Only one positive case in Island long term care facilities as of Monday, retest results returned negative

MANITOULIN—Universal testing for COVID-19 at Manitoulin long term care facilities is two thirds complete, with only one positive test result appearing at the Wikwemikong Nursing Home. Retesting was conducted on the Wikwemikong Nursing Home resident who tested positive and all those who may have come in contact with her—all 18 of those tests came back negative on Tuesday.

The case will still be treated as a positive even after a second negative test result comes back—but will be considered cleared. The staff and resident will continue to be isolated until May 18-19.

Manitoulin Centennial Manor’s results all came back negative over the weekend.

Wikwemikong Nursing Home reported an outbreak on Friday, April 8 when a female resident in her 70s tested positive. The positive was the only one of 120 staff and residents to test positive leaving the administration scratching their heads as to how the virus could have been transmitted to a resident given the strict protocols in place. The resident had not travelled or been in contact with anyone with COVID-19.

In a letter posted online around 6 pm on Friday, Wiikwemkoong Ogimaa Duke Peltier said that while the outbreak was discovered in the nursing home, it is not currently being considered as a community outbreak. Ogimaa Peltier received welcome news on Tuesday, May 12 that a second set of tests had returned negative. A third test will be required to officially declare the case “cleared.” Until then, all protocols will remain in place.

Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territories Ogimaa Peltier noted that the nursing home is implementing all the appropriate measures and isolation plans. “We are doing everything possible to support the affected individual, staff and all nursing home residents,” he said. “This will include the teachings for symptom tracking, self-monitoring, contact tracing and proper hand hygiene.” On Tuesday, Ogimaa Peltier noted that health unit guidelines require the case to continue to be treated as a positive until there is another negative swab. To that end the resident will remain isolated until at least May 18.

Ogimaa Peltier urged the community to “stay home, maintain our physical distancing, hygiene practices and most of all for us to continue to remember to remain kind, loving and supportive. This isn’t a time to be blaming. We all need to do our part to prevent the further spread of the virus into our community.”

Ogimaa Peltier suggested, if they had not already, that people begin journaling to record any contacts they may have had or where they have been. “Now is the time to begin that,” he said. He said that in keeping those records it was important to include “the time and date of where you have been and who you have been in contact with.”

The chief exhorted residents to call the Wikwemikong Health Centre at 705-690-8941 or the nurse on call at that number if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. “If you do not have any of the COVID-19 symptoms you do not need to be tested,” he said.

“We understand that this can have a big impact on individual’s mental wellbeing and may cause panic, fear and anxiety for our citizens,” concluded Ogimaa Peltier. “If you need someone to talk to, please reach out to our Mental Health Wellness team at 705-348-1937. We are urging our citizens to take this virus and its implications seriously.”

Meanwhile spirits at the long term care facility are remaining high, despite some of the negative commentary that have been directed at the staff and administration online. Residents of the facility celebrated Mother’s Day with mothers being presented with gifts that included wraps and paintings donated by the community, including paintings for each resident courtesy of the paint party company Who’s Crafty.

All tests have been completed at Manitoulin Centennial Manor and have returned negative for staff and residents. “We did complete the testing of 112 residents and staff and I am very glad to report that all of the tests have come back negative,” confirmed Manor administrator Tamara Beam when contacted by The Expositor on Monday. Even though the Manor has instituted extreme measures in order to protect the residents and staff, the wait for the results proved to be a nail biter for everyone, especially in light of Wikwemikong declaring an outbreak following testing there. The Manor is not letting its guard down despite, or perhaps more accurately because, the news that the long term care facility remains COVID-19-free.

“We are continuing to work with and follow the advice of public health,” said Ms. Beam, who said that all protocols that have been put in place since the start of the pandemic will continue. “It is very hard on both the residents and the staff,” she admitted, “especially in light of everything that has been going on.”

The restrictions are particularly hard on residents with dementia who are unable to fully comprehend what is going on (not surprising since there is no one has any experience in which to frame the current situation), but Ms. Beam assures everyone that the Manor staff are working diligently to keep everyone as safe and healthy as possible.

Ms. Beam noted that while she feels relatively secure behind the screening protocols being followed at the Manor, she couldn’t help but feel a great deal of empathy for those working on the front lines in grocery stores and pharmacies. “They have to face it every single day when they go to work,” she said. “I just can’t imagine the stress they are under.”

As for the Lodge in Gore Bay, Stephanie Barber, community relations co-ordinator with Jarlette Health Services, said that testing was ongoing at the Manitoulin Lodge in Gore Bay at press time on Monday, April 11. It is hoped that those tests will also return as negative for both residents and staff.

As of Monday, all tests of suspected cases presenting at the Manitoulin Health Centre emergency department have also returned negative, according to MHC CEO Lynn Foster. “There have still only been the two cases on Manitoulin, before this third positive in Wiikwemkoong,” she noted. “We have been very fortunate.” Ms. Foster went on to praise the adherence to the advice of public health in maintaining physical distance and proper hygiene nearly universally being followed by the general public.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect information received after the newspaper went to print on Monday.