Dec. 16, 2020
Four people have died and more than 80 have been infected in a COVID-19 virus outbreak at Hamilton’s Jewish retirement home.
The campus is now in a complete lockdown that includes a ban on all visitors. In addition, 40 staff have tested positive for the virus.
On Wednesday afternoon, 40 staff had tested positive for the virus and were ordered to stay home. Another 41 residents were also infected for a total of 81 cases.
Hamilton’s public health department is investigating to find out how the infection breached layers of security that had kept the Jewish home safe for nine months.
The infection rate among staff is proving especially troubling, said Larry Levin, interim CEO of the facility.
“This has had a dramatic effect on our ability to staff the home,” he said. “We are in close contact with public health every day and we are making progress on this.”
The staffing problem was so severe that the Hamilton Jewish Federation issued a call for volunteers to help with food delivery to residents confined to their rooms. Levin said that idea has been shelved until the outbreak has been defeated.
Until then the extra workload is being handled by staff contracted from a company recommended by St. Joseph’s Healthcare, of Hamilton.
“This should meet our need until the outbreak has been cleared,” Levin said in an email exchange. “Any community volunteers will not be deployed until the outbreak has been declared over.”
“Right now we are managing with our existing model,” he added.
In a note to the community Levin, a Hamilton dentist who has been serving as interim CEO of the facility for most of this year, said the outbreak has been “devastating” for staff and residents who managed to keep the virus at bay for nine months.
“I appreciate that this is a time of tremendous stress, fear and sadness,” Levin said in a note to residents. “Indeed all of us at Shalom Village (myself included) are devastated to know that so many of the Shalom Village family are impacted by the COVID-19 virus, and saddened to have lost 4 of our residents to this pervasive, and deadly virus.”
Levin reported six of the infected residents are in the facility’s apartment complex while 35 are in its long-term care facility.
Shalom Village has been ordered by the public health department to allow St. Joseph’s Healthcare to monitor, investigate and respond to the outbreak.
“St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton will be working in partnership with Shalom Village to monitor, investigate and respond to the infection prevention and control matters needed to prevent further spread of COVID-19. We welcome this partnership, which will assist us with additional education and training support, and expertise,” Levin said in his letter to the community. “Here in Hamilton, St. Joe’s has been working with a number of long-term care homes, retirement homes and congregate settings to support them through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The entire team is working together to minimize any additional spread of the virus, as well as its impact on those already infected,” he added. “Please be assured that Shalom Village is working closely with Public Health and with St. Joseph’s Healthcare to ensure that everything that can be done to deal with this outbreak is being done and we pray that the outbreak will be speedily resolved.”
Shalom Village is the sixth long term care home in Hamilton to have infection control orders issued by the health department. Five of those homes were still in outbreak Wednesday, accounting for 444 of the city’s 779 cases.
From March until this week Shalom Village managed to stay COVID free through a combination of regular testing of staff and residents in its 127-bed long-term care unit with 81 apartments and a ban on visitors.
On Thursday, Hamilton's congregational rabbis called for a community-wide prayer service for the residents and staff of Shalom Village.
The online event is set for Saturday at 7 pm on Zoom.
"As the rabbis of Hamilton’s Jewish community we watch with sadness and trepidation as the numbers of those infected with COVID-19, as well as the numbers of those dying from it, continue to rise. We fear for all residents of our beloved city, Hamilton. And we are especially distressed by the outbreaks at Shalom Village, which, with constant dedication and tirelessness, cares for the beloved, treasured elderly members of our community. We are concerned for the vulnerable residents, and we are equally concerned for those who care for them" Rabbis Jordan Cohen, Hillel Lavery-Yisraeli, Daniel Green and Aaron Selevan wrote.
The rabbis added: "Our prayers are only as good as the actions which accompany them. We would like to use this opportunity to remind everyone of the religious obligation to meticulously follow all current health regulations and recommendations: Stay home whenever possible, do not gather in groups, stay two metres away from others, wash your hands frequently, and wear masks."