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Minister: several nursing homes affected by Covid outbreaks

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Health minister Kim Wilson (File photograph)

Covid-19 cases are increasing with several island nursing homes affected by an outbreak of the virus, the health minister said yesterday.

At a press conference, Kim Wilson said: “Unfortunately Covid is still out there in our community. There is an increase in respiratory viruses and Covid-19 infections on the island.

“Our hospital is also experiencing an increase in patients visiting the ER and being admitted for respiratory illnesses and sadly we have quite a few of our nursing homes with Covid outbreaks as well.

“This is especially worrying. These are vulnerable people. Anyone visiting our care homes should wear a mask and take an antigen test.”

She said more than 32 staff and residents at the homes have been infected with Covid.

For the whole Island, there were six people in hospital and 19 other active cases as of Wednesday.

Ayoola Oyinloye, the Chief Medical Officer, joined Ms Wilson and Wesley Miller, the chief of staff at the Bermuda Hospitals Board, in the press conference.

Dr Oyinloye said: “We have several long-term care facilities in outbreak since the beginning of November. This involved 32 staff and residents and some of these residents have sadly ended up in hospital. These outbreaks are incredibly disruptive to the care settings.”

Sharing data on hospital admissions for Covid-19 since the beginning of October, Dr Oyinloye added: “We have had 25 admissions since then into hospital. The mean age of those admitted is 76 years and most people are over 60.

“The percentage of those who are not vaccinated and boosted, and ended up in hospital is 96 per cent. The risk of hospital admission if you have not been vaccinated and boosted is eight times more.”

He stressed the importance for vulnerable members of the community to get boosted and urged people with symptoms to test early.

“Your doctor will be able to prescribe you with oral antivirals … that will significantly reduce your risk of ending up in hospital or death, and it will shorten the time of your illness.”

Dr Miller said it was anticipated that the flu season will be worse than previous years. He said: “This is based on what we have seen in Australia and also on the East Coast of the US.

“We are therefore urging people to have both their Covid vaccine and their flu vaccine, and emphasise that it is possible to have both on the same day and it is safe to do so.”

Ms Wilson said that as the island headed into the festive season, “we should take precautions to avoid catching the flu, coronavirus or Respiratory Syncytial Virus — a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptom — and other respiratory viruses prevalent during colder weather”.

Covid-19 vaccine criteria

• Children 5 to 11 years old are eligible for a 1st or 2nd dose only. The time between doses must be at least 21 days.

• People 12 and above are eligible for 1st, 2nd or 3rd dose. The time between the 1st and 2nd dose must be at least 21 days. The time between the 2nd dose and 3rd dose booster must be at least 5 months.

• Residents aged 50 or older, and immunocompromised residents of any age are eligible for a 4th dose, and subsequent doses, provided their last dose was at least 5 months ago.

• Health and essential workers of any age are eligible for a 4th dose, and subsequent doses, provided their last dose was at least 5 months ago.

Ms Wilson stressed that the best way to fight the spread of Covid-19 was vaccination.

She added: “The Pfizer-BioNTech original adult formulation and Moderna Bivalent vaccine, and boosters are available through participating GP offices, pharmacies and paediatricians.

“I strongly urge all eligible individuals to get the coronavirus vaccination and get boosted, on time.”

The health minister’s reminder of the requirements of those with Covid-19

“Anyone who suspects they are positive for the coronavirus or have been a close contact, should get tested. Numerous pharmacies offer Covid testing in addition to the home test kits you can buy off the shelf.

“By law, you must isolate immediately if you test positive on a Covid-19 test (whether self-administered, a verified or supervised antigen or a PCR test).

“If you test positive you must adhere to the following guidance:

“Whether you are fully immunised or not:

“Isolate for 5 days from the first day of Covid-19 symptoms or the date of your positive test sample (if you have no symptoms) — (the date of your positive test sample or onset of symptoms is day zero).

“If at day 5, you have had no symptoms for at least two days, take a supervised or self-administered antigen test.

“If you have no symptoms and the day 5 test is negative, stay isolated and take a supervised or self-administered antigen test on day 6.

“If you have no symptoms and the day 6 test is negative, end isolation and follow public health guidance.

“If you have symptoms at day 5, stay isolated until day 7.

“If at day 7, you have had no symptoms for 2 days, take a supervised or self-administered antigen test on day 7.

“If you have no symptoms and the day 7 test is negative, end isolation and follow public health guidance.

“If at day 7, you continue to have symptoms or test positive, stay isolated until you have not had symptoms for at least 2 days and have one negative supervised or self-administered antigen test.

“If you continue to have symptoms or test positive for Covid-19 up until day 14, see your doctor, who will advise you when to end isolation.

You can find this guidance on www.gov.bm.

Dr Miller asked that families who have relatives in hospital who are fit for discharge to come and collect them as soon as possible to make room for incoming patients.

He said that the Covid-19 pandemic had had a knock-on effect on every aspect of our lives. “This includes the hospital admissions this winter. It is an unprecedented time that we are all going through.”

Dr Miller said there was still a backlog of surgeries as a result of the pandemic but that progress has been made in catching up.

He added: “We have implemented the new EMR [Electronic Medical Records] and the challenge with implementing the new EMR is that things will slow down as we move to go live because people are learning a new system.

“Having said that, we were able to have an overseas surgeon who was able to do many hip surgeries in a week.

“We pushed the system to its limit in order to make that possible. We have also found ways of reducing the backlog by encouraging the local surgeons to adopt more modern practices.

“For example, some of our hip and knee surgeries on people that may have been admitted for several days have been done as day cases.

“We have taken the opportunity during this time to move into more modern practices and to be aligned with some of the best centres in the US.”

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Published December 17, 2022 at 8:03 am (Updated December 17, 2022 at 8:03 am)

Minister: several nursing homes affected by Covid outbreaks

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