Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman assured Canberrans that the current delta outbreak in a Canberra aged care facility would not be like last year when COVID swept through aged care facilities across the country.
Health authorities are still investigating how the first case in the Calvary Haydon Retirement Community contracted the virus.
But Dr Coleman said the community would have to become used to the fact “that we will start to see more and more transmission as we open up and get more comfortable with our vaccination coverage”.
Nine residents and three staff are now part of the cluster.
Ninety-two per cent of residents are fully vaccinated and 97 per cent have had one dose of vaccine. All staff have received their first dose and 53 per cent are fully vaccinated.
Dr Coleman said all residents are being cared for at the facility and health authorities are working closely with infection prevention and control experts on the ground.
“All of the families of those residents have been involved as well,” Dr Coleman said.
“There are some really difficult challenges in [people leaving the facility]. Often it is a discussion about the risk involved and the best choice may be staying inside where you are cared for by staff who know what your needs are and how best those can be met.
“Often when you are in a retirement village or aged care facility it can be very traumatic to move. This is a challenging environment to care for people under these circumstances and we are doing everything we can to make this as smooth and as safe as possible.”
It is not yet known how many staff are furloughed due to the outbreak but Dr Coleman said more staff from both private and public facilities could be seconded.
Genomic sequencing is still underway to determine where the virus came from.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr is due to discuss expanding the vaccine mandate from residential aged care staff to other vulnerable and high-risk cohorts at next month’s National Cabinet meeting.
National Cabinet is due to meet three times next month. The first meeting is scheduled for 1 October.
Mr Barr said he would not pre-empt any decisions or expert advice about what cohorts should be required to be vaccinated to continue working. He did not rule out introducing further vaccine mandates if a national consensus was reached.
The discussion will take place against the backdrop of Victorian protests where construction workers are pushing back on mandatory jabs before they can return to work.
UPDATED 12:30 pm: The ACT has recorded its equal highest day of new COVID-19 infections at 32, as cases are confirmed in both the Calvary Haydon Retirement Community at Bruce and the Canberra Hospital.
Of the 32 new cases overnight, 26 are linked, but only seven were in quarantine during their entire infectious period.
At least 24 people spent some of their infectious period in the community.
The Calvary Haydon patients include residents and staff. Chief Medical Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said that one staff member and nine residents had been newly diagnosed and the cluster now stands at 12.
Ninety-two per cent of residents are fully vaccinated and 97 per cent have had one dose of vaccine. All staff have received their first dose and 53 per cent are fully vaccinated. All staff are single-site workers and Dr Coleman said there are no implications for other facilities.
“We are very assured that the progress of this outbreak will be very different to what we saw last year,” Dr Coleman said. “This outbreak still has a way to go, but our preliminary assessment is that we are much better situated this year.”
There are now also two positive cases in the Canberra Hospital.
Acting Canberra Health Service CEO Dave Peffer said that a patient who has been at the hospital since 18 September has tested positive. It’s believed the virus was contracted outside the hospital. The patient was asymptomatic when they presented for a procedure and had no reason to believe they had acquired COVID-19.
The patient was in a shared room in Ward 10A, a surgical ward in the tower block. The other patient in the room has now also tested positive.
Both cases have been moved to the hospital’s COVID-19 ward. The room they were in has been cleaned and an assessment is being made about the extended risk to patients or the workforce on the ward. The ward is declared a red zone and has been locked down.
Patients and the ward team are undergoing testing and no patients will be discharged without receiving a confirmed test result.
Any staff member who worked or consulted on the ward is being contacted for testing. Patients discharged since this case entered the hospital are also being contacted and should test and quarantine.
Across the Territory, 10 people are currently hospitalised, with four in intensive care and three ventilated. Mr Barr said that increasing numbers of patients from regional NSW are coming into the ACT’s hospital system, a trend that’s anticipated to continue.
Yesterday 2952 tests were conducted and the Watson pop-up testing site at the neighbourhood oval in Watson opened this morning, although Dr Coleman said testing has been fairly slow thus far. She urged or anyone with even the mildest of symptoms to get tested there or at EPIC.
Mr Barr said that “positive discussions” have continued with the Commonwealth regarding the ACT’s Pfizer allocation for October and most concerns have been resolved.
He said that contrary to some reporting, the ACT has not ruled out mandatory vaccination for high-risk workforces. Mandates are currently in place for aged care workers and the ACT will participate in the national discussions on the health care and disability sectors.
It’s anticipated that national recommendations will come to National Cabinet in October and Mr Barr said that consultation has begun with the ACT public sector on how to implement mandates for high-risk workforces across ACT Government.
UPDATED 11:55 am: The ACT has recorded 32 new cases of COVID-19 – the equal highest the ACT has experienced in this outbreak.
Yesterday, the ACT had 16 new cases.
Of the 32, 26 are linked, the remainder are under investigation.
Only seven of the 32 were in quarantine for the entirety of their infectious period; at least 24 spent part of their infectious period in the community.
A number of the new cases are linked to the Calvary Haydon Retirement Community in Bruce.
Ten people are in hospital with COVID-19, four are in intensive care and three require ventilation.
A total of 2952 tests were conducted yesterday.
In the past 24 hours, NSW recorded 1007 new cases and 11 deaths, 10 men and one woman (one in their 40s, one in their 50s, two in their 60s, three in their 70s, three in their 80s and one in their 90s).
Yesterday there were 1043 cases and 11 deaths.
Victoria recorded 847 new cases and one death. Yesterday, Victoria recorded 733 cases and one death.
9:25 am: ALDI and Woolworths in Conder have been listed as casual exposure locations, as has Woolworths in Belconnen and a number of bus routes between Florey, Westfield Belconnen and ANU.
People who visited ALDI Conder between 9:00 am and 9:55 am on Wednesday, 22 September, or between 4:25 pm and 5:30 pm on Thursday, 23 September, are considered casual contacts.
Coles Express Gungahlin is listed as a casual exposure site for 20 September between 9:45 am and 10:45 am. Woolworths Gungahlin is a monitor for symptoms site between on 22 September between 7:15 am and 8 am.
Anyone at the Woothworths at the Lanyon Marketplace in Conder between 9:25 am and 10:15 am on Wednesday is also considered a casual contact.
Coles Amaroo, The Reject Shop in Belconnen, Woolworths Belconnen and Coles Jamison are casual exposure locations for Tuesday, 21 September.
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Shopping centres across Canberra, including Wanniassa, Kambah, Conder and the Canberra Centre have also been listed as exposure locations.
Cooleman Court at Weston has been named a monitor for symptoms site for 18 September, 19 September, 21 September and 22 September.
Bus routes 2 and 3 have been listed for multiple days as casual contact sites.
A full list of exposure locations can be found at www.covid19.act.gov.au.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman will update the ACT’s COVID-19 situation at 11:45 am.
More to come.