After being at the center of deaths and massive outbreaks of COVID-19, the city’s long-term care homes have promising new data that could be a sign of encouragement to come.
This week, Toronto Public Health reported a “substantial drop” in the rate of positive tests for seniors in long-term care homes, from 10.9% in November to just 0.6% as of the week of. Feb. 7 – well below the city’s overall rate of 4.8%.
It was the “first sign” that Mayor John Tory said this week the city’s vaccination efforts were working.
In the 10 homes operated by the city of Toronto, there was only one staff member who tested positive recently and no resident who had COVID-19.
“This week was the first week that we saw zeros for a short period of time, which was so striking for us,” said Paul Raftis, Toronto’s senior care manager. Caring for the most vulnerable in the city kept him from sleeping at night. Now the drop in numbers has brought a huge wave of relief.
“There really are no words for it. “
The sharp drop comes just a week after the city celebrated the successful vaccination of more than 10,000 residents in the city’s 87 LTCs – public, non-profit and for-profit.
It took 47 days to fully deploy two doses of vaccine to residents. Key staff and caregivers are still being immunized.
When the vaccines are available, the Toronto hospital teams responsible for administering them have proven that hundreds of doses can be successfully deployed within days.
Raftis said as of this week that the vast majority of residents – 95% – had been vaccinated.
Going forward, he said it was important that they did not let their guard down.
Rapid antigen tests have been implemented in half of the homes in the city and he hopes to see everyone tested every day as part of additional prevention measures.
The rapid test can screen visitors home within 15 minutes, and anyone who tests positive is sent home for self-isolation and must book a lab test to confirm.
Out of 7,000 recent screens, 11 people were positive, Raftis said, but not all of them have been confirmed positive by lab tests. This process, he said, increased their ability to help identify potential threats and mitigate the spread.
“We don’t want to let our guard down on this,” he said. “We are cautiously optimistic.”
While the situation in Toronto is good news, said Dr Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, there have been delays in vaccinating other vulnerable seniors in the province.
In an article published Tuesday, Sinha and her co-authors detail how the federal government administered equal doses per capita to each province and territory. While there were enough doses to deliver the initial injection to the entire LTC population in Ontario at the end of December, it lagged behind other provinces.
“As of January 5, 2021, less than 4,000 (5.5%) of Ontario’s 72,000 LTC residents had received an initial dose of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, and more than 26,000 (26%) of their over 100,000 LTC employees, ”the study said. “By comparison, British Columbia had administered a first dose to over 4,700 (20%) of its LTC residents and 11,600 (50%) of its LTC staff as of January 4, 2021.”
The result, Sinha told The Star, is a “stubbornly high” number of provincial outbreaks in the event of an outbreak.
He said what they had learned so far from vaccinated homes was optimistic – vaccines appear to be as effective in older people as they are in younger citizens.
“When you see COVID-19 just seems to be melting away… that’s really good news,” he said. But it “really highlights why Ontario needs to step up its game and get all residents of all congregations immunized.”
TPH reported this week on a recent study from Public Health Scotland which showed Pfizer’s vaccine reduced the risk of hospitalization from COVID-19 by 85% by the fourth week of receiving the first dose and up to 80%. % for old people. 80 years and over.
“This is great news,” said Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto Medical Officer of Health. “It demonstrates the effectiveness of the vaccine and the efforts of so many people and organizations to reduce the spread and protect people living in long-term care homes and retirement homes.
She noted that vaccines are not the only reason for progress.
“I don’t think that takes away the many practices, the infection prevention and control practices, and all the efforts that have been made to reduce the potential for transmission of COVID-19 in long-term care homes,” she declared. , and stressed the need for several different measures in order to return to normal life.
It is too early to say if visitation rules could be relaxed, de Villa said, and the current advice is to continue to follow hand washing, distancing and other protocols.