COVID-19 case counts at the Castleview Care Centre continue to climb. Interior Health is reporting 35 resident and five staff cases as well as one death connected to the outbreak as of Feb. 14.
The outbreak was first declared at the 61-bed long-term care facility on Jan. 31
The actual number of residents and staff that have had COVID-19 in the last few weeks is likely higher as only cases that have been confirmed by PCR tests are included in official outbreak case counts. That means that the residents and the staff who have taken rapid tests or who are probable cases based on symptoms are not included in the counts.
Interior Health Medical Health Officer Karin Goodison told Castlegar News that using only PCR test results in case counts is a bit of a “glitch” in the current reporting system and efforts are being made to find a workable and accurate solution.
“There is just not a good way to align the counts at this time,” she said.
Goodison said that the “probable cases” based on symptoms and rapid tests are still used in decision making regarding how an outbreak is managed at a particular care facility.
She said that both types of tests have their place and rapid tests are useful because they correlate with how infectious people are. Because PCR tests are more sensitive, they can pick up even weeks-old infections in a person who may no longer be symptomatic or contagious.
As for staff, their COVID-19 infection must be attributed to a workplace exposure by workplace health and safety, public health, or infection prevention and control to be included in the outbreak counts.
Interior Health recommends that residents be put in isolation if they are symptomatic, no matter what their test results may be. So isolation numbers may also be higher than official case counts.
Goodison says isolation times for individuals vary based on symptom recovery and pre-existing conditions, but the minimum isolation time is five days. Isolation is a key tool in slowing transmission in these facilities.
Sometimes non-symptomatic residents may be put into isolation as well.
Isolation may be used to protect the most vulnerable including those that are not vaccinated and those with underlying conditions, according to Goodison.
Essential visitors (those that help to provide care and support for a resident) are allowed into facilities with outbreaks and are actually encouraged as staff can become very busy during an outbreak.
Goodison says any assistance, even just entertaining an isolated resident for a few hours, can be extremely helpful.
A second designated visitor is also allowed to visit a resident unless the medical health officer decides it is necessary to curtail visits to help contain a specific outbreak.
Goodison reports that in Interior Health, they are noticing that the risk of death in care homes is higher in those that are not vaccinated against COVID-19.
“If you have a loved one that is not vaccinated, please get them vaccinated,” she said.
When it comes to reporting deaths in care homes with outbreaks, there is a delay between when the death occurs and when it is included in official outbreak reports.
Goodison explained that this is because any death during an outbreak must be reviewed to determine whether or not it was aggravated or caused by COVID-19. Coincidental deaths at a facility will not be included in outbreak counts.
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