Tsawaayuus Rainbow Gardens is located on Russell Place in Port Alberni. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

Tsawaayuus Rainbow Gardens is located on Russell Place in Port Alberni. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

Island Health declares region’s first COVID-19 outbreak in long-term care

Positive test occurred at Tsawaayuus Rainbow Gardens in Port Alberni

Island Health has declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Tsawaayuus Rainbow Gardens long-term care home in Port Alberni, marking the first COVID-19 outbreak in a long-term care home on Vancouver Island.

According to an Island Health press release dated Tuesday, Nov. 17, one staff member has tested positive for COVID-19 to date, but no residents are currently experiencing symptoms. With COVID-19, it is a provincial standard to declare an outbreak if at least one staff member is at work during their infectious period, said North Island Medical Health Officer Dr. Charmaine Enns.

“It’s a very concerning word,” she said during a virtual press conference on Tuesday. “But we’re talking about a single case. By definition, we expect zero cases of COVID-19 in our long-term care facilities. [One case] exceeds the number we are aiming to have in a particular site.”

READ MORE: B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 11 deaths, 717 new COVID cases

Rainbow Gardens is a not-for-profit facility operated by WestCoast Native Health Care Society. At this time, there are 44 residents in long-term care, said Enns.

“There have been three residents identified as close contacts, based on their interactions with staff,” she said. “All are asymptomatic.”

She said the outbreak is considered a “low-risk exposure” because the staff member did not have symptoms on the days they were working and immediately stayed home and started self-isolating when symptoms occurred.

“This staff member did everything right,” Enns explained.

Communication with residents and families is underway. The outbreak is confined to the long-term care building and no other areas of the site are affected. The entire site is closed to admissions, transfers and visitors.

In the meantime, Island Health is working with Tsawaayuus Rainbow Gardens leadership and staff to identify anyone who may have been exposed. During this time, Island Health will have additional presence at the site to take any further actions required, support the facility and answer questions from staff, residents and family members.

The outbreak is not linked to any other outbreaks on the Island, Enns said. With COVID-19 cases increasing on Vancouver Island, Enns explained that it is becoming harder to identify where cases have originated.

“The fact that we are seeing ever-increasing numbers, it’s going to spill over into places,” she said. “I’m just hoping we don’t feel discouraged. We’re still doing good. Let’s just regroup and get refocused on all of our efforts. Let’s keep our circles as small as possible, let’s stay home as much as possible…so that these facilities are not impacted.”

She encouraged people to limit travel—including inter-Island travel—to essential trips only.

READ MORE: Stop non-essential travel B.C.-wide, Dr. Bonnie Henry urges

According to a press release, Island Health has put “enhanced control measures” in place at Tsawaayuus Rainbow Gardens, including the following measures:

  • Staffing levels will be maintained to provide resident care.
  • Visitors are restricted throughout the facility.
  • Staff and resident movement in the facility has been restricted.
  • Cleaning and infection control measures have been enhanced.
  • Residents, families and staff are being notified.
  • Twice a day screening of all staff and residents.


elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

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