The first death from the novel coronavirus in Canada has happened at a seniors care home in North Vancouver.
The man in his 80s, who had underlying health problems, was a resident at the Lynn Valley Care Centre, where he died Sunday night – the day after testing positive for the COVID-19 virus.
“Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and loved ones and also, of course, to the staff who provided him care,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s chief medical health officer in announcing the news Monday morning.
The 200-bed care centre in North Vancouver has become the focus of concern for health authorities since a health-care worker in her 50s who works at the residence tested positive for the coronavirus last week.
Since then, two elderly residents of the home have also tested positive – the man who died and a woman in her 70s, who is in stable condition, said Henry. Two close contacts of the original health-care worker – a man in his 50s and a teenage boy – have also tested positive and are isolated at home. Another health-care worker at the residence – a woman in her 40s – has also tested positive. The health-care workers, who both live in the Fraser Health Region, are currently isolated at home as well.
Henry said health authorities are still trying to track down how the two health-care workers in the seniors centre contracted coronavirus.
“Vancouver Coastal (Health) is working really hard to try to connect those dots and figure out how it was introduced into the care home,” said Henry.
Currently, health authorities believe the virus was picked up by the worker from someone else who came into the seniors home, said Henry.
Dix said that likelihood underlines the importance of anyone who feels sick staying away from hospitals, care homes and even older family members.
Last week, Henry outlined statistics coming out of China from the earlier phase of the outbreak pointing to a 14 per cent death rate from the virus in people age 80 and older.
Vancouver Coastal Health authorities are currently on-site at the Lynn Valley seniors’ home and are monitoring the residents, said Henry.
Health authorities have also launched an investigation at two other care homes where the first health care worker to test positive also worked, said Henry, to determine whether she had contact with anyone there while she was ill.
She added there is no point in testing people who don’t have any symptoms, because without symptoms, the tests won’t be valid.
Henry said extra screening is in place at care homes, but the facilities are not being closed to the public. “Long-term care homes are homes,” she said, and those who live there still need interaction with their families.
Including the second health-care worker identified over the weekend, five new cases of COVID-19 were announced Monday, bringing B.C.’s total to 32 cases. Currently, only three of those cases have required acute hospital care.
With the notable exception of the first health-care worker identified at the Lynn Valley care home, all of the cases have been related to international travel or are close contacts of people who have travelled. Over half of those cases have been associated with people returning from Iran.
A number of Norouz events usually held to celebrate the Iranian New Year have been cancelled, including galas that were to be hosted in both downtown Vancouver and in North Vancouver.
Henry said Monday she’s urging organizers of indoor gatherings – particularly those involving close contact or sharing of food – to rethink their plans.
Henry said B.C. and federal authorities are also discussing a possible cancellation of the local cruise ship season.
“That is absolutely being discussed,” she said.
“My personal belief right now is we’re in a very critical time around the world. … My primary concern is about the health and safety of British Columbians. I have grave concerns about cruises right now.”
Several local trips being planned by high school groups to international destinations including Japan, Italy and France have also been cancelled while others planned for later in the school year are being monitored.
According to a note sent home to parents in the North Vancouver School District, international students are also being told to avoid non-essential travel, especially to countries affected by the coronavirus.