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Update: COVID-19 outbreak at CHCH now totals 12 cases

The COVID-19 outbreak at the Centre d’Hébergement du Comté de Huntingdon (Huntingdon Residential and Long-term Care Centre) that started on Sept. 23 with the discovery of two cases has now spread. At this time, 12 out of 56 residents have tested positive for the highly infectious virus. Two deaths have also been attributed to the virus. The CHSLD, which is included on the government’s list of public long-term care establishments with at least one case, is now considered to be at orange alert, with an infection rate of around 18.5 per cent.

“This is COVID, and this is what it does,” says Dr. Catherine Bélanger, the COVID-19 coordinator for the Haut-Saint-Laurent local health network. “This is not a surprise to me,” she says of the rapid spread of the virus through the Huntingdon-based CHSLD. In fact, she suggests, it is her worst nightmare.


At least 12 residents at the CHCH in Huntingdon have tested positive for COVID-19. There have also been 2 deaths due to the virus recorded at the CHSLD. PHOTO Sarah Rennie


In reaction to the outbreak, there is now a doctor on site at the CHCH all day, and on-call at night. “We are providing a much more intensive medical presence,” Bélanger says of the care the patients are receiving. “Outbreaks in these types of closed environments can be so devastating. So, we have even more of a duty toward (the residents),” she explains. “We have put measures in place such that I feel confident we will be able to prevent further spread,” she continues, while admitting she expects there will be more cases diagnosed and that there is no way of knowing how many residents may fall ill. “In 10 days, we will know if we have been successful at containing the outbreak or not.”

Bélanger worked in three CHSLDs with outbreaks of COVID-19 during the first wave of the pandemic in the spring. She says that the key to containing an outbreak is to respond quickly to control the spread of the virus. “We are monitoring these patients like a hawk,” she maintains, suggesting COVID is not like other infections where it is worse at the beginning. “COVID deterioration happens between Days 7 and 10,” she says. For this reason, Bélanger and the team at the CHCH are focused at this time on the quality of life of their patients despite the outbreak. “Humanity and dignity are at the centre of their care.”

All of the CHCH’s patients and their families are being updated on the outbreak as it evolves. The outbreak has also been contained to Huntingdon and did not spread to the Centre d’Hébergement Ormstown (CHO) despite the fact some employees work in both establishments. A request was filed by the CISSSMO with the Health Ministry very early on in the outbreak to enact provisions of ministerial order 007 relating to the Public Health Act, to stop the movement of personnel. In referring to the staff at the CHCH, Bélanger is content with the effort being made to control the virus’s spread. “I am actually very proud of what is happening in Huntingdon,” she says of efforts to contain the outbreak.

Start of the second wave

Dr. Bélanger says that while the start of the second wave in Quebec has come earlier than anticipated, it is very clear to healthcare workers on the ground that we are indeed at the start of a wave that is building fast. Locally, however, the numbers remain quite low with only 19 active cases as of Oct. 6 in the Haut-Saint-Laurent. The numbers in surrounding regions are increasing as well, but not at an overly alarming rate. There are presently 156 active cases in the Jardins-Roussillon LHN, 37 cases in the Vaudreuil-Soulanges LHN, and 34 cases in the Suroît LHN.

The Barrie Memorial Hospital in Ormstown is still a complete cold zone, and doctors are not seeing an increase in patients presenting at the ER with COVID-like symptoms. “People are doing a good job in our area,” says Bélanger. With that in mind, she says it is important to double down on our efforts and continue to minimize travel, practise social distancing, wear a mask in public, and wash hands.


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