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The Ministry of Health and Wellness will be closely monitoring the Golden Age Home in Vineyard Town, Kingston, over the next 14 to 21 days, as the Government puts measures in place to address the cluster of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases at the facility.

Portfolio Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, said the situation at the home is projected to be controlled within that time period.

He was addressing a joint digital press conference with Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, on Wednesday (October 21), to outline measures to contain the spread of the virus at the facility, which accommodates the vulnerable older population.

“Firstly, there will be restricted movement between the various residential areas at the home; strict enforcement of the no-visitor rule; strict adherence to infection prevention and control measures; and strict adherence to mask wearing at all times,” Dr. Tufton said.

He noted that the Government is fast-tracking, with the support of two mobile units, the testing of all 428 residents and 162 staff members. The target is to complete testing within two days.

In addition, he said that persons awaiting results are being put into quarantine pending the outcome of their tests. All residents and staff are being monitored closely and those who become symptomatic and need hospital care will be transferred to an institution.

A team of caregivers has been identified to provide the necessary care for the residents at the home.

Up until Tuesday (October 20), 43 residents and three staff members had tested positive for COVID-19 from 72 samples taken. The cases are confined to one section of the facility.

The first positive case was confirmed on October 15 for a 73-year-old resident, who had become symptomatic on October 5. The symptoms included a productive cough and fever, and the patient was admitted to the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) and sampled on October 13.

Dr. Tufton said enhanced surveillance of the infirmary was initiated on Saturday (October 17), with testing and contract tracing at the section where the resident was housed.

Infected residents have been placed in isolation, while staff members are isolated in their homes.

The Health Minister said that the positive cases were despite the safety measures put in place at the facility.

“To my mind, there was a fairly good setup… to reduce or even eliminate the possibility of the virus coming in,” he noted.

“When I went [three weeks ago], I was keen to look at the structures that were in place, so starting at the gate, temperature check and handwash stations were in place, which meant that persons were expected to go through that process,” he pointed out.

“Workers coming in had changing arrangements, so they would not bring in any possible contamination on their clothing. There was isolation or the separation of blocks, so persons were not comingling,” he noted further.

Dr. Tufton said there was also a new isolation room when he visited.

Minister McKenzie, who has portfolio responsibility for golden-age homes and infirmaries, also pointed out that the necessary health and safety protocols were put in place at the Vineyard Town home.

“All the measures that were laid down when we gave the infirmaries a charge that we are not accepting any new patients, no visits, the protocols in terms of the sanitisation [and] temperature checks, they are all in place,” he said.

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