,” said Dr. Judith Sayers, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council President.

Anxious family members have been calling the Tseshaht First Nation office worried about the use of the term “outbreak.”

B.C. health authorities do declare outbreaks at long-term care facilities if a staff member tests positive as part of a provincial policy.

The staff member who tested positive at Tsawaayuss (Rainbow Gardens) is self-isolating at home.

“[This] is really a low-risk exposure in many ways as well because this person did not have symptoms on those two days they were working,” said Enns.

Tsawaayuss (Rainbow Gardens) is a not-for-profit facility operated by WestCoast Native Health Care Society.

Island Health said the outbreak is confined to the long-term care building and no other areas of the site are affected. Tsawaayuus (Rainbow Gardens) is a multi-level care facility providing 44 complex care beds, 10 assisted living units, and 20 independent living apartments, according to its website. 

Enhanced control measures have been put in place at the site, Island Health said.

Island Health also said it has worked with Tsawaayuss Rainbow Gardens leadership and staff to identify anyone who may have been exposed and is taking steps to protect the health of all residents, staff and families.

The following measures have been proactively implemented at the site:

  • Staffing levels will be maintained to provide resident care.
  • Visitors are restricted throughout the facility.
  • Staff and resident movement in the facility has been restricted.
  • Cleaning and infection control measures have been enhanced.
  • Residents, families and staff are being notified.
  • Twice a day screening of all staff and residents.

During this time, Island Health said it will have additional presence at the site to take any further actions required, support the facility and answer questions from staff, residents and family members.

Tsawaayuus (Rainbow Gardens) in Port Alberni (Google Maps)

Tsawaayuus (Rainbow Gardens) in Port Alberni (Google Maps)

This outbreak is the second declared at a healthcare facility in Island Health.  A COVID-19 outbreak was declared at the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital (NRGH) on Nov. 11 after transmission in the transitional care unit.

Island Health says the Tsawaayuus (Rainbow Gardens) outbreak is not connected to the NRGH outbreak.

Island Health also has five current COVID-19 school exposures listed:

  • A cluster at Dover Bay Secondary, 6135 McGirr Rd. Nanaimo on Nov. 2, 5, 6.
  • A cluster at John Barsby Secondary 550 Seventh St. Nanaimo. The first exposure was on Nov. 5,6. The second exposure was Nov. 9, 10.
  • An exposure at Frank J Ney Elementary 5301 Williamson Rd. Nanaimo on Nov. 12.
  • A cluster at Randerson Ridge Elementary 6021 Nelson Rd., Nanaimo on Nov. 4,5,6, 9, 10
  • An exposure at Ladysmith Secondary School 710 6th Ave. Ladysmith on Nov. 9, 10, 12, 13

There is also a possible COVID-19 exposure at Browns Socialhouse at 1661 Cliffe Ave. in Courtenay between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Nov. 3 and 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Nov. 5.

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