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Two Toronto hospitals declare COVID-19 outbreaks

Two Toronto hospitals declare COVID-19 outbreaks
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An outbreak in a hospital unit means there have been at least two COVID-19 cases within a 14-day period that could reasonably have been acquired in the hospital.

There are currently four units at St. Joseph’s hospital in the city’s west end with an outbreak status, while a fifth unit is under “heightened awareness,” meaning there has been a chance of exposure to the unit, said Unity Health spokesperson Robyn Cox.

The hospital has been managing a “significant number of confirmed COVID-19 cases,” Cox said. There are 7 active COVID-19 positive patients linked to the outbreaks, as well as 13 positive staff cases.

Out of an abundance of caution, the hospital changed its visitor policy effective Saturday, allowing for two visits a week from an “essential care partner,” with some exceptions for pediatric and palliative care patients and women in labour.

The hospital said it would also be implementing widespread testing of staff and patients in the coming days.

“We want to assure our community that St. Joseph’s is a safe place to receive care and emergency services,” Cox said.

“We have taken many measures to ensure this, including closing affected units to new admissions, further enhancing our cleaning and infection control procedures and implementing additional safety precautions for our staff, such as the mandatory use of face shields at all times in clinical spaces.”

Public health experts have made clear an outbreak doesn’t mean a hospital is overrun with COVID-19 and that it’s less safe to go there if in need of medical assistance.

An outbreak was also declared Thursday in two units at Toronto Western hospital, with 5 staff members affected and three patients as of Saturday.

As of this month, the hospital increased its housekeeping staff for daily cleaning and is testing all staff and contact tracing for COVID-19 “as appropriate,” according to its website.

The hospital is part of University Health Network, which said steps to address outbreaks in its health care facilities include testing all staff and patients in an affected unit, conducting contact tracing, and thorough cleaning.
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