Care home staff are diligent about wearing personal protective equipment when they are in contact with residents, but less so when they interact with other staff members, B.C. Seniors Advocate says. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Care home staff are diligent about wearing personal protective equipment when they are in contact with residents, but less so when they interact with other staff members, B.C. Seniors Advocate says. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

More COVID-19 testing needed for senior home staff, B.C.’s advocate says

Employees mingling spotted as virus conductor in many workplaces

As coronavirus cases have risen in B.C. this fall, outbreaks in senior care homes have climbed along with them, with fatal consequences among frail elderly people.

B.C.’s worst day so far was Nov. 12, when outbreaks were declared in five care facilities and one hospital, where the sickest residents have to be transferred for ventilation treatment. That brought the total of active outbreak protocols in the health care system to 35, as the rising death total approached 300.

B.C.’s Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie says investigation of the second surge of cases has found the weak spot seen in many workplaces, contact between staff members as they come to and from work or take breaks. Now staff are being tested only if they report symptoms, and as more is learned about COVID-19 transmission, another step is needed.

“We thought the virus was coming in with staff, being transmitted to residents and then that was how it was being transmitted through the care home,” Mackenzie told CFAX radio in Victoria Nov. 23. “What we’re learning is that staff are transmitting it to each other as well. That we’re great at personal protective equipment between us and our patients, and or the residents, but we’re not so great at PPE between ourselves. We don’t think of that as much, in the staff room or coming to work together in the same car, or having a chat in the foyer before we report to our different floors.”

Rapid saliva tests are being used in schools, and they give a result in 30 minutes or less, so they are practical to use every day to stop pre-symptomatic transmission. They are less sensitive than the standard nasal swab sent to a laboratory, but should be used as a first step, with positives kept out of the care home until the second test is complete.

Mackenzie said the second surge of the virus is showing community transmission rates much higher than this spring, and levels in the Lower Mainland suggest better protection of the most vulnerable is needed.

“If everybody comes on shift, nobody’s showing any symptoms, they all think they’re free of COVID, right now we’re not doing any testing,” Mackenzie said. “If we’re doing rapid tests on those people, we are going to catch some people who are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic, but their viral load is high enough that they triggered an immune response and the test will catch that.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC politicsCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Coldstream students took over the Your Letters page in the April 9, 2021, edition of the Vernon Morning Star to offer advice to adults about COVID-19. Interior Health took notice and offered their praise. (Vernon Morning Star)
Coldstream students’ COVID advice praised by Interior Health

Grade 2 and 3 classes from Coldstream Elementary took over the Morning Star’s Letters page April 9

Members of the Okanagan Screen Arts Society received a cheque for $1,500 Thursday, April 15, 2021. The funds are to help the society’s efforts as they prepare take over operation of the Vernon Towne Cinema at the end of July. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Vernon dealership gives Towne Cinema a lift

Vernon Watkin Motor Ford, in business for more than 100 years, donated to the theatre with nearly as long a history

Interior Health’s overdose prevention site in Vernon is saving lives. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Vernon’s controversial overdose prevention site saving lives

Site sees fewer problems than expected, but some still want it moved

Vernon Jubilee Hospital. (File photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared over at Vernon Jubilee Hospital

The outbreak affected four staff, 10 patients and led to three deaths in just over two weeks

Black Crow Cannabis is just one of Vernon's many pot shops now open in town. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Kelowna has highest cannabis fees in Okanagan

Vernon’s 14 stores pay second highest business licence fees

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a quick roundup of the stories that made headlines across the Okanagan, from April 11 to 16

Old English design elements can be seen in the sign of the Summerland Farm and Garden Centre in 1993. The guidelines are no longer in place, but some downtown businesses still show aspects of the days when Summerland had a theme in place. This photo was taken by Summerland photographer Dan Dorotich. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)
Summerland’s Old English theme has been abandoned

From the 1980s until the early 2000s, Summerland had design guidelines in its downtown

Penticton bylaw officers tore down a “pretty significantly sized” homeless camp underneath the bridge near Riverside Drive Friday, April 16 morning. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Penticton bylaw tears down ‘significantly sized’ homeless camp under bridge

Many residents had made complaints about the camp before it was torn down

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

Premier John Horgan receives a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the pharmacy in James Bay Thrifty’s Foods in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. Premier John Horgan gets AstraZeneca shot, encourages others

27% of residents in B.C. have now been vaccinated against COVID-19

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
RCMP intercept vehicle fleeing with infant taken from Kamloops hospital

The baby was at the hospital receiving life-saving care

Most Read