Montreal private seniors' home hit with COVID-19 outbreak for the 1st time

·2 min read
The director general of Résidence Les Cascades in Montréal-Nord says many private seniors' residences currently have COVID-19 cases due to the Quebec government's lifting of the mask mandate. (Radio-Canada - image credit)
The director general of Résidence Les Cascades in Montréal-Nord says many private seniors' residences currently have COVID-19 cases due to the Quebec government's lifting of the mask mandate. (Radio-Canada - image credit)

A private seniors' residence in Montréal-Nord that went unscathed during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic is seeing its first outbreak as infections creep back up in some seniors' homes across Quebec.

Ninety-year-old Solange Touchette, a resident at Résidence Les Cascades, told CBC News that residents were told to stay in their units, except for masked and socially distanced trips to the grocery store or pharmacy on the ground floor of the building.

Liana Irimias, the director general of the private seniors' residence (RPA), confirmed the outbreak in an email. She said many RPAs currently have COVID-19 cases since the Quebec government's lifting of the mask mandate — something the institution didn't support.

"Even visitors can enter without masks," Irimias lamented. She said there had been no COVID-19 cases at the home until now, precisely because of strict sanitary measures in the province.

Irimias said her home currently has no hospitalizations and the vast majority of residents have received four doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Montréal-Nord's regional health authority, the CIUSSS du Nord-de-l'Île-de-Montréal, said that its initial findings show that outbreak protocols are being followed at the home, but it did not say how many active cases there are.

As of June 29, the most recent data available, there are 563 active cases of COVID-19 in the province's RPAs. That's five per cent of residents affected. In the province's long-term care homes (CHSLD), there are 242 active cases. That's 16 per cent of residents affected.

Urging caution, balance

Benoit Barbeau, a virologist in the department of biological sciences at the Université du Québec à Montréal, says while there may be more people vaccinated, that doesn't mean COVID-19 is any less dangerous for those in at-risk groups, including people living in long-term care homes and seniors' residences.

"These are older people, part of the vulnerable population, and if they get infected with the current outbreak, then the possibility of having more important health issues is increased," he said.

Barbeau said given the epidemiological situation in Quebec — which shows an increase in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations due to new, highly transmissible Omicron subvariants — it's important vulnerable people continue to mask up, wash their hands and socially distance.

"I think that we need to be very much aware that more outbreaks will be present everywhere," Barbeau said. "We need to be extremely cautious in those homes to limit the extent of those outbreaks."

Raoul Charbonneau, president of a group dedicated to defending the rights of people living in RPAs, says wearing a mask, washing hands and social distancing are appropriate measures to recommend. But "locking residents up [like they're] in jail" is unacceptable.

"Severe confinement makes more problems than the COVID itself," said Charbonneau, with the Association des Comités de Résidents Officielle du Québec.

"We need a balance between sanitary measures and the mental health of residents."

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