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

Shown is Quality Foods at 319 Island Highway in Parksville. The Island-based grocery chain announced on Jan. 25 it made a $2-per-hour pay premium, implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic, permanent. (Mandy Moraes photo)
COVID-19: Quality Foods makes $2-per-hour employee pay premium permanent

Island-based grocery chain had extended increase twice in 2020

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: Vancouver Island in a January spike while B.C. cases decrease

Island’s top doc Dr. Stanwick breaks down the Island’s rising numbers

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which cause COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML
B.C. ramping up screening for faster-spreading COVID-19 ‘variants of concern’

B.C. has sequenced about 11,000 COVID-positive samples since last February

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

The search is centered around the waters northeast of Port Angeles

Keygan Power with brother Quintin and mom Allison while camping the weekend before Keygan’s brain hemorrhage on Aug. 2, 2020. (Photo Allison Power)
B.C. teen ‘locked inside,’ battling to regain speech after severe brain bleed

16-year-old suffers traumatic loss of function, still plays a mean game of chess

The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP have arrested a prolific offender who is now facing more than 40 charges. (Black Press file photo)
‘Priority offender’ arrested in Cowichan Valley faces more than 40 charges

Tyler Elrix, 37, had a history of evading police; was ordered not to be in Vancouver Island

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Surrey RCMP are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed at 183 Street and Highway 10 Friday night. (File photo)

Most Read