VICTORIA — The deaths of two more COVID-19 patients at long-term care homes in B.C. were mourned by provincial health officials Thursday, but they said lives may have been saved by the province's quick response to the pandemic.
Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said measures to fight COVID-19 possibly contributed to holding the number of deaths to less than 100 at long-term care homes while other provinces recorded thousands of fatalities.
"We don't know the specific impact of the measures, but we know the large measures that have been taken have had positive effect," Dix said at a news conference.
He said B.C. ensured workers were able to be employed at a single care home, personal protective equipment was made available to workers, special health teams were brought in at the first signs of COVID-19 and visits were restricted at the homes.
"I think that B.C., though, can be proud of its long-term care workers," said Dix. "We've adopted from the beginning a team B.C. approach to how we deal with this issue. I am, of course, saddened that we've lost 93 people, residents who live in long-term care."
B.C. reported nine new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, bringing the provincial total to 2,558 people diagnosed with the virus. The total number of COVID-19 deaths stood at 164 people and 2,153 people have recovered from the disease.
Henry said efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care homes is difficult but the province has been applying the many lessons it learned in an early outbreak at North Vancouver's Lynn Valley Care Centre.
She said it was difficult to estimate how effective B.C.'s prevention measures were at the homes.
"We can only by analogy look at what happens in other places," Henry said.
Thousands of residents at long-term care facilities in Quebec and Ontario have died of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, specialized health teams have been sent to fight COVID-19 outbreaks at two Metro Vancouver long-term care homes.
The Fraser Health Authority appointed a pandemic response director on Thursday at Langley Lodge, where more than 20 people have died from the virus in recent weeks.
It also sent extra staff to Nicola Lodge in Port Coquitlam after one resident tested positive Wednesday for COVID-19, said Dr. Martin Lavoie, Fraser Health's chief medical health officer. The resident was placed in isolation at the lodge, he said.
"Over the past several weeks we've been supporting and offering guidance to Langley Lodge in different ways," Lavoie said at a news conference.
"Today, we're talking further action and we have appointed our own director of pandemic response to provide oversight of the COVID-19 response at Langley Lodge and also to further support the facility leadership and staff."
The lodge website says it is a not-for-profit registered charity run by the Langley Care Society.
It says the lodge in Langley provides long-term care for adults who can no longer live safely or independently at home because of their health-care needs. The lodge includes 121 funded spaces and 14 private pay spaces.
An official at the lodge referred questions about the COVID-19 outbreak to Fraser Health.
Lavoie said the COVID-19 outbreak at the lodge has been difficult to control.
"It is our hope that these additional measures will support the site in controlling this complex outbreak," he said. "We're taking all the necessary steps to minimize the exposure to and transmission of COVID-19."
Lavoie said extra nurses and staff are being called in along with infection control specialists who will use a specialized ultraviolet germ sterilization machine.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 28, 2020.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press