Feeling ill? Stay away from care homes and hospitals, seniors advocate asks

B.C. seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie.

B.C.’s seniors advocate is advising anyone who has flu-like symptoms to take a break from visiting a loved one in a care facility.

Isobel Mackenzie, the advocate, said Tuesday that there is no evidence that the new coronavirus has entered any long-term care home or acute-care hospital in B.C., as it has across the border in Washington state.

If that were to happen in B.C., she said, the health care system would implement procedures it uses to deal with outbreaks of other communicative disease in care homes such as influenza and norovirus.

“I think what people should be reassured about at the moment is that if we have a loved one in a care home, we have those protocols in place,” she said. “If you aren’t feeling well, if you have the sniffles or a bit of the flu, don’t go and visit your mom or dad or loved in in a care home. Wait until you feel better.”

Mackenzie’s comments come after Washington state reported 27 people with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, and nine deaths. All cases are clustered in two adjacent Seattle-area counties with five of the deaths and several of the cases at a long-term care nursing home in Kirkland.

“This is an extraordinary situation,” Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, said. “We need everybody to start thinking about what do I need to do to protect my family and myself to prevent transmission of this in our community. Right now, that’s stay home even if you think you have a cold.”

Henry echoed Mackenzie’s comments about not visiting family and friends in long-term care homes if you’re feeling ill.

“We know that’s an area where people are very vulnerable,” she said. “We’ve seen what’s happened in Washington state. We want to be extra cautious about staying away from people who are at risk from having severe illness from COVID-19, particularly in the next few weeks.”

In a joint statement, Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said employers should increase the availability of supplies used for cleaning and hand hygiene and think about how they would manage absenteeism by allowing employees to work remotely or attend virtual meetings.

“Schools should be increasing cleaning and hand hygiene, educating students on respiratory etiquette, in addition to putting mechanisms in place to support students who may be away for extended periods,” the statement said.

The best precaution people can take is washing their hands and face, Henry said. “Wash your hands like you’ve been chopping jalapenos and need to change your contacts,” Henry said.

With files from CP


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