A major COVID-19 outbreak at a Tillsonburg nursing home has public health officials sound the alarm.

There are now 90 confirmed cases of the virus at Maple Manor, including 55 residents and 35 staff. Four residents at the home have died. The facility houses just over 90 residents.

Veronica Thurston, 21, could be seen staring through a window and waving at her grandmother from outside the residence Tuesday. It’s the only way she can see her right now.

“It’s totally different,” she said as she tried to compose herself. “My grandma actually tested positive for COVID. Sorry, this is my first time coming to see her since...but it’s nice that we can still see her through the window. I love that.”

Her grandmother is in her 70s and Thurston said her family is worried.

“She said that she’s doing good but she seemed to be falling asleep while I was talking to her a little bit, which is not normal for a conversation with her. But she kept saying ‘I feel good, I’m doing good’ every time I asked, and she was eating her breakfast and lunch.”

Southwest Public Health (SWPH) is reporting seven COVID-19-related deaths in the region, which includes Elgin and Oxford counties, within just 24 hours.

In a conference call with media Tuesday, Dr. Joyce Lock, SWPH medical officer of health, pleaded with area residents to not have close contacts with people they don’t live with.

“Our ability to contain this virus is waning,” said Lock. “We urgently ask the community to come together and help protect each other from COVID-19. Not enough people are self-isolating when they have symptoms or test positive.”

With so many staff at Maple Manor having tested positive, the home is getting support from the South West Local Health Integration Network, an employment agency, and area hospitals according to Tillsonburg Memorial District Hospital President and CEO Sandy Jansen, who also took part in the teleconference.

“So we have approximately 25 people to slide into that home at any given time to help support that staff and to care for those patients safely.”

As for Thurston, she said she appreciated the work of the health care professionals inside the home. She’s hoping for the best for her grandmother and the other residents and staff who have fallen ill.

“At first I tried to not even think of it and thought, ‘Oh she’s not going to get it, it’s going to be fine,’ but then it just took over. I’m just trying to stay positive and hope for the best that she pulls through.”

The outbreak at Maple Manor was declared on Dec. 12, 2020.