After nearly two months, a COVID-19 outbreak at Westminster House in South Surrey has been declared over.
Facility owner Gord McNaughton confirmed that staff, residents and family members of the 1653 140 St. residence received the good news late Tuesday afternoon (Nov. 2).
“We’ve been hopeful for over a month now,” McNaughton said Wednesday.
“We told everybody right away. It’s been a pretty exciting time… families and residents in tears, to be honest.”
The facility’s complex-care unit went into lockdown on Sept. 12, and the outbreak was officially declared by Fraser Health two days later, on Sept. 14.
It was the site’s first outbreak since the beginning of the pandemic, and McNaughton said he was “really surprised” when it happened. To that point, every precaution had been taken, he said.
In all, the unit had 24 positive cases – 16 residents and eight staff – including two deaths, over the course of the lockdown. McNaughton said he couldn’t speak to any additional deaths in the unit that occurred during the same time frame.
He described the ordeal as difficult for everyone. It lasted seven weeks, but “felt like six months,” he said.
Once the virus was in the unit, “it spread fast,” he added.
But the last positive case that resulted in the final two-week extension of the lockdown – that of a Fraser Health employee who hadn’t shown any symptoms – came as “a real blow,” he said.
Leanne Thain, the daughter of one resident in the affected unit, contacted Peace Arch News on Oct. 21 with concerns about the impact of the extended quarantine on residents like her mother who had consistently tested negative.
McNaughton reiterated Wednesday that it would make sense for Fraser Health to have “a better plan” when there is just one case than to lockdown an entire area.
At the same time, he described Westminster’s success at containing the outbreak to just the one unit – there are 83 other rooms throughout the balance of the site – as a “major accomplishment.”
Noting everyone at the site is now “third-dosed” with the COVID-19 vaccine, he’s hopeful the outbreak will be the facility’s last. While normal operations have resumed, precautions – including taking the temperature of visitors and wearing personal protective equipment – continue.
“It’s still around,” he said of the virus in the community. “So we all have to do our part to prevent it from coming into this building again.”
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