Negative swab testing gives local health officials positive vibe

Photo via CK Public Health

Chatham-Kent health officials are celebrating a victory in the battle against COVID-19 after no long term care residents tested positive for the virus following mass testing ordered by the province.

On April 21, all health units were directed by the province to conduct swab testing at all of their respective nursing homes to find out why so many outbreaks and coronavirus cases were happening at those facilities across Ontario. CK Public Health immediately partnered with Chatham-Kent Health Alliance and local paramedics to test approximately 1,700 residents and staff at seven long term facilities. All of the tests came back negative.

The local public health unit said the success of the recent swabbing initiative has proven that enhanced public health measures established in response to the pandemic are working. Chatham-Kent’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby credits not allowing staff to move from one home to another, the early implementation of visitor restrictions and rigorous infection control measures, and some luck as important factors in the overall success at local nursing homes.

Local health officials said approximately 85 per cent of staff and 95 per cent of residents were tested. Some of the residents were not tested because they refused and some staff didn’t get tested because of scheduling difficulties and leaves of absence.

“This was a significant undertaking, and our ability to carry it out in such a timely manner can be attributed to the diligence and flexibility of Long Term Care Home staff and residents,” said Colby. “The efforts of all involved certainly contribute to health protection within our community.”

General Manager of Community Human Services and CEO of CK Public Health April Rietdyk said the long term care staff are heroes and municipal staff are honoured to be part of helping them keep their residents safe.

“As a community, Chatham-Kent has demonstrated time and time again the ability to work together towards a common goal,” she said. “Keeping our community safe requires every one of us to do our part.”

In some cases, the nursing homes chose to do the swabbing themselves.

“I’m proud of the work we’ve accomplished thus far through this highly collaborative group of health system partners,” said CKHA CEO Lori Marshall. “The results of our swabbing blitz in Long Term Care Homes truly proves that our public health measures are making a difference.”

Marshall thanks the community for its commitment to following physical distancing measures and practicing consistent hand hygiene because it has ensured our most vulnerable residents remain protected and our hospital resources are not overwhelmed.

Donald MacLellan, General Manager of Chatham-Kent’s paramedics, said it was a complete team effort and he’s very proud of his men and women.

“I’d like to thank our Community Paramedics who answered the call to help our partners carry out proactive testing for our most vulnerable populations. It’s been a team effort since the beginning to ensure our community remains healthy during this pandemic,” said MacLellan. “Our partners at CK Public Health, CKHA and Long Term Care Homes have shown outstanding leadership and dedication during this challenging time.”

The nursing homes are also getting kudos for their continued diligence in following infection control practices and enhanced public health restrictions.

CK Public Health said these positive testing results are a major accomplishment for the community of Chatham-Kent.

Ontario is reporting 190 outbreaks at long term care homes across the province with more than 2,500 confirmed cases for residents in those facilities and just over 1,600 staff infected with the virus. A total of 1,408 residents and five staff have been killed by COVID-19 at those nursing homes.