'A scary thought': Confirmed COVID-19 case at Northwood causes concern

Long-term care advocates and family members of residents of Northwood in Halifax are expressing concern after a positive case was confirmed at the facility over the weekend.

Greg Sheaves says he wasn’t happy to hear of the positive case at Northwood, where his 85-year-old mother lives.

“Nobody called or notified me, and they said it wasn’t on that floor,” says Sheaves. “Without mandated vaccine, it’s a scary thought.”

Officials at Northwood confirmed Sunday that a staff member tested positive for COVID-19 at the long-term care home that was the epicentre of the virus during the first wave of the pandemic.

Northwood CEO Janet Simm says the positive test was identified during the facility’s routine screening, and contact tracing has been completed.

Simm said she was not able to confirm whether the staff member was fully vaccinated due to privacy reasons, but says more than 88 per cent of the facility’s staff are vaccinated.

Nova Scotia’s Minister of Seniors and Long-Term Care says as of now, workers at long-term care facilities don’t have to report their status, and neither do visitors, but both could change.

“We are working with a team on a vaccination policy for health care staff in the province of Nova Scotia, and that will be coming out soon,” said Barbara Adams.

One long-term care expert says she would like to see as many workers vaccinated as possible.

“Even if there is a very slight risk of getting the virus, it still reduces the extent of the virus,” says Janice Keefe, chair of the Department of Family Studies and Gerontology at Mount Saint Vincent University.

Keefe says making sure every worker who can be vaccinated gets both shots is important to keep everyone in long-term care facilities safe and avoid any more lockdowns.

“There were so many people important to resident who were shut out from those facilities, and I just don’t ever want that to happen again,” says Keefe, who also serves as the Director of the Nova Scotia Centre on Aging.

A total of 53 Northwood residents died from the virus last spring, during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nova Scotia reported 55 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend, 34 of them in the Central zone, leading to a long list of potential exposure locations, including a number of Halifax-area bars and restaurants.

But not everyone is a fan of the continued exposure notices.

“It’s more about the negative image that it could portray of a restaurant that has done nothing wrong, and it’s just unnecessary when we have contact tracing in place,” says Luc Erjavec, Restaurant Canada’s Vice President Atlantic.

Some Halifax establishments say they are already requiring proof of vaccination to dine indoors, two weeks before it becomes mandatory on Oct. 4.

“We are a family restaurant with lots of elderly, and children under the age of 12, so we just want to make sure people feel safe coming here,” says Rose MacDonald, operations manager at the Chicken Burger in Bedford.

As of Monday, Nova Scotia has 129 active cases of COVID-19.