OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s nursing homes, which already have seen almost half the country’s total coronavirus deaths, will continue to see fatalities even as the overall number of new cases slows, Chief Medical Officer Theresa Tam said on Monday.
The number of people killed by the coronavirus in Canada rose by almost 9% to 734 on Monday from a day earlier. That is slower than the 11% reported yesterday and the almost 32% increase recorded a week ago.
The total number of those diagnosed with the coronavirus rose to 24,804, a less than 5% increase from Sunday. A week ago, there was almost a 15% overnight increase in positive diagnoses.
Deaths in long-term care facilities “will continue to increase even as the epidemic growth rate slows down,” Tam said in a daily news conference in Ottawa.
While many nursing homes across the country have been hit hard, 31 people have died in a single Montreal-area care home since mid-March, Quebec Premier Francois Legault said over the weekend, though only five so far are known for certain to have been caused by COVID-19.
Legault blamed the situation on “major negligence” and said the owners had not cooperated when authorities first tried to probe reports of problems. Health authorities that visited the 150-bed residence in late March found “serious problems” and a severe staff shortage. Police are investigating.
Residents in nursing homes and long-term care facilities are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, because of typically more compromised immune systems, frailty and sharing common areas. Frequent visitors and workers from outside compound the situation.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released new guidelines for long-term care homes over the weekend, including monitoring that all staff and visitors wear masks.
The coronavirus crisis has forced authorities across the country to shut down non-essential businesses.
As of Sunday, Canadian applications for federal emergency unemployment aid totaled 5.97 million, according to government data.
Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau on Monday said the government is offering C$50 million ($36 million) to agriculture and food processing businesses who have to bring in temporary foreign workers this year.
Companies will be eligible to C$1,500 for each worker to help cover the costs of the mandatory 14-day quarantine required of everyone who enters the country from abroad, Bibeau said.
Reporting by Steve Scherer, Editing by Franklin Paul and Marguerita Choy