The Gleaner
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Outbreak at CHO stabilizing, but community spread continues

The coronavirus outbreak at the Centre d’Hébergement d’Ormstown (CHO) is being reined in by a team of dedicated staff and doctors in the fully functional COVID-19 unit that has taken over the entire second floor of the facility. According to the information released by the Quebec government on Jan. 23, there were 27 active cases among residents. Unfortunately, there have been at least 10 deaths now recorded as a result of this outbreak. The Gleaner has reached out to the Montérégie-West Integrated Health and Social Services Centre (CISSSMO) on numerous occasions for confirmation of the number of employees who have contracted the virus, but did not receive a response as of press time.

According to Dr. Catherine Bélanger, the COVID-19 coordinator for the Haut-Saint-Laurent local health network (LHN), there are up to three doctors on site daily to care for patients. “As there is no treatment for COVID, we support the patients as they fight the infection,” she explains, noting that residents are being treated for symptoms in the hot zone on site. “Some have recovered,” Bélanger confirms, “and many have mild or no symptoms.”

While an epidemiological investigation is underway, Bélanger says “it is likely that the whole CHO was exposed to the virus before it was discovered.” As such, the doctors and staff at the CHO were able to prepare accordingly for what they assumed would be a sizeable outbreak when the first case was diagnosed on the second floor in early January.

Doctors believe the outbreak is now starting to be controlled. “We are still looking at several weeks, given the nature of the infection, but it is stabilizing,” says Dr. Justin Wight, who has been working in the hot zone. Thankfully, “the private residences have been spared, so far,” he confirms, while explaining that the CISSSMO is in contact with all residences and that there is “a mechanism in place to support and get things under control as quickly as possible” in the event a positive case is diagnosed.

Local community spread

After having remained a relative cold zone for the entire first wave and long into the second swell of the virus, the Valley in general “is no longer spared,” Wight says, pointing to the number of local outbreaks as evidence of community spread. “There are just more and more on the territory,” he says, referring to the string of outbreaks not only in Ormstown at the Barrie Memorial Hospital, the Medical Centre and the CHO, but also at the Suroît Hospital in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, which has been dealing with two outbreaks since the end of December that have now infected around 50 people, including patients and employees.

For much of the past week, the Haut-Saint-Laurent had the highest infection rate of the entire Montérégie region. As of Jan. 23 there were almost 90 active cases in the area, tallying up just the Haut-Saint-Laurent and Hemmingford. “It is not surprising to see this increase here,” says Wight, adding that without a doubt the higher number of cases is due to the virus being transferred within the general population.

“The vaccine gives us a reason for optimism,” he says. “But we have to continue to be safe, and to be vigilant, to really curb the community spread that we are seeing.”

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