Scrutiny of long-term care homes intensifies as residents say basic needs are not being met

The latest:

A long-term care home in Toronto is reporting additional COVID-19 deaths as politicians in the provinces and Ottawa face increased scrutiny over what’s being done to protect seniors and the vulnerable from a novel virus that has now infected more than 25,000 people in Canada.

The Eatonville Care Centre in the city’s west end said Monday that the deaths of 25 residents have been linked to COVID-19. The facility, which has 247 residents, reported 49 confirmed cases and said six people don’t yet have test results. The novel virus has hit dozens of long-term care homes in Ontario alone — including deadly outbreaks in Bobcaygeon, Almonte and Hagersville

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s mother-in-law lives at a different Toronto residence dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak. “It’s a crisis here. It’s terrible,” one resident living there told CBC News.

“It breaks my heart watching [my wife] Karla stand outside the window in tears,” Ford said. “And there’s thousands of families in the same position, wishing they could jump in there and help their loved one in there.”

In Quebec, where families of residents at a private facility in Dorval are reeling after learning of 31 deaths — at least five known to be linked to COVID-19 — in less than a month, health officials inspected 40 privately owned long-term care homes over the weekend. Multiple investigations are underway into what happened at the Dorval home. The owners have said they reached out to the local health authority for help. The health authority, known as the West Island CIUSSS, took over administration of the facility on March 29.

Premier François Legault said that the situation was stable at most of the facilities, but noted that four or five of the homes will be monitored more closely.

Legault acknowledged that many of the problems in long-term care homes are due to a lack of personnel that began long before the pandemic. Salaries are too low to attract needed workers, especially in the private sector, which leaves those in place overworked, he said. 

WATCH | COVID-19 made existing problems in Quebec’s long-term care home worse:

Aggressive testing and tracing will be one of the keys in helping to reopen our economy after this period of isolation, says Dr. Christopher Labos. 5:23

Ottawa unveiled interim guidelines on Monday for long-term care that officials say were developed in collaboration with the provinces and territories, which have jurisdiction over the residential facilities. 

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health official, said Monday that in cases where they have data “we know that close to half of the deaths that we’re tracking are linked to long-term care facilities.” The ratios vary depending on the province, she said, urging people to stay home to protect seniors.

Seniors are considered a higher risk group for facing severe disease or death if they contract COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. The virus, which was first reported in China in late 2019, has since spread to countries around the world, infecting more than 25,000 people in Canada alone.

As of 6 a.m. ET Tuesday, there were 25,680 reported cases in Canada. The provinces and territories that provide public information on resolved cases listed 7,771 cases as recovered or resolved. A tally of deaths linked to the novel virus maintained by CBC News has 833 deaths recorded in Canada. There are two known coronavirus-related deaths of Canadians abroad — one in Japan and another in Brazil.

Public health officials have cautioned that the true case numbers are likely much higher, as the recorded figures don’t capture people who have not been tested or are still under investigation. 

Read on for a look at what’s happening in Canada, the U.S. and around the world.

Here’s a look at what’s happening in the provinces and territories

WATCH | Montreal epidemiologist answers questions about testing for COVID-19:

Many long-term care homes in Quebec were already stretched thin after years of reforms and cutbacks and those problems were only made more apparent with the COVID-19 pandemic. 2:01

British Columbia reported 11 more deaths due to COVID-19 on Monday, pushing its total to 69. The province has reported a total of 1,490 cases. Read more about what’s happening in B.C., where provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said measures like hand hygiene, physical distancing and “making sure that our workplaces are able to have enhanced cleaning, the working from home … those are things that are going to be in place for a while.”

Alberta is expanding its COVID-19 testing to anyone who shows symptoms of the virus. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said starting Tuesday anyone with fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough or shortness of breath can get tested. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says the government will be consulting with the province’s chief medical officer about a plan to gradually “reopen” the economy — though he noted that would only happen if case numbers remain low. And even then, any reopening would be gradual. “There is no magic switch that we can flip that sends everything back to normal overnight.” Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.

Manitoba has extended its public health orders for another two weeks. The province announced four new cases on Monday, for a total of 246 presumptive and confirmed cases. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba, including a request from the government asking departments to find cuts to services deemed non-essential.

In Ontario, there are 7,470 reported COVID-19 cases, and a CBC tally has recorded 344 deaths. Long-term care homes have been particularly hard-hit, including several in the Toronto area. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario.

WATCH | Resident speaks out about conditions at Toronto long-term care home:

A resident at Toronto’s West Park Long-Term Care Centre says “it’s a crisis” and fears a COVID-19 outbreak at the facility will get worse. 2:03

Quebec says it will inspect all long-term care homes in the province, both private and publicly owned facilities, amid growing concern about outbreaks. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.

New Brunswick is expanding its testing criteria, said chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell, citing evolving risk. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.

Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health said the province’s projections around COVID-19 will be released. soon. Dr. Robert Strang said the province is working to get the modelling data in the “right format” to be shared with the public. Read more about what’s happening in N.S.

A Prince Edward Island MP says he’s hopeful seasonal workers will eventually qualify for a federal emergency funding program. Read more about what’s happening in P.E.I., including considerations of more stringent screening for incoming travellers.

Newfoundland and Labrador has put limits on where long-term care workers can work, limiting them to a single site for the duration of the pandemic. Read more about what’s happening in N.L.

Health officials in Nunavik have reported an 11th case of COVID-19.  Read more about what’s happening across Canada’s North.

Here’s a look at what’s happening in the U.S.

From The Associated Press, updated at 9:20 a.m. ET

A patient on oxygen is wheeled out to an ambulance by medical workers wearing personal protective equipment outside NYU Langone Medical Center on April 13 in New York. (John Minchillo/The Associated Press)

More than 23,000 people have died of the virus in the United States overall, with 582,000 confirmed infections, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo took to morning TV shows Tuesday to push back against President Donald Trump’s claim of “total” authority to reopen the nation’s virus-stalled economy.

“We don’t have a king,” Cuomo said on NBC’s Today. “We have a president. That was a big decision. We ran away from having a king, and George Washington was president, not King Washington. So the president doesn’t have total authority.”

The Democratic governor, whose state has become the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, was reacting to Trump’s assertion Monday that “when somebody is president of the United States, the authority is total.”

In the United States, governors in the Northeast and along the West Coast announced separate state compacts to co-ordinate reopenings.

WATCH | Trump defends his response to COVID-19, counters negative reports:

U.S. President Donald Trump defended how his administration responded to COVID-19 and used video to counter negative reports in the media. 2:02

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he would announce a detailed plan Tuesday for lifting virus restrictions. He cautioned it would use “science to guide our decision-making and not political pressure.”

“The house is still on fire,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said. “We still have to put the fire out … (but we need) to make sure this doesn’t reignite.”

His state is in a coalition with Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, while the governors of California, Oregon and Washington announced a similar plan.

The ten states generated 38.3 per cent of the total U.S. economic output in the fourth quarter of 2019, according to figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Trump pushed back against the governors, claiming “the federal government has absolute power” over easing the restrictions if it chooses. The U.S. constitution, however, largely gives states the authority to regulate their own affairs.

Here’s a look at what’s happening around the world

From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, updated at 9:40 a.m. ET

The number of new cases of COVID-19 is easing in some parts of Europe, including Italy and Spain, but outbreaks are still growing in Britain and Turkey, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.

“The overall world outbreak, 90 per cent of cases are coming from Europe and the United States of America. So we are certainly not seeing the peak yet,” WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris told a briefing in Geneva.

The WHO is expected to release guidelines on what countries should consider as they weigh lifting COVID-19 lockdowns, noting that much needs to be done to ensure transmission is controlled and health systems can cope. 

WATCH | WHO cautions that loosening COVID-19 restrictions must take place gradually:

‘You can’t replace lockdown with nothing,’ says Mike Ryan of the WHO’s emergencies program, as some countries see cases stabilizing. 1:14

Italy’s day-to-day increase in infections was one of the lowest in weeks, bolstering a generally downward trend. Slightly eased restrictions were about to take effect in some sectors of the country, such as allowing stores selling baby necessities to reopen.

Spain’s recorded coronavirus death toll is now over 18,000 after 567 more people succumbed to COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, a number slightly higher than Monday’s but below most daily increases in the past two weeks. Confirmed infections are now roughly 172,500 after Spain’s Health Ministry reported 3,045 new positive cases on Tuesday, a 1.8 per cent day-to-day increase.

The boss of one of Britain’s biggest nursing-home operators says the number of reported coronavirus deaths among elderly residents is much higher than has been officially reported. The government says outbreaks of COVID-19 have been reported in one in eight U.K. care homes. But David Behan, chair of home operator HC-One, said cases of the novel coronavirus had been reported in 232 of the firm’s homes — two-thirds of the total. He says 311 residents have died with confirmed or suspected COVID-19.

In India, the government on Tuesday extended the world’s largest lockdown on 1.3 billion people for two more weeks, until May 3 for most of the country, as its caseload crossed 10,000.

A doctor in a protective chamber takes a swab from a man to test for coronavirus disease at a newly installed Walk-In Sample Kiosk (WISK) in a government-run hospital in Chennai, India on Monday. (P. Ravikuman/Reuters)

China faced a new flare-up along its remote northern border with Russia, far from the original epicentre of Wuhan, which has all but declared victory in its battle against the pandemic. That vast border has been sealed and emergency medical units have rushed to the area to prevent travellers from bringing the virus back from overseas.

Indonesia’s president Joko Widodo has declared the coronavirus outbreak in the world’s fourth-most populous country a “non-natural national disaster” in a presidential decree that opens its door for international co-operation and humanitarian assistance. The decree was issued as the government reported 60 new deaths on Tuesday, the biggest daily tally of fatalities yet, taking the country’s virus death toll to 459, the highest in Asia after China. There have been 282 new cases to bring the total to 4,839 positive tests.

Brazil likely has 12 times more cases of the novel coronavirus than are being officially reported by the government, with too little testing and long waits to confirm the results, according to a study.

Mexico registered 353 new cases on Monday, bringing its total to 5,014 cases and 332 deaths.

A sanitation worker disinfects a community building as a preventive measure against the spread of COVID-19 in Santiago, Chile on Monday. (Javier Torres/AFP/Getty Images)

Iran’s death toll from the new coronavirus outbreak in the country has reached 4,683, Health Ministry spokesperson Kianush Jahanpur said in a statement on state TV. Ninety-eight people have died in the past 24 hours, he said. The Islamic Republic is the Middle Eastern country hardest hit by the new coronavirus and currently has 74,877 infected  people, according to Jahanpur.

South Africa’s health minister on Tuesday said there was a total of 2,415 reported coronavirus cases in the country. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize provided no update on the number of deaths, which a day earlier stood at 27.

Sudan will impose a lockdown on the capital Khartoum for three weeks after 10 more cases of the novel coronavirus were discovered on Monday, its information minister said. Nigeria, meanwhile, will extend lockdowns in Lagos, Abuja and Ogun states for an additional 14 days to combat the novel coronavirus, President Muhammadu Buhari said in an address to the nation that acknowledged the sacrifices of the country’s poor. 

WATCH | How to handle physical distancing in tricky situations:

Physical distancing has radically changed how we socialize. But there’s still some scenarios where it’s difficult to limit our physical contact with others. Here’s how to best navigate them. 3:23

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