With half of Covid deaths in senior residences, current strategy a failure

nursing home
Cleaning crew enter long term residence in Washington state

As the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic continues to wreak havoc upon Canada, one thing is clear: the current approach has ill-served the population most at risk.

The grim statistics tell the story.

More than 90 per cent of Canadians who have died are over the age of 60, according to Dr. Theresa Tam, the country’s chief public health officer.

Half of the deaths from the virus have occurred in long term care facilities.

In Alberta and British Columbia the vast majority of deaths are from long term care facilities.

None of this really comes as a surprise. This same pattern has been repeated in country after country.

The London School of Economics reported that 57 per cent of deaths in France, Italy, Spain, Belgium and Ireland are occurring in long term care homes and residences for senior citizens.

The Wuhan virus kills the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions.

Is the why, though, that is troubling.

Long term facilities are a killing ground for this virus. Residents are crowded into single buildings, share common areas (even bedrooms) and are likely to have underlying health problems.

Then, too, there is problem of staffing. Many are ill-trained, infection protocols are not followed, staff work in multiple facilities and there is precious little testing.

Now, provincial governments have tried to address some the issues. Emergency measures include increased screening of staff and isolation of staff and new residents. Health ministry inspectors are also being deployed to help with urgent care. Homes are also being given greater latitude to hire new workers.

Huge problems remain though. The lack of testing is a massive failure. The lack of personal protective equipment is another huge problem. The lack of staff is another.

All of which, of course, explains why countries have resorted to partial lockdowns. In the absence of adequate protection for the elderly, the only hope of avoiding a massive death toll in the elderly population is social distancing.

The cost to the economy, however, is massive. Hundreds of billions of dollars in production have been lost. Millions have lost their jobs.

Will all this succeed in protecting the elderly?

Perhaps. Only time will tell.

One thing is clear, though, we have not a good job of it so far.

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