Sixteen people have died after an outbreak of COVID-19 at a long-term care home in Scarborough, Toronto officials said Wednesday.
“I am very sorry and saddened to report that as of this morning at Seven Oaks there are 45 cases of COVID-19 and 56 probable cases amongst the 249 residents at this long-term care home,” Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, said a a news conference.
Four deaths at the same home are also being investigated as potentially linked to the virus.
De Villa also announced 13 cases of COVID-19 among staff at the home.
Additional deaths are likely, de Villa says
Meanwhile, de Villa said people should brace for additional deaths at the home, as she called on the public to respect the privacy of those in the Seven Oaks community.
“Unfortunately, we anticipate that there may be additional deaths amongst those residents who have become ill with COVID-19 over the past few weeks,” de Villa said.
“I recognize and I appreciate that we are all concerned about those in the Seven Oaks home community, but we ask that you respect the privacy of those who reside in the Seven Oaks community.”
Health officials are working closely with Seven Oaks to ensure that all outbreak measures are in place and that staff, residents and families are supported as best as possible “during these very challenging circumstances,” de Villa said.
Meanwhile, homeless advocates are calling for an increased response from the city after a person inside one of Toronto’s busiest shelters tested positive for COVID-19.
Toronto’s medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa confirmed Tuesday that a man staying at Seaton House had the virus.
Homeless advocates demand action
“We are actively collaborating with Seaton House to carefully investigate this matter,” de Villa said. The man is currently in self-isolation, she added, along with the one other person with whom he shared a room.
“My team is actively following up with any other close contacts identified.”
In a news release issued Tuesday, advocates for homeless people slammed the city’s response.
“Every day we hear the Mayor issue stern warnings to Toronto residents to obey public health measures. It’s time he heed his own warnings and stop jeopardizing the lives of homeless people stuck in facilities that can’t implement basic public health measures,” street nurse and advocate Cathy Crowe said in a statement.
The release says advocates are taking a delegation to Mayor John Tory Wednesday afternoon to demand the city move people into hotel rooms that are currently sitting empty.
Advocates say it has been more than a week since the city announced it would move homeless people into hotels but it seems few have actually moved, as shelters are “dangerously crowded.”
“It’s beyond frustrating to watch the city pat itself on the back, while abandoning homeless people to hopeless situations. The dangerous lag between the city announcing measures and implementing them needs to end,” Yogi Acharya, organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, said in a statement.
De Villa said Tuesday that 20 people were being moved out of Seaton House into hotels and other facilities to ensure physical distancing and limit the virus’s spread. More would be moved by the end of the week, she said.
“My team is also working with staff at Seaton house to ensure that enhanced infection prevention and control measures and physical distancing measures are in place to protect the residents and the staff at this facility,” de Villa said.
That includes reducing capacity at the site, limiting the use of bunk beds and active screening for symptoms among staff and residents.