A small outbreak, affecting three patients in a non-COVID unit at Valley Regional Hospital, is a stark reminder of how COVID in communities can impact the health system, executive director of Western regional health zone Alyson Lamb said Tuesday.
Lamb, who oversees the Kentville hospital where the limited outbreak has been identified, joined chief medical officer of health Robert Strang and premier Tim Houston at Tuesday’s COVID briefing in Halifax. Over the past 19 months of provincial pandemic briefings, it's been rare for guests to appear with the top doc and premier, so it was refreshing to have Lamb be able to share the hospital’s plan for managing the exposure.
“So far more than 50 inpatients and staff and physicians have been tested. Enhanced cleaning and contact tracing is underway. The outbreak is limited as it stands,” Lamb told reporters today. Lamb says she’ll continue to share information about the “evolving situation at our hospital.”
Of the three COVID-19 positive cases at Valley Regional, one patient is in ICU and the other two, who are currently asymptomatic, are isolating. People who have contact with any of the three patients will be tested.
“Hearing about cases in a hospital and in our schools, we’re right to pay close attention. These are the places where we’re supposed to feel most safe,” premier Houston said at the briefing. “But if COVID is in our communities it’s going to find its way into these places as well.”
About those school closures
Between last Sunday night and Monday afternoon, the province temporarily closed three Halifax schools due to COVID transmission. Joseph Howe Elementary and École Mer et Monde are closed between Oct 19 and 25, and Dartmouth South Academy is closed Oct 18-22 to limit the spread of the diseases.
Houston and Strang addressed the closures Tuesday. They said although the initial cases at all three schools were identified last week, public health made the decisions Sunday and Monday to pause in-person classes at the three schools.
“If there’s one case of transmission within a school we don’t close it down. It’s an ongoing, almost daily, assessment of what we’re seeing,” Strang said, explaining he looks for patterns of “more cases where the likely cause of exposure was in the school.”
“We were looking at these (schools) late last week, Thursday, Friday, we discussed this as a public health team end of day Friday,” Strang said. “Their recommendation then was not yet, and to continue to watch those schools carefully.” That surveillance lead to three shutdown decisions within the following 72 hours.