COVID-19: Warning about a second catastrophe in long-term care homes.
The second wave of COVID-19 in Ontario, long-term care homes could be more devastating than the first if urgent action is not taken, according to a leading geriatrician and the head of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario.
Dr. Nathan Stall, a geriatrician at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, and Doris Grinspun, executive director of the RNAO, said a systemic bias against long-term care residents and lack of effective action after the first wave, have put long-term care residents at risk for a repeat disaster as cases climb in the province.
By keeping businesses open, Stall said the province appears to tolerate deaths in long-term care “as the cost of doing business. That is chilling.”
Stall and Grinspun want the province to institute a 28-day lockdown — excluding essential services and schools — in all red zones across the province to lower rising case counts. Keeping COVID-19 out of communities, they said, is the only practical way of keeping it out of vulnerable long-term care homes.
“We do not make this call for lockdown without the recognition that they will be at a terrible cost to people,” Stall said. “But we cannot have happen again what we saw in the first wave.”
On Friday afternoon, Premier Doug Ford tightened restrictions in a colour-coded provincial framework that was unveiled just nine days ago, after new projections showed Ontario is on course to have 6,500 cases a day by mid-December.
According to Ottawa Citizen, Ford, who has been criticized for ignoring the advice of experts in the original framework, said he acted now in response to new information about the pandemic trajectory in the province.
The change moved hard-hit areas, including Toronto and Peel, into the red zone with the most stringent restrictions before lockdown. Ottawa remains in the orange zone.
“We are staring down the barrel of another lockdown and I will not hesitate for a second if we have to go further because our number one priority right now is getting these numbers down,” said Ford.
The changes, which still allow indoor dining with restrictions, do not go as far as Stall and Grinspun, among others, are calling for.
The high death rates among long-term care residents in Ontario during the first wave of COVID-19 are widely seen as a province-wide shame. About 1,800 long-term care residents died in the province between March and May, making up around two-thirds of all COVID-19 deaths says the report.
After a lull in the summer, long-term care outbreaks have begun to increase. As of Thursday, November 13, 238 long-term care residents had died during the second wave of COVID-19 in Ontario, and there were 162 active outbreaks.