Thu | Feb 25, 2021

Golden age cluster - 43 COVID-19 cases discovered among elderly residents, staff at Kingston home

Published:Wednesday | October 21, 2020 | 12:14 AM

A COVID-19 cluster of 43 cases discovered at the Golden Age Home in Vineyard Town, Kingston, has triggered emergency protocols to cauterise the spread of the deadly virus among the high-risk group.

In a release last night, the Ministry of Health & Wellness said that COVID-19 testing was being expedited for persons linked to the facility, pointing out that the cases were found among residents and staff after 72 tests were conducted.

With the facility being home to 428 elderly residents and with a staff complement of 162, dark clouds now gather over the facility as more persons tested so far returned positive results.

The ministry said residents who have tested positive have been isolated while others are being quarantined pending the results of further tests to be done over the next two days.

“The Ministry of Health & Wellness will also be providing support to review and strengthen the infection prevention and control measures at the home and to review the protocols to increase the surveillance and monitoring of all such facilities to reduce transmission among the vulnerable population,” a statement quoted Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton as saying.

The elderly are most at risk for adverse outcomes from the virus causing COVID-19, which was first detected in Jamaica in March after spreading around the globe from its cradle in Wuhan, China, since it was discovered late last year.

Seniors figure prominently among the grisly global death toll of more than 1.1 million. Locally, there have been 174 deaths linked to the virus, with an addition 24 cases under investigation, while 14 were ruled coincidental.

More than three-quarters of the deaths locally have been linked to persons over the age of 50, with the 70-79 age ground seeing the highest number of fatalities.

With spiralling COVID-19 cases in the island, St Catherine’s chief public health inspector, Grayson Hutchinson, recently called for stricter measures aimed at keeping the virus out of nursing homes, urging managers to ensure all protocols were being followed to prevent infection of vulnerable residents.

“It is our view that outside visits to these susceptible institutions should be immediately put on hold for the time being. These visits should be significantly limited or forbidden,” he said, expressing a sense of urgency.

He called on managers to have family members and friends of residents in these nursing homes to relay whatever items they have to deliver by way of members of staff to limit the number of persons being exposed to residents.

Last week, The Gleaner reported preliminary findings from a study conducted by the Mona Ageing and Wellness Centre. It revealed that the level of fear among seniors was causing many to cancel doctor’s visits and trips to top up their medication.

More than 80 per cent of the 313 seniors surveyed reported being concerned about being lonely due to COVID-19, while more than 60 per cent are worried about their medication running out, with more than 80 per cent of them having a chronic medical illness.

More than 60 per cent of the elders said they have not sought medical care since March, while 29 per cent have not left home at all. More than 22 per cent of the seniors reported cancelling a doctor’s visit or healthcare appointment.

Last month, the Government modified the stay-at-home order restricting movement for citizens over 70 years, coming down from 75 years.