Seniors residences are among the B.C. health care facilities taking “robust steps” to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as the risk of severe illness increases sharply for people in their 70s or older.
In a statement, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control said that while the risk remains low at this time, those interacting with people at seniors residences should be aware of the “particular risks” and take precautions to protect the elderly from all respiratory viruses, including COVID-19 and influenza.
B.C.’s senior advocate Isobel Mackenzie told Postmedia she has “complete confidence” in the way B.C.’s health system is managing the virus, adding she wouldn’t hesitate to speak out if she was concerned.
“I don’t think we need to be fearful for seniors in care homes,” she said. “We need to have perspective.”
Mackenzie pointed to the small number of cases of COVID-19 in B.C. despite the high number of people who have been tested. She said the higher risk for seniors right now remains influenza.
In the case of an outbreak of the virus in a seniors residence, disease outbreak protocols would “kick in,” she said. In the past, some B.C. residences have experienced norovirus and influenza outbreaks prompting them to close to visitors and requiring staff to don gloves, gowns and masks.
Echoing the messaging from the BCCDC, Mackenzie said B.C. has a “robust set of protocols” that could be put in place in care homes to deal with an outbreak of COVID-19.
But she said people should avoid visiting loved ones in a care home if they are feeling under the weather.
The BCCDC said all B.C. health care facilities are engaged in identifying those who meet the criteria for possible COVID-19 infection, ensuring they do not pose a risk to others. They are also supporting staff and visitors to follow proper handwashing guidelines and hygiene etiquette.
The centre also had a special message for people who interact with those living in seniors residences saying they should “be aware of the particular risks of respiratory illnesses to older people.”
Precautions to protect residents from all respiratory viruses include regular handwashing, coughing or sneezing into your elbow and staying home if you are unwell, have travelled to affected areas in the previous 14 days, or been in contact with someone who has tested positive.