Covid outbreak and death confirmed among care home residents in Sidmouth

An extensive Covid-19 outbreak has been confirmed at an East Devon care home where residents and staff had already received their first vaccination.

Anita Merritt www.devonlive.com

It is alleged there were as many as 33 positive coronavirus cases in the space of three days recorded at Holmesley Care Home in Fortescue Road, Sidmouth.

Five residents are thought to have been admitted to hospital, and one of those sadly passed away yesterday.

The care home, which was reported to have had 42 residents living there in September 2020, has not confirmed how many Covid cases there have been, but has said one resident has died.

Residents had reportedly been due their second vaccination this weekend.

Yesterday Devon Live reported cases of coronavirus have quickly risen in an area of East Devon – primarily in the over-85s.

Infection rates in East Devon rose from a low of 33.5/100,000 – the lowest since the end of September – on Saturday, to 45.8/100,000 on Sunday, when cases dated March 2 were added to the data.

The rise is believed to be due to the outbreak in the Sidmouth care home, with the MSOA area reporting 34 cases in the seven day period between February 24 and March 2 – with 29 of them attributed to March 2 alone.

Care home director Will Neal said: “We can confirm that we currently have a high number of positive cases of coronavirus among residents in the home, and that one of our residents has now sadly passed away.

“For nearly 12 months the staff team have worked hard and kept the virus from entering our home. We are deeply saddened by this outbreak.

“Nearly all our residents and the team have received their first dose of the vaccine and were about to have their second dose, and we hope this may have helped prevent an even worse situation.

“We are working closely with Public Health England and Public Health Devon, and have a comprehensive package of measures in place to halt the spread and to ensure that our residents are receiving the care they need.

“We cannot speculate how the virus might have entered our home, but our clear priority right now is the care of our residents and staff and to do all we can to reduce risk of further cases.”

The outbreak is a stark reminder that being vaccinated doesn’t mean transmission will be stopped and that precautions must remain in place for seniors and care homes.

However, vaccines are said to still be effective because they prevent severe illness and death.

The report said: “We looked at infection prevention and control measures under the safe key question.

“We look at this in all care home inspections even if no concerns or risks have been identified. This is to provide assurance that the service can respond to coronavirus and other infection outbreaks effectively.

“We found care was taken to ensure people were safeguarded from the risk of infection. There was a team of housekeepers who took pride in their work. All areas of the home were regularly cleaned.

“There were sufficient stocks of personal protective equipment and staff took all precautions needed to keep people safe.”

A spokesman for Public Health Devon, said: “Public Health England South West and Devon County Council are working together to support staff and residents of Holmesley care home in Sidford following an outbreak of Covid-19 in residents. Sadly a resident has passed away.

“The home is currently closed to visitors.

“Residents and staff in the home have received their first dose vaccinations, which will be providing a level of protection for them.

“In addition, the home has a range of measures in place to respond to this sudden rise positive cases, and to prevent further transmission. There is no current evidence of wider community spread.”

Steve Brown, director of Public Health Devon, said: “This level of outbreak is unusual following the roll out of the vaccination programme, but it is a helpful reminder that we must all stay on our guard.

“While the vaccine roll out is going well and proving effective, we need to remember that no vaccination is ever 100 per cent effective.

“We are working with health colleagues to do everything we can to minimise the spread of the virus in Devon.

“It is important that we do all we can to protect the elderly and vulnerable in care homes, which is why we have issued extensive advice and guidelines to support them in managing suspected and confirmed cases of Covid-19.

“We all have a part to play in reducing the risk of infection and must continue to stay at home and only go outside for food, health reasons or work, but only if you cannot work from home.

“If you do have to leave the house, please stick to the rules – keep your social distance, wear a face covering when indoors in public spaces, and to wash your hands regularly.”

Holmesley Care Home received a focused, but not full inspection, by independent health and social care regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in September 2020. It was rated good for being safe and well-led.

It was the first inspection of the service since it was newly registered in August 2019. People living in the home, staff and most relatives praised the provider and management team for the improvements they had made.

It was noted a visitors room had been set up with a Perspex screen to enable visitors to enter from the outside and sit and talk with their loved-ones safely. Inspectors were told the facility was widely appreciated by people in the home and their relatives.