Sat | Nov 28, 2020

Nursing homes shuttered; first COVID-19 death at Golden Age Home

Published:Thursday | October 29, 2020 | 12:18 AMJonielle Daley/Gleaner Writer
Infection prevention and control personnel at a tent on the grounds of the Golden Age Home in Vineyard Town, St Andrew. The elder-care facility has recorded one COVID-19 death and 87 infections.
Infection prevention and control personnel at a tent on the grounds of the Golden Age Home in Vineyard Town, St Andrew. The elder-care facility has recorded one COVID-19 death and 87 infections.

Two private nursing homes in Manchester and Hanover have been ordered closed for COVID-19 health and safety breaches as Jamaica recorded its first coronavirus death at an elder-care facility.

The developments are an important fault line as elder-care homes globally have been epicentres of superspreading for the virus, which presents a greater mortal threat to ageing people with underlying illnesses.

Speaking to The Gleaner less than an hour after a late-evening Jamaica House press conference on Wednesday, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said that the conditions triggering the shutdown would have been “deemed extreme”, “where we feel that corrective measures in the short term would be minimum, if at all possible”.

That crackdown has come in the wake of a rash of COVID-19 cases at the state-run Golden Age Home in Vineyard Town, St Andrew, where 87 infections were detected among the 620 residents and staff tested for the virus dating back to October 21.

The positive cases include 22 staffers and 65 residents who remain asymptomatic.

The one outlier, Tufton said at the press briefing, was the death announced on Wednesday.

Half of the 203 nursing homes that have been inspected have been deemed non-compliant with COVID-19 protocols and have been served notices under the nuisance regulation and given a maximum of 30 days to regularise their operations.

“The team will be out in the field to inspect and to visit, if necessary, every day until those facilities are brought into the appropriate protocol,” Tufton said.

Outside the gates of the Golden Age Home in Vineyard Town on Wednesday, COVID-19 protocols were meticulously exercised. Nurses and other workers were required to undergo sanitisation and temperature checks when entering and exiting the premises, with personnel recording data.

Additional bathroom facilities are being constructed on the premises.

Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie said the Government was mulling over easing the seven-month blackout on interactions between families and residents at infirmaries and nursing homes, with drive-through visits among the suite of considerations on the table.

That move is in response to a flood of visitation requests from families amid global concern about spiralling mental-health side effects caused by the pandemic.

The stay-at-home order restricting movement for people aged 65 years and older will remain in place until November 30.

Jamaica’s positivity rate of 14 per cent on Monday still hovers above the global optimum benchmark of four or five per cent.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness announced 64 new positive COVID-19 cases and two deaths over the 24-hour period ending Monday.

Total deaths have inched up to 198 and overall coronavirus infections, 8,851. Roughly half of all infected people have recovered.