Outbreak declared at B.C. long-term care facility as visitation rules relaxed

The Holyrood Manor long-term care home in Maple Ridge, B.C., is seen in a Google Maps image dated August 2011.

Health officials have declared a COVID-19 outbreak at a long-term care home in Maple Ridge, B.C., after three residents tested positive for the disease.

The declaration of an outbreak at Holyrood Manor on Monday afternoon happened to come hours after the government relaxed visitation rules at care homes across the province.

Given the circumstances, families with loved ones at Holyrood will not be able to take advantage of those eased restrictions for the time being. Fraser Health said visitors are temporarily banned throughout the facility.

"Fraser Health is also working with the site to identify anyone who may have been exposed, and is taking steps to protect the health of all staff," the health authority said in a news release.

Those steps include implementing enhanced infection control measures and screening residents and staff for COVID-19 twice per day, Fraser Health said.

It's been more than a week since B.C. has had an outbreak in a long-term care home or assisted living facility – progress that health officials have credited to widespread vaccination, including among the elderly residents who are much more vulnerable to severe infection.

The last outbreak in long-term care – at the Rotary Manor in Dawson Creek – was declared over on July 8. One of the two residents who caught the disease died, according to Northern Health.

The ongoing threat of COVID-19 has left some families anxious to know whether care home employees are vaccinated as well.

Earlier this month, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said the government would not be making vaccination against COVID-19 mandatory for workers in care settings, opting instead to force those employees to continue wearing masks and adhering to other prevention measures such as regular testing.

Henry also said she would be issuing a new public health order requiring care homes to provide the names and personal health numbers of all staff and volunteers, which will be used to determine vaccination rates at each facility and assess outbreak risks.

It's unclear whether any of that information will be made publicly available.