Flattening the curve in New Brunswick: long-term care homes remain free of COVID-19

April 23, 2020 Dr. Ann Collins

On the day I write this, New Brunswick has no new cases of COVID-19. 

We’ve had six such days in the past week and a half, and with only 118 cases in total province-wide, my community has been spared much of the anxiety and disruption caused by this pandemic.

On the day I write this, I also have no knowledge of any COVID-19 cases among residents or employees of our long-term care homes. On this front, I think we’ve dodged a bullet. But it’s not the time to relax our guard.

I’ve been providing care to long-term care residents for 26 years. So, it’s been difficult to reconcile the fact that since my 14-day quarantine ended in late March, I’ve yet to be able to visit the non-profit home where I share medical director duties.

My co-director and I are in daily contact with the home, which began a lock-down, no-visitors protocol in late March. Since then, I’ve been trying to balance the needs of the residents and the staff who work there with the risk that someone like myself might introduce COVID-19. After working in a hospital last week, I made the decision to wait another seven days before scheduling an in-person visit to the home.

Seniors' message to their families at the long-term care home Seniors' message to their families at New Brunswick long-term care home

Right now, everything seems to be going well. There are no significant clinical concerns among the residents, most have adjusted well to the new protocols, and the staff are feeling supported. But I know the families are finding it tough, particularly since many of the residents have dementia.

Virtual connections are helping bring families together. I have a good friend whose mother is a long-term care resident in her 90’s. She has dementia but is otherwise healthy and active. My friend has been FaceTiming her, through an iPad provided by the long-term care home. Although they weren’t able to have a two-way discussion, my friend’s mother enjoyed seeing her and hearing her voice.

Here in New Brunswick, I think the reason for the relatively low impact of the pandemic can be traced in part to our demographics. We have few large urban areas with concentrated populations, many people are naturally isolated, and the population is probably less widely travelled than in other regions. New Brunswickers have been largely compliant with the physical distancing rules being promoted by public health.

But until we have a vaccine, I believe we’ll need to maintain many of the measures that helped prevent the spread of COVID-19 – such as closing the provincial border to all but essential travel.

These restrictions may be annoying or even onerous to some.  Yet they’re our best hope of containing the pandemic and protecting the folks in long-term care homes who are reliant on others’ compliance to stay well.

More from Dr. Ann Collins' COVID-19 experience:

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This material is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. The opinions stated by the authors are made in a personal capacity and do not necessarily reflect those of the Canadian Medical Association and its subsidiaries including Joule.  Feel passionate about this topic? Please connect with us at jouleinquiries@cma.ca.

About the author(s)

Dr. Ann Collins

Dr. Ann Collins runs a full-time family practice in Fredericton, New Brunswick, and is president-elect for the Canadian Medical Association.

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