Here we are, the week of Christmas, nine months since the start of the pandemic in Canada. Back then, I’m sure many of us were hoping that come holiday time, COVID-19 would be well under control and we would merely be reflecting on this unprecedented year with our loved ones while enjoying our regular traditions. Like you, I am disappointed that this won’t be the case. While there is much to be hopeful about in 2021, today is about continued vigilance and controlling the spread, especially among our most vulnerable.
I would like to update you on the three outbreaks we are currently dealing with. For our staff, residents and families at Seasons Camrose, Seasons Dufferin Centre and Seasons St. Thomas, please refer to your site-specific updates and communication for current outbreak protocols and restrictions in place at your homes.
The situation at Seasons Camrose in Alberta continues to progress well and most cases are considered resolved. We presently have three active resident cases, and I am pleased to report they are recovering well.
Seasons Dufferin Centre in Trenton Ontario was placed in outbreak on December 16 with one positive staff case. All additional team members have been tested and all results were returned negative. We are optimistic that the exposure risk to residents was low and we continue to monitor the situation.
Seasons St. Thomas in Ontario was placed in outbreak on December 17 with one positive staff case. Through Public Health, we conducted surveillance testing among staff and residents who were potentially exposed. All resident results were returned negative and we expect to have the staff results shortly. This is good news and we continue to monitor the situation closely.
In Ontario, a recent Toronto Star article noted that the province is “on a direct path to an absolute brutal January.” This prompted the provincial government to announce a province-wide lockdown starting December 26th. As of that date, all Seasons Retirement Communities in Ontario will be in the grey lockdown area. In the meantime, for up to date information on what zone your Seasons Community is in, and what restrictions have been mandated regarding visitation and absences, please click here.
In Alberta, the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, noted that COVID-19 has now killed more people in that province than influenza did over the past 10 years combined. Dr. Hinshaw issued a letter to residents and families to reinforce the expectations of residents, as it relates to government-imposed restrictions. She encourages residents to stay on-site unless absolutely necessary. Depending on the risk of the activity you engage in offsite (ie an overnight stay with your designated family/support person, non-essential trip) the operator of your building may require you to take safety measures upon your return which may include quarantine away from common areas for 14 days. This advice is in keeping with the policies Seasons has already adopted.
In both provinces, the advice is that people should refrain from social gatherings with anyone outside of their household. In a Global News article, Dr. Hinshaw described how easily we unknowingly spread the virus, “We have seen time and time again of people attending a gathering either with mild symptoms like headaches or a stuffy nose that they didn’t connect with COVID-19, or when they were in a day or two before their symptoms started when they were infectious but didn’t know it. The result has been one case spreading to many.”
In summary, while you as an individual have the right to self-assess for risk, Seasons must consider the greater risk to our retirement communities, including staff and residents. The news of a mutated strain of COVID-19 is very concerning as it is more transmissible than the original. In a Globe & Mail article this morning, Health Canada warns that it might already be in our country undetected. Thus, we need everyone to help us keep COVID-19 out of our homes so that all who live and work with us remain healthy as we enter 2021.
In the homes where visits are permitted, requests for scheduled visits has understandably increased tenfold with the upcoming holidays. Our homes are trying to be flexible and equitable with visitation schedules, bearing in mind specific requirements outlined by provincial requests and outbreak protocols. This undoubtedly means some visitors will be disappointed; however, our primary goal is to remain compliant and COVID-19 free and continue to limit transmission within an outbreak home.
While the holidays are guaranteed to be different, our team members have been working hard to surprise and delight residents with extra care and thoughtful gestures. From physically distant, small group activities where allowed, to door-to-door treats and activities, we want families to rest assured that their loved ones are not alone at Seasons.
In lieu of gifts, we encouraged residents to use our “Holiday Grams” to send words of gratitude and encouragement to team members. I have been deeply moved by many of the comments, as they reflect our teams’ ability to deliver on our company vision to connect in meaningful ways with our residents. Our Fun teams then created beautiful holiday displays out of the holiday grams for all to see.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to our Holiday Food Drive. We were able to make significant donations of non-perishable goods to your local food banks at a time when donations are needed most.
Looking to the future, Ontario vaccine mobilization is in full swing after the announcement of 17 new vaccination sites for the Pfizer vaccine. Late last week, our Windsor/Essex County homes were informed that 35% of their workforce will be eligible for vaccination beginning this week. All other Ontario homes have been told to prepare by providing team member and resident rosters so that we are ready with short notice. We are undertaking the same practice in Alberta, to ensure we are prepared when the time comes.
Given that the Pfizer vaccine requires extreme refrigeration, vaccination must take place at established sites, making it challenging for residents. We anticipate that the Moderna vaccine announcement will come by the end of the year and will help with the inoculation of residents.
It is important to note that provincial vaccination priority will be given to homes not in an outbreak. Another essential reason for us to buckle down now, to ensure that staff and residents are eligible to participate in the vaccination program when selected.
In closing, on behalf of the Seasons Executive Team, I want to thank all of you for the trust you have placed in our company. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought us many challenges. Directives from our provincial governments, sector regulators and public health units have changed frequently and we have had to quickly evolve our daily operations to accommodate them. We have remained steadfast in our infection prevention and control protocols and have seen solid results from these efforts.
Our team members have worked tirelessly through months of heightened precautionary measures. We are grateful for the sacrifices you have made in your household to keep your coworkers and residents safe. Thank you for your commitment, vigilance and grace under pressure.
Thank you to our residents and families for your patience and cooperation. We know this has been a difficult year with much uncertainty. We appreciate the faith you have placed in our commitment to resident health and safety, and the kind words and gestures you’ve bestowed upon our teams.
Wishing all of you a safe and happy holiday season, and good health in 2021.
Chief Operating Officer,
Seasons Retirement Communities
For additional online resources for COVID-19 you can visit the following sites: