13 deaths now linked to COVID-19 outbreak at long-term care home in Bobcaygeon, Ont.

Pinecrest Nursing Home is pictured above on Monday, March 30, 2020. (Mike Walker/ CTV News)

There are now 13 deaths linked to an outbreak of COVID-19 at a long-term care home in Bobcaygeon, Ont.

On Monday, public health officials in the region said nine residents of Pinecrest Nursing Home infected with the novel coronavirus had died. By Tuesday morning, workers at the facility had confirmed the deaths of three more residents to CTV News.

As well, the 82-year-old wife of an infected resident had also died.

A respiratory outbreak was declared at the facility on March 18.

Dr. Stephen Oldridge, who works at the long-term care home, said “it’s devastating.”

“I’ve never seen anything this bad in my 30 years of providing long-term care,” he said on Monday. “I’m certainly not used to having so many deaths over a single weekend.”

“I was in tears at times.”

Additionally, 24 staff members at the facility have tested positive for the virus and so have three other patients. Testing has not been conducted on another 35 residents experiencing symptoms following the outbreak but they are being treated as if they have the virus.

Last week, Dr. Lynn Noseworth, the medical officer of health in the region, said additional tests for the virus were not being conducted because they “already had confirmation that the virus was in the home.”

“This outbreak of COVID-19 is currently the largest outbreak in the province and really brings home how devastating and deadly this virus can be for older people in our communities,” Noseworth said.

“I am asking everyone to do everything they can to stop the spread of this virus – if not to protect yourself but to protect others who need our care.”

‘COVID-19 is a new beast’

Ontario Minister of Long-Term Care Dr. Merrilee Fullerton called COVID-19 “a new beast” that is strongly affecting facilities taking care of the province’s most vulnerable people.

“COVID-19 is an unprecedented threat worldwide,” she said on Tuesday. “Our understanding of this is evolving and we are doing everything possible that we can do to address this.”

“We have been looking at being proactive for many weeks now, making sure that we put up active screening, that we had really taken all measures that we understood to be effective for a pandemic.”

Fullerton went on to say that the situation at Pinecrest Nursing Home is a “tragedy” that officials “need to learn from.”

“We have to understand where those gaps were and close those gaps. This is a day and night process, ongoing, constant discussion over what we can do on this – we are always reviewing.”

Number of deaths at Pinecrest Nursing Home expected to rise

The medical director at the Bobcaygeon, Ont. facility, Dr. Michelle Snarr, said she expects the number of deaths at the long-term care home will rise.

“The way Pinecrest is, it’s a very friendly, homey environment and the staff really work to get the patients to socialize, so they do. They hang out, there are activities going on and I think that’s why when we heard it was COVID-19, we knew it was going to be bad,” she said.

Snarr sent a notice to the families of the residents in the facility earlier this month, informing them of the current situation.

The facility added that they are “working closely” with their local public health unit and the province to limit the spread of the virus.

At this time, only “essential visitors” are being permitted into the building.

Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams addressed the situation at Pinecrest at a news conference on Tuesday. Williams said that provincial public health officials are working with their municipal counterparts to understand how these outbreaks occur and how better to treat them.