COVID this week: improving

The number of new COVID cases in Weston in the past three weeks has declined slightly—a welcome change after weeks of increases. Over the past two weeks, the number of new cases has flattened.

There have been 51 new cases of community-transmitted COVID in the past 21 days, according to city data.

New community tranmissions, from the city.

Including outbreaks in healthcare facilities, there were 59 cases in Weston.

Last week, there had been 68 cases in three weeks. We have returned close to levels of two weeks ago, when there had been 57.

Two students at Weston CI were also diagnosed with COVID, the student cases in Weston.

COVID testing is not working out well at the Church Street site

The CBC says that some people getting tested at the recently-opened Church Street COVID testing centre are having to wait more than two weeks to get their results.

“What’s the whole point of going in for tests if you don’t even get the results until after the quarantine time? There’s no point. It defeats the whole purpose,” she said.

Faisal Hassan, NDP MPP for York South-Weston, says he received more than 25 complaints in a week about people waiting for test results from the Church Street assessment centre.

He says residents were concerned that without a result, they couldn’t return to work, go to school, or visit and provide essential care to loved ones in long-term care homes.

“We have been [identified] as a hotspot area and these delays are totally unacceptable,” he said.

The hospital told the CBC that their typical turnaround is three to five days.

In addition to the burdens they place on those being tested, long turnarounds make contact tracing impossible.

COVID rates in Weston are “alarming”

Frances Nunziata says that the COVID positivity rate in Weston is “alarming”.

New data that was reported this week on the overall percent of COVID-19 test positivity rates by neighbourhood indicates that rates in York South—Weston are alarming and disproportionately high compared to other parts of Toronto.

The city’s official numbers haven’t been released, but a Toronto ER doctor published a table that says Weston’s positivity rate is 8.3%—not, thankfully, the highest in the city, but still far above the “3% [that] should prompt shutdowns”

Weston has seen 68 new cases in the past three weeks, an increase of 11 over last week. Eight of the cases occurred in healthcare facilities.

Schools in Weston, however, have largely been free of COVID infections. Pelmo Park had one case in a teacher, but no other cases have occurred in schools in Weston. (There has been a handful of cases in schools that receive students from Weston.)

COVID is under control in YSW

COVID appears to be coming under control in Pelmo, Weston, and Mount Dennis, with only a handful of cases reported in the past 21 days.

In the past 21 days, there have been three cases of community transmission in Weston, four in Mount Dennis, and only 1 in Pelmo. The north-west part of the city continues to be the worst hit, however.

 

Pelmo is sick with COVID

The Pelmo Park–Humberlea neighbourhood, part of which is in the area most people would call Weston, has the highest rate of new community-spread COVID cases in the city.

Pelmo Park–Humberlea includes the Pelmo neighbourhood south of the 401, as well as an area to the north of the 401 and  west of the 400.Map of Pelmo Park

Pelmo Park–Humberlea has had 17 new “sporadic” cases in the past 21 days, out of a population of about 10,000. That gives it an infection rate of 159 per 100,000 people, by far the highest in the city—the average rate is 28. (“Sporadic” cases occur outside a healthcare facility).

On the one hand, this may be a statistical blip: 17 cases isn’t a huge number. On the other hand, it is the highest rate in the city in the statistic I think we should care most about: new cases of community spread.

COVID continues to be a problem in the northwest part of the city. In Weston proper, we have had 13 new cases in the past 21 days, and we rank a dismal 9th-worst for new infection rates.

By contrast, more than 10% of the city’s neighbourhoods have had no new cases at all.

Including outbreaks in healthcare facilities makes the picture even darker. Humber Heights (just across the river), Weston, and Mount Dennis have been three of the four worst-hit neighbourhoods in Toronto.

Frances Nunziata says she prompted Joe Cressy, the Chair of Toronto Public Health, to write a letter to the Ontario Minister of Health and the Chief Medical Officer. The letter explains Cressy’s hypotheses around why COVID has been so prevalent here: race, income, reduced access to health services, and household crowding.

He calls on the province to provide:

  • Increased testing, including mobile testing
  • Accommodation for people needing to isolate
  • Increased data collection
  • Improved protections for workers
  • Faster test results

 

 

 

 

Long Term Care Homes

A few years ago my father-in-law was a resident in a local, well known long-term care home. This was when homes were better funded and unlike today (thank you Mike Harris), the home was non-profit. He was recovering from a series of minor strokes, had Parkinson’s disease, was incontinent and while he could walk around, had been reduced to a child-like state.

My elderly and disabled mother-in-law visited him daily and it was soon obvious that there was a disquieting and sinister undercurrent running through the place. Many of the residents were physically disabled – victims of strokes or accidents and they and their relatives lived in fear of retaliation by staff if they spoke out about conditions in the home. My MIL discovered that at mealtimes, residents would be served and the meal would often be untouched after 30 minutes when it would be removed. Like several others, she ended up hiring an attendant to feed her husband so that he wouldn’t die of starvation.

At the home, staff had somehow persuaded management that uniforms were authoritarian and intimidating, so they wandered around indistinguishable from visitors. Residents would be left in soiled diapers for hours and changed grudgingly as if it was a great favour. Many residents were tied to their chairs so they wouldn’t be a nuisance between mealtimes. I was drafted to write letters, put on a suit and do battle with management (several times) and things slowly improved for my FIL. Sadly, few others had relatives who could or would do this. In those days, the only alternative, home care, was even less adequate than it is today.

Fast forward to the pandemic of 2020 and behold the sight of Premier Ford blinking  with emotion and surprise that the Canadian Armed Forces had reported squalid conditions and seemingly criminal neglect in the care homes where they had been assigned.

Long Term Care Minister Dr. Merrilee Fullerton seems equally bemused but that’s better than admitting that the reason might be that the Ford government reduced funding and inspections (an average home can now expect a full inspection once every 100 years). Add to that years of neglect by governments of all parties and long term care residents were sitting targets. Upwards of 80% of Ontario Covid-19 deaths have been in care homes. The highest rates have been in homes that were for profit. This was largely due to a lack of direction from Minister Fullerton and the systemic exploitation of low-paid agency workers, forced  to work in several locations in order to make a living.

Health Minister (and former Long Term Health Care Minister) Christine Elliott claims to know nothing about long term care home conditions but she may have a short memory.

The Feds no doubt are secretly pleased that the Army embarrassed Ford but they’ve got skin in the game.

There’s no shortage of blame to go round. Read about the Armed Forces report here and the actual document here.

Ford will resist holding an inquiry or changing the legislation. He’ll hope that the heat will die down and the public will be satisfied with a few dramatic band-aid gestures.

That won’t cut it.

If we’re stuck with private companies running long term care homes for a profit, there should be strong legislation to safeguard residents including standards of care, staffing levels, supervisory community involvement and rigorous, frequent, meaningful inspections.

Let’s see if Premier Ford’s tears are real or theatrical.

Local hospital ahead of the curve.

Humber River Hospital (CNW Group/Humber River Hospital) From Wikipedia.

If you saw this pandemic coming in January or even February, you’re not alone. Many Canadians watched in dismay while various politicians and their medical officers of health basically twiddled around. We were also told that face masks were ineffective but that’s another story.

There’s a Toronto company called Blue Dot and they analyze masses of data using artificial intelligence. Blue Dot was able to predict the spread of Zika along with other diseases using huge amounts of data that is mostly publicly available. They analyze this data and present conclusions to clients who can then plan accordingly. Blue Dot saw the Covid-19 pandemic coming as early as December and knew where and how it would spread from Wuhan long before any of our local experts or politicians did. The CBS show 60 Minutes covered Humber River Hospital’s use of Blue Dot’s services and it’s quite impressive to see what the application of artificial intelligence can do during a pandemic.

Let’s hope that some intelligent thinking and data usage will be used to guide lifting of the lockdown so that Canada can successfully emerge from its current medically induced coma.