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Care homes still big concern for Niagara Public Health as equipment shortages loom

13 new cases in Niagara reported on Monday afternoon
Mustafa Hirji, Niagaras top doctor says he is hopeful to see a slowdown of new infection this week. Photo: Montage

Monday saw an increase of 13 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the region, bringing the total tally to 149, out of which 33 are listed as ‘resolved’.

The majority, seven, are linked to an already confirmed case.

The regions acting medical officer of health, Dr. Mustafa Hirji confirmed some are linked to the ongoing outbreaks in five area seniors homes.

Three of the new cases had travel history to south America and Europe.

Another three are listed as ‘community transmission’ after contact tracers failed to locate a place of infection.

Hirji would not provide any closer details about the new infections or how the situation at the outbreak sites for privacy reasons as the region generally don’t provide that information, he said.

One of the sites, privately operated Lundys Lane in Niagara Falls came under scrutiny after reports that the facility held a pub night on March 28, despite repeated advisories of social distancing.

The issue caught the attention of Ontario Premier Doug Ford who made public comments that he will be looking into the matter further.

Dr. Hirji said that the outbreak at Lundys Lane, declared at the home about a week ago, has continued to see cases rising at the home, and that the home is only halfway through the 14-day quarantine period in which new cases could develop.

“Staff and administrators are taking it very seriously. We are working with them, and advising them multiple times per day. We hope to stop seeing new cases there,” said Hirji.

As the region remains hopeful that social isolation measures will continue to have space open for management of new cases in the medical system, health authorities in Niagara is soon to face the global shortage of personal protective equipment for health care workers.

While he could not provide details on the supply, Hirji said that both hospitals and care facilities are faced with the same prospect of soon running out.

“It is something we could face for the entirety of this outbreak. I am sure as we approach that point there will be some creative solutions coming, and some equipment that can be laundered will come into use.”

There have however been some advancements during the challenging time that is putting a big strain on the regional effort to curb COVID-19;

The recent shortage of swabs used for nasal cavity testing for the virus have recently come into stock again for local health care providers.

"Two weeks ago there were over 10,000 tests pending in the province. That is now little under 1000. Results are coming back within 48 hours and we are able to swab everyone in Niagara who needs to be swabbed," Mustafa Hirji said.