It was not how Mary Witkowski pictured celebrating her birthday. But with visits to her nursing home suspended to keep the novel coronavirus out, she turned 90 on April 13 without family, in the room at the Camilla Care Community that she shared with three others.

That week, Witkowski tested positive for covid-19. On April 27, doctors told her family her body was “starting” to shut down. The next day, she died — the latest victim of one of the hundreds of outbreaks that have blazed through Canada’s long-term care facilities. Nursing homes account for 81 percent of the country’s covid-19 deaths, according to Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, a far greater proportion than in the United States.

The outbreak at the 236-bed Camilla Care Community in this Toronto suburb has been one of Canada’s deadliest. Eighty-three people, including 32 staff members, are sick with covid-19, according to parent company Sienna Senior Living. Sixty residents have died.

“On the day my grandmother passed away, my mom asked how many deaths there had been, and they said . . . not very many, there’s not that much of an outbreak,” said Michele Kranjcevic, Witkowski’s granddaughter. “But it wasn’t like that, and that’s what got me so angry.”

Officials say there are encouraging signs that the spread of the virus is slowing in many parts of Canada. But its ruthless whip through long-term care facilities continues — prompting calls for public inquiries, the deployment of military troops to hard-hit homes in Ontario and Quebec, and an admission from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that Canada is “failing” its elderly.

Read full article here.

Amanda Coletta – The Washington Post – May 18, 2020.

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