La Soufrière volcano on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent erupted on Friday after decades of inactivity, sending dark plumes of ash and smoke billowing into the sky and forcing thousands from surrounding villages to evacuate.
Dormant since 1979, the volcano started showing signs of activity in December, spewing steam and smoke and rumbling away. That picked up this week, prompting Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves to order an evacuation of the surrounding area late on Thursday.
Early on Friday it finally erupted. Ash and smoke plunged the neighbouring area into near total darkness, blotting out the bright morning sun, said a Reuters witness, who reported hearing the explosion from Rose Hall, a nearby village.
Smaller explosions continued throughout the day, Erouscilla Joseph, director at the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre, told Reuters, adding that this kind of activity could go on for weeks if not months.
“This is just the beginning,” she said.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which has a population of just over 100,000, has not experienced volcanic activity since 1979, when an eruption caused approximately $ 100 million in damages. An eruption by La Soufriere in 1902 killed more than 1,000 people. The name means “sulfur outlet” in French.
The eruption column was estimated to have reached 10 kilometres high, the seismic research centre said, warning other explosive eruptions could occur. Ash fall could affect the Grenadines, Barbados, St. Lucia and Grenada.
“The ash plume may cause flight delays due to diversions,” the centre said on Twitter. “On the ground, ash can cause discomfort in persons suffering with respiratory illnesses and will impact water resources.”
Local media have in recent days also reported increased activity from Mount Pelee on the island of Martinique, which lies to the north of St. Vincent beyond St. Lucia.
‘In a frenzy’
Some 4,500 residents near the volcano had left their homes already via ships and by road, Gonsalves said at a news conference on Friday.
Heavy ash fall had halted evacuation efforts somewhat due to poor visibility, according to St. Vincent’s National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO).
“The place in general is in a frenzy,” said Lavern King, 28, a shelter volunteer. “People are still being evacuated from the red zone, it started yesterday evening and into last night.”
Gonsalves said that depending on the extent of the damage, it could be four months before evacuees could return home.
Welling up with tears, he said neighbouring islands such as Dominica, Grenada and Antigua had agreed to take evacuees in and cruise lines could ferry them over — as long as they got vaccinated first.
Though that could prove to be a challenge, according to opposition senator Shevern John, 42.
“People are very scared of the vaccine and they opt out of coming to a shelter because eventually they would have to adhere to the protocol,” she said.
Shelters are also having to limit the number of evacuees they take in due to COVID-19 protocols.
John said people would have to wait for further scientific analysis to know what steps to take next.
“It can go for a few days or a few weeks,” she said. “At the moment, both ends of the island are covered in ash and very dark.”
Ten months into the COVID-19 pandemic, inspectors were still catching Ontario long-term care homes violating crucial infection prevention and control measures.
A CBC News data investigation has found 1 in 12 long-term care facilities in the province were caught breaking COVID-specific government directives between June 2020 and January 2021. Many infractions occurred during or after outbreaks.
“To have egregious infractions in terms of not following standard operating procedure for things like infection prevention and control, these operators need to be held to account,” said Dr. Nathan Stall, a geriatrician at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.
The COVID-19 death toll in Ontario’s long-term care homes was 3,743 residents as of Feb. 26, 2021, according to the province. Of those deaths, 1,848 occurred before Aug. 31, 2020, which means the second spike in long-term care homes was even deadlier than the first.
Improper screening was a frequent issue at homes. Many were cited for not asking staff members or visitors questions or taking their temperatures, and failing to ensure they were wearing masks as they entered or left the premises.
Some of the reports from provincial inspectors also detail long lists of infection control issues. While other companies are reflected in the data, the number of Caressant Care-owned homes with inspection violations of COVID-19 directives is high relative to the number of homes owned by the company.
WATCH | Several Ontario nursing homes broke rules meant to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks:
A CBC News investigation has revealed that multiple Ontario long-term care homes didn’t follow infection prevention rules meant to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks with some breaking the rules during or after an outbreak. 2:50
At Caressant Care Listowel Nursing Home west of Toronto, where an outbreak infected nearly every resident of the home in January, an inspector found 12 major infection control violations during the outbreak.
“That probably explains quite a bit about how [COVID-19] got through so quickly,” said Alycia Houchen, whose grandfather, Edwin Rutherford, was one of 13 residents who died in the home, which has room for 45 people.
In all, 43 residents and 26 staff were infected during the winter outbreak at the home.
The violations included staff not being aware of the correct personal protective equipment to wear and not cleaning their hands after taking care of residents; staff working with both COVID-19 positive and negative residents; and hand sanitizer not being available in all areas of the home.
Houchen, herself a personal support worker at a different retirement home, says the inspection report findings are “disturbing and disgusting.”
“They have had plenty of time to prepare and to do whatever they needed to do, and they obviously didn’t do it.”
Caressant Care owns 15 homes in Ontario. Four of those facilities were caught breaking COVID-19 safety directives during inspections. Like the location in Listowel, two others were found to be in violation of the infection control rules during outbreaks in December or January.
The company declined to comment for this story.
Big operator accounts for more than 20% of violations
Extendicare, one of Ontario’s largest long-term care operators, which owns or manages 69 facilities in the province, was cited for the most violations of infection control and prevention directives.
Homes owned by the company accounted for 13 per cent of the provincial total of 60 violations. When homes the company manages are included, that increases to 22 per cent of the violations.
Other big chains such as Sienna Senior Living and Revera accounted for three and five per cent, respectively.
Inspection citations against Ontario’s long-term care homes hardly ever come with any consequences. Homes are asked to fix the problem, but even if an inspector returns and finds the same issue, there are no fines or penalties. In very rare cases, homes are barred from accepting new residents.
Extendicare says inspectors visited its owned and managed homes almost 200 times in the past six months.
“While some inspections do report issues related to COVID directives that require attention, these represent a small minority of the visits,” Extendicare said in a statement to CBC News. “While our goal is to have no issues, it’s important to note that in 93 per cent of the inspections, there were no COVID-related compliance issues.”
For-profit long-term care homes received 70 per cent of the violation citations despite accounting for 56 per cent of the homes in the province. An additional eight per cent of the violations were found in non-profit homes managed by for-profit companies.
That for-profit operators are over-represented in the findings isn’t surprising to Tamara Daly, the director of York University’s Centre for Aging Research and Education. She has been studying the differences between for-profit and non-profit care for years.
“I think, at the end of the day, the working conditions and the caring conditions have been shown to be worse at for-profit facilities and the research data backs this up, both pre-pandemic and during the pandemic,” she said.
CBC News sent the Ontario Ministry of Long-Term Care its findings from the inspection reports. It responded with a statement that said inspectors monitor for the health, safety and quality of care of residents.
“Repeated non-compliance is a serious concern and can result in escalated measures and sanctions by the ministry,” the statement says.
Inspectors spot infection control issues during outbreaks
Of the infection control and prevention violations, 52 per cent occurred in homes either during or after an outbreak.
The fact that inspectors were finding repeated violations in the same home, or violations after an outbreak, is very concerning, said Daly.
“To get those reports indicating that there’s still improper use of PPE after an incident, that concerns me greatly, because where is the learning?”
Ten homes were cited for denying entry to essential caregivers. Short staffing in homes has been well documented, and restricting family access means residents often don’t get the care they need, said Daly.
It’s also a quality of life issue, she said.
“Being in long-term care is very different than being in a hospital bed,” she said. “You’re there to live. And I think what we essentially did is we removed that part of their care, the living part, the part that makes life worthwhile.”
Infection control important after vaccinations
Even as residents at Ontario nursing homes get vaccinated, the number of infection control violations is still concerning, said Stall, the geriatrician at Mount Sinai Hospital.
“Vaccine euphoria is a good thing. We should all be excited about this,” he said.
However, he said, we don’t know definitively that the vaccines prevent transmission.
The vaccine supply didn’t make it in time to help at Caressant Care Listowel.
For Houchen, the tragedy was hard to watch from the outside.
She didn’t get to say goodbye to her grandfather, and as a personal support worker, not being able to help him in his final days made it worse, she said.
“I followed it with my heart breaking,” she said. “Every time [the deaths] climbed up, my heart was just breaking more because there’s nothing you can do, there’s nothing you can do to help.”
Jody Vance said her heart skipped a beat when she got an unexpected phone call from the long-term care facility where her elderly father lives.
She braced herself for bad news, but instead the voice on the other end told her something so many Canadians would love to hear: a dose of the Pfizer-BionTech COVID-19 vaccine was being set aside for her.
“It was kind of was a little bit surreal,” she said. “It felt like hope.”
Vance got the shot because staff at the long-term care facility in Delta, B.C., declared her an “essential” visitor for her 82-year-old father. Driving him to emergency cancer surgeries during the pandemic made her eligible for such status.
To Vance, the main benefit of being vaccinated is that her dad won’t need to be isolated from her for his own protection.
B.C. is one of the few provinces — Ontario and Nova Scotia are taking a similar approach — ushering essential visitors to the front of the vaccine line as a priority group. It’s up to the discretion of each facility to determine who is considered essential.
There is no cap in B.C. on the number of approved essential visitors, but only one will be allowed at a time with exceptions made for end-of-life care.
Those left to wait say they are also left to wonder if the delay could ultimately be too long.
A frustrating process
“I don’t know how long she’ll be with us,” said Niovi Patsicakis, speaking about her 98-year-old mother, who lives at Evergreen Long-Term Care in White Rock.
Patsicakis said her mom has been mostly confined to her room in the facility for nearly three months, and Patsicakis hasn’t been able to visit since before Christmas. She said she fears the lack of in-person mother-daughter visits has affected her mom’s health.
But unlike Vance, Patsicakis said she has not been deemed essential by her mom’s long-term care facility.
According to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), essential visits include those for compassionate care reasons such as critical illness, hospice care, end of life and medical assistance in dying. They can also include visits by a person who assists with feeding, mobility and communication needs.
WATCH | British Columbians with loved ones in long-term care talk about their experiences trying to get vaccine priority:
As the vaccine rolls out in long-term care homes across the country, some provinces, including British Columbia, are also prioritizing essential caregivers for a shot to benefit residents and staff. But there’s some inconsistency about who qualifies as essential. 2:03
The B.C. Health Ministry has also said a clergy member can be designated as an essential visitor.
Health authority and facility staff, in collaboration with the long-term care resident, determine who gets essential visitor status, according to BCCDC in guidelines published on Jan. 7.
Patsicakis’ visits in the past have tended to be social in nature, but Patsicakis said her mother’s health seems to be deteriorating since their loss of contact.
“I can see a huge difference in how mom has gotten much worse,” said Patsicakis. “Her language skills have weakened as well as her mood. Sometimes, she’s confused or doesn’t want to get out of bed.”
Trying to get an essential designation has been difficult and frustrating, she said.
Patsicakis said essential visitors to Evergreen are evaluated by a group that includes facility faculty and a representative from the local health authority, Fraser Health. She said she wrote Evergreen administration three times to plead her case and filed a complaint with an advocate at the health authority’s patient quality care office.
She said she requested Evergreen’s decision be sent to her in writing in November and never received it. As of Jan. 20, she said hadn’t heard anything from Fraser Health either.
“I know so many people are devastated,” she said, adding she is part of a social media group of others like herself who are supporting one another as best they can.
The National Institute on Ageing said families in British Columbia are enduring the most restrictive long-term care home visitation policies in the country.
B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie said the lack of an association that represents residents and their families at the 300 care homes in B.C. means they don’t have a voice in policy discussions between the government and care-home operators.
She said care home operators seem to be arbitrarily deciding who qualifies as an essential or designated visitor.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, provided the latest numbers of people who had qualified as essential visitors during a press event on Jan. 18.
Henry said about 8,000 people have met the criteria and will receive a vaccination during the province’s first phase of a four-phase immunization program, which is underway. There are approximately 30,000 people living in long-term care facilities
“The default, we believe, should be that every person, every resident who has a person who can care for them, should have a designated essential visitor, but that has been a challenge to operationalize,” said Henry.
Applications for essential status are available on the provincial health ministry’s website. There is an appeal process for people who do not like the initial decision.
One Abbotsford long-term care home operator said the more people who are designated essential, the better.
“Because of staffing levels, this gives us that extra layer of assistance — they are doing things like supporting their loved one with feeding or mobility,” said Dan Levitt, executive director of Tabor Village. “So they need that vaccine, and that’ll make a big difference for all of us.”
During a Friday press briefing, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix addressed the frustration felt by people disappointed to hear they are not considered essential.
“Everyone should feel that their participation, their social life, their visiting of their loved ones is essential,” he said.
Dix said vaccinating residents and staff in long-term care and assisted living facilities now could lead to eased restrictions around social visits by March, when all residents and staff are expected to have received both doses of their vaccines.
“It’s going to allow a lot of things to happen, including more visits from family members and loved ones and friends,” he said.
A strong, shallow earthquake shook Indonesia’s Sulawesi island just after midnight Friday, toppling homes and buildings, triggering landslides and killing at least 42 people.
More than 600 people were injured during the magnitude 6.2 quake, which sent people fleeing their homes in the darkness. Authorities were still collecting information about the full scale of casualties and damage in the affected areas.
There were reports of many people trapped in the rubble of collapsed homes and buildings.
In a video released by the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, a girl stuck in the wreckage of a house cried out for help and said she heard the sound of other family members also trapped. “Please help me, it hurts,” the girl told rescuers, who replied that they desperately wanted to help her.
The rescuers said an excavator was needed to save the girl and others trapped in collapsed buildings. Other images showed a severed bridge and damaged and flattened houses.
The earthquake damaged part of a hospital and patients were moved to an emergency tent outside. Rescuers struggled to extract seven patients and staff who were trapped under tons of rubble. After several hours, an excavator came to help and the rescuers eventually retrieved four survivors and three bodies.
Another video showed a father crying, asking for help to save his children buried under their toppled house. “They are trapped inside, please help,” he cried.
Thousands of displaced people were evacuated to temporary shelters.
The quake was centred 36 kilometres south of West Sulawesi province’s Mamuju district, at a depth of 18 kilometres, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
The Indonesian disaster agency said the death toll climbed to 34 as rescuers in Mamuju retrieved 26 bodies trapped in the rubble of collapsed homes and buildings.
The agency said in a statement that eight people were killed and 637 others were injured in Mamuju’s neighbouring district of Majene.
It said at least 300 houses and a health clinic were damaged and about 15,000 people were being housed in temporary shelters in the district. Power and phones were down in many areas.
‘We are racing against time’
West Sulawesi Administration Secretary Muhammad Idris told TVOne that the governor’s office building was among those that collapsed in Mamuju, the provincial capital, and many people there remain trapped.
Rescuer Saidar Rahmanjaya said a lack of heavy equipment was hampering the operation to clear the rubble from collapsed houses and buildings. He said his team was working to save 20 people trapped in eight buildings, including in the governor’s office, a hospital and hotels.
“We are racing against time to rescue them,” Rahmanjaya said.
Relatives wailed as they watched rescuers pull a body of a loved one from a damaged home in devastated Mamuju. It was placed in an orange body bag and taken away for burial.
“Oh my God, why did we have to go through this?” cried Rina, who uses one name. “I can’t save my dear sister … forgive me, sister, forgive us, God!”
President Joko Widodo said in a televised address that he had ordered his social minister and the chiefs of the military, police and disaster agency to carry out emergency response measures and search and rescue operations as quickly as possible.
“I, on behalf of the Government and all Indonesian people, would like to express my deep condolences to families of the victims,” Widodo said.
Beginilah situasi evakuasi di Mamuju dan Majene. Tim PMI bersiap bantu evakuasi merujuk warga terdampak <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/gempa?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#gempa</a> ke rumah sakit dan layanan kesehatan terdekat. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/PMISelaluBantu?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#PMISelaluBantu</a> <a href=”https://t.co/1mPns9jTap”>pic.twitter.com/1mPns9jTap</a>
The National Search and Rescue Agency’s chief, Bagus Puruhito, said rescuers from the cities of Palu, Makassar, Balikpapan and Jakarta were being deployed to help in Mamuju and Majene.
Two ships were heading to the affected areas from Makassar and Balikpapan carrying rescuers and search and rescue equipment, while a Hercules plane carrying supplies was on its way from Jakarta.
Puruhito is already leading more than 4,100 rescue personnel in a separate massive search operation for victims of the crash of a Sriwijaya Air jet into the Java Sea last Saturday.
Among the dead in Majene were three people killed when their homes were flattened by the quake while they were sleeping, said Sirajuddin, the district’s disaster agency chief.
Sirajuddin, who goes by one name, said although the inland earthquake did not have the potential to cause a tsunami, people along coastal areas ran to higher ground in fear one might occur.
Located on ‘Ring of Fire’
Landslides were set off in three locations and blocked a main road connecting Mamuju to the Majene district, said Raditya Jati, the disaster agency’s spokesperson.
On Thursday, a magnitude 5.9 undersea quake hit the same region, damaging several homes but causing no apparent casualties.
Indonesia, a vast archipelago of 260 million people, is frequently struck by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of its location on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.
In 2018, a 7.5-magnitude earthquake in Palu on Sulawesi island set off a tsunami and caused soil to collapse in a phenomenon called liquefaction. More than 4,000 people died, many of the victims buried when whole neighbourhoods were swallowed in the falling ground.
A powerful Indian Ocean quake and tsunami in 2004 killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries, most of them in Indonesia.
A powerful cyclone hit Fiji overnight, killing at least two people and destroying dozens of homes in the Pacific island nation, authorities said Friday.
While Cyclone Yasa proved terrifying for those in its path, there was a sense of relief in other parts of the country that the devastation wasn’t as widespread as many had initially feared.
Vasiti Soko, the director of the National Disaster Management Office, told reporters the cyclone hit with wind gusts of up to 345 km/h.
“We will continue to assess the scale of damage in the coming days,” she said. “But we are likely looking at hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Soko said they would provide more details on those who had died later.
FBC News reported one of those who died was 46-year-old farmer Ramesh Chand, who was sheltering from the cyclone in his home in the town of Lovelove on the island of Vanua Levu when part of his house fell on him, also injuring his eldest son.
The man’s wife, who wasn’t named, told FBC she grabbed her younger son and ran to a nearby home to seek help: “We called my husband. Wake up! Wake up! But he didn’t wake up.”
The storm destroyed many other homes on the island, which is Fiji’s second largest.
The eye of the storm moved through Vanua Levu from about 6 p.m. local time on Thursday. It missed the capital city Suva and the major tourist hub of Nadi on Fiji’s largest island, Viti Levu.
“It’s a nightmare,” Labasa resident Banuve Lasaqa Lusi told Radio New Zealand. “The thunderous sound of the wind and what is flying around is what’s frightening.”
She said many people’s houses had been flattened, with some sheltering under their beds or escaping with just the clothes on their backs.
Authorities said the cyclone was weakening Friday as it moved southeast over some of Fiji’s outer islands.
However, they warned of danger from flooding. Fiji’s government said that the Rewa River was rising, with rain continuing intermittently. The Rewa skirts Suva and runs through Nausori, where Suva’s airport is located.
Many had worried the storm could rival the destruction caused by Cyclone Winston, which killed 44 people and caused widespread damage when it hit in 2016.
The Fiji Times newspaper reported the cyclone had destroyed about 20 homes and a community hall in the village of Tiliva and that homes in other villages had also been damaged or destroyed.
Authorities had warned the cyclone would hit with sustained winds of up to 250 km/h. But by Friday, the cyclone’s winds had dropped to about half that speed.
⚠️ Sawani Serea Road at Naqali Village Flat is closed due to flooding. For more information please call our toll free number 5720. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/TCYasa?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#TCYasa</a> <a href=”https://t.co/opxZqezWno”>pic.twitter.com/opxZqezWno</a>
Berlin police raided homes and jewelry shops Wednesday on suspicion they could be connected to efforts to fence a massive 100-kilogram Canadian gold coin — piece by piece — that was stolen from a museum in the German capital.
The coin, with an estimated value of 3.75 million euros ($ 5.82 million Cdn) was stolen from Berlin’s Bode Museum in 2017 and has not yet been recovered.
The morning raids were focused on eight suspects, aged between 14 and 51, of various nationalities, police said.
They are alleged to have been part of a ring that obtained stolen gold to melt it down and forge collector coins, then sell them as genuine through jewelry stores operated by them or their relatives. Some of the counterfeits are already circulating, police said.
Cash, counterfeit coins seized
The searches led to the discovery of counterfeit coins, forgery tools and a “five-digit” sum of cash, police said.
“The evaluation of the evidence is ongoing,” police said. “Among other things, a possible connection to the theft of the gold coin from the Bode Museum is being be examined.”
Berlin prosecutors said there were no arrests but that the investigation was continuing.
Arrests in Dresden jewel theft
The searches came just two days after the arrest of a key suspect in the spectacular theft of 18th-century jewels from a Dresden museum last year. The suspect is from a crime family linked to the Canadian gold coin theft.
Mohamed Remmo, 21, was arrested by Berlin authorities in a car in the Neukoelln district of the city on Monday evening. His twin brother, Abdul Majed Remmo, remains on the lam.
Police and prosecutors would not comment on whether there was a connection between the arrest and the searches, but members of the same family were convicted earlier this year for the Canadian gold coin theft.
Cousins Ahmed Remmo and Wissam Remmo, along with a friend who worked as a security guard at the museum, were all convicted of that Canadian gold coin heist and sentenced to several years in prison.
Azerbaijan on Sunday postponed taking control of a territory ceded by Armenian forces in a ceasefire agreement, but denounced civilians leaving the area for burning houses and committing what it called “ecological terror.”
The ceasefire ended six weeks of intense fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region and territories outside its formal borders that had been under the control of Armenian forces since 1994. The agreement calls for Azerbaijan to take control of the outlying territories. The first, Kelbajar, was to be turned over on Sunday.
But Azerbaijan agreed to delay the takeover until Nov. 25 after a request from Armenia. Azerbaijani presidential aide Hikmet Hajiyev said worsening weather conditions made the withdrawal of Armenian forces and civilians difficult along the single road through mountainous territory that connects Kelbajar with Armenia.
After the agreement was announced early Tuesday, many distraught residents preparing to evacuate set their houses ablaze to make them unusable to Azerbaijanis who would move in.
“Armenians are damaging the environment and civilian objects. Environmental damage, ecological terror must be prevented,” Hajiyev said.
Prior to a separatist war that ended in 1994, Kelbajar was populated almost exclusively by Azerbaijanis. But the territory then came under Armenian control and Armenians moved in. Azerbaijan deemed their presence illegal.
“The placement and settlement of the Armenian population in the occupied territory of the Kelbajar region was illegal … All illegal settlements there must be evicted,” Hajiyev said.
The imminent renewal of Azerbaijani control raised wide concerns about the fate of Armenian cultural and religious sites, particularly Dadivank, a noted Armenian Apostolic Church monastery that dates back to the ninth century.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev assured Russian President Vladimir Putin, who negotiated the ceasefire and is sending about 2,000 peacekeeping troops, that Christian churches would be protected.
“Christians of Azerbaijan will have access to these churches,” Aliyev’s office said in statement Sunday.
Azerbaijan is about 95 per cent Muslim and Armenia is overwhelmingly Christian. Azerbaijan accuses Armenians of desecrating Muslim sites during their decades of control of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding territories, including housing livestock in mosques.
‘Our nation has lost everything’
Nagorno-Karabakh was an autonomous republic of Azerbaijan during the Soviet period. A movement to join with Armenia arose in the late Soviet years and after the Soviet Union collapsed, a war erupted in which an estimated 30,000 died and hundreds of thousands of people were displaced.
Sporadic clashes erupted after the war ended in 1994 and international mediators unsuccessfully sought for a resolution of the dispute. Full-scale fighting flared anew on Sept. 27. Azerbaijan made significant advances and a week ago announced that it had seized the strategically critical city of Shusha. The ceasefire agreement came two days later.
Armenia says 1,434 servicemen died in this year’s fighting, but civilian casualties are unclear. Azerbaijan hasn’t stated its losses.
The ceasefire agreement and cession of territories was a strong blow to Armenia and prompted protests against Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian. On Saturday, the leader of a small centre-right party who formerly headed the national security service was arrested on suspicion of plotting to assassinate Pashinian.
The agreement also dismayed many Armenians who had hoped for Russian support in the conflict. Russia and Armenia are part of a defence alliance and Russia has a large military base in Armenia.
“Our nation has lost everything, our heritage, everything. We have nothing left. I can’t say anything. I’m only begging Russian people to help us, so that at least others can have a better life in our own land,” said Seda Gabrilyan, a weeping mourner at the Sunday burial of a Nagorno-Karabakh soldier in Stepanakert, the regional capital.
B.C. has put new restrictions on private gatherings in homes after confirming a record high 817 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend and three more deaths — the largest number of new cases in the province in a three-day period.
The new numbers cover a three-day reporting period since Friday, with 317 cases recorded between Friday and Saturday, 293 cases between Saturday and Sunday, and 207 cases between Sunday and Monday.
The province is seeing the result of increased social gatherings over the Thanksgiving weekend and the mounting cases — particularly in the Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions — are “concerning,” said Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
“This is a bit of a sobering weekend for us,” she said.
“To get through our COVID-19 storm, it requires all of us to do our part. No exceptions, no workarounds, no trying to get around the very few but important rules that we have in place.”
The increase in new cases comes as a direct result of social gatherings happening in private homes, Henry said.
WATCH | Masks are expected, Henry says:
B.C.’s provincial health officer says British Columbians must wear non-medical masks in public, but stopped short of making them mandatory. 2:13
Household members plus ‘safe six’
Her new provincial health order restricts gatherings in private homes to no more than immediate household members and a “safe six” additional people — a number she acknowledged may still be too many for some households, depending on space and number of people already living together.
Henry said it has become clear gatherings of fewer than 50 people are not always safe.
“We need to pay more attention to those settings where we have people coming together for celebrations,” Henry said.
“This is going to be a challenge, more for some people than others. But this is something we need to do as a community.”
The province’s restriction of no more than 50 people remains in place, but there are caveats, Henry said. It requires that a venue have sufficient space to ensure physical distancing between everyone.
Henry said enforcement will be “stepped up” to ensure public health policies are followed, with a focus on the Fraser Health Region, where an increase in new cases has been identified.
“Orders … are a last resort, but it does reflect how [seriously] we need to take this now,” Henry said.
2,325 active cases
Henry also said it is now an “expectation” that British Columbians wear non-medical masks in public, stopping short of making them mandatory as the province heads into cold and flu season.
Wearing a mask is an added layer of protection in areas where it’s not always possible to physically distance, like the grocery store, Henry said.
Henry said she is asking businesses to review their COVID-19 safety plans with this in mind and to ensure protocols continue to be followed in areas where people gather, like lunch rooms.
There are now 2,325 active cases of COVID-19 in B.C., with 77 people in hospital, including 26 in intensive care.
To date, 13,371 people have had confirmed cases of COVID-19 in B.C. As of Monday, 5,077 people are under active monitoring by public health workers because of potential exposure to the virus.
There are four new active outbreaks in long-term care, with 21 active ongoing outbreaks in the health care system (19 in long-term care and two in acute care facilities.)
There is one new community outbreak at the Surrey Pretrial Services Centre.
On Monday, the Fraser Health authority declared COVID-19 outbreaks at two more Lower Mainland long-term care homes, according to a statement. Staff members at both Amenida Seniors Community in Surrey, B.C., and Agassiz Seniors Community in Agassiz, B.C., have tested positive for the virus.
When Von took his mother out of his home and placed her in Craiglee Nursing Home in Scarborough, Ont., he and his wife, Mary, thought they were doing what was best for her.
But instead of loving care, Von’s mother, Kostadinka, was met with physical and emotional abuse at the hands of at least four different care workers, caught on a camera they had hidden in her room.
“It was like a horror film,” said Mary. “I will never be able to unsee those things.”
What they didn’t know at the time was that the home had a long and repeated history of staff physically abusing the residents. They didn’t know — but the government did.
WATCH | Son says he ‘couldn’t believe’ what hidden camera caught workers doing to his mother:
This man installed a hidden camera in his mother’s room at a long-term care home in Scarborough, Ont. The videos showed different employees physically and verbally abusing the 82-year-old. She was “holding onto the bed rails for dear life,” her son said. 5:00
A data analysis of the most serious breaches of Ontario’s long-term care home safety legislation reveals that six in seven care homes are repeat offenders, and there are virtually no consequences for homes that break that law repeatedly.
CBC Marketplace reviewed 10,000 inspection reports and found over 30,000 “written notices,” or violations of the Long-Term Care Homes Act and Regulations (LTCHA), between 2015 and 2019 inclusive. The LTCHA sets out minimum safety standards that every care home in Ontario must meet.
Marketplace isolated 21 violation codes for some of the most serious or dangerous offences, including abuse, inadequate infection control, unsafe medication storage, inadequate hydration, and poor skin and wound care, among others. The analysis found that of the 632 homes in the Ontario database, 538 — or 85 per cent — were repeat offenders.
Jane Meadus, a lawyer with the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly, said the high number of repeated incidents shows that non-compliance with the law has been normalized within care homes.
Meadus said lack of proper care can lead to bedsores, for example, which residents can die from.
“If that person was in your home, if you were caring for your parent and they had these giant bedsores, you would likely be charged criminally for that,” she said.
“A home has never been charged criminally for what I think is criminal behaviour.”
‘We couldn’t believe what we saw’
Craiglee Nursing Home was one of at least 248 homes that have been written up twice or more for abuse and 101 homes that have repeatedly failed to report abuse.
Craiglee also had repeated violations for neglect, lack of infection control, medication errors, and poor skin and wound care.
Unaware of the home’s history, Von and Mary entrusted the home with Kostadinka’s care in 2017 when her needs became more than a two person job.
Marketplace has agreed to tell their story using only their first names because they fear retaliation against them and their business.
When they saw Kostadinka’s health declining, the couple put a camera in Von’s mother’s room as a precautionary measure in April of 2019, not expecting to see any problems. The camera ran for weeks before they were able to see what it had captured.
“We couldn’t believe what we saw,” said Von. “Abuse, torture, her holding onto the bed rails for dear life.”
The videos showed several employees yanking on Kostadinka’s arms, swatting her hands, or rubbing spilled food in her face. Although the videos have no audio, employees could be seen yelling at Kostadinka as she lay in bed, unable to move without their help.
More residents abused after videos submitted to ministry
After Von and Mary saw the extent of the abuse, they decided to call police. A personal support worker was arrested and ultimately entered into a three-year peace bond, agreeing not to work with vulnerable people. Kostadinka was moved to a different care home, where she died late last year.
The home would not agree to an interview with CBC. But Candace Chartier with Southbridge Care Homes, Craiglee’s parent company, offered a statement.
“We strongly condemn the actions of the individuals involved,” Chartier said in the statement. She said the home investigated Kostadinka’s abuse in July of 2019 and reported it to police, after which one staff member was criminally charged and “several others were terminated.”
Chartier said they also “re-educated all staff in the home on [the] zero-tolerance policy” for abuse, and enhanced their training.
The Ontario Ministry of Long-Term Care’s inspection report from September 2019 that detailed Kostadinka’s abuse revealed a lack of staff training on abuse policies. Yet, four months later, another report revealed 9.2 per cent of actively working staff had still not completed the mandatory training. Six months later, another incident of staff-to-resident abuse was documented in yet another report. There have also been incidents of financial abuse and resident-on-resident abuse.
Von said he was “disgusted” to learn that even after he sent video evidence of his mother’s abuse to the ministry, there have been more written notices at Craiglee for abuse.
“What does it take?” said Von. “We brought it to the ministry’s attention, brought it to the director of care’s attention, we brought it to the authorities, to the police.”
“Everything my mom endured was all for naught.”
Family fights for criminal charges for nursing homes
While physical abuse is fairly clear, neglect can take on many forms such as lack of hydration or failure to provide baths. Two hundred and twenty-six homes had repeat offences for failing to “ensure that residents are not neglected by the licensee or staff,” but many more incidents were filed under different codes for specific acts of neglect, like improper skin and wound care — 278 homes had repeat offences.
Beverley Haines died in February of this year, only six weeks after she moved into Hope Street Terrace in Port Hope, Ont., because of large bedsores she sustained at the home. Sparky Johnson and Sherry Schernitzki, Haines’s niece, are fighting to have the home’s administration held criminally responsible for her death.
The partners, now separated, said that on the day Haines moved from a hospital into the home in January 2020, the staff identified a “hot spot,” or patch of red skin. These spots must be monitored or treated so they don’t get worse, and the pair left with confidence that it would be taken care of.
But the pair weren’t informed that the hot spot had become an open bedsore until 23 days later. At that point, it had already progressed to a wound the size of a saucer with bone exposed.
“If the treatment had started when this bedsore was small, it should never ever have gotten to that,” said Schernitzki.
“It’s horrific. It’s criminal,” said Johnson.
The home had been written up for lack of proper wound care before. Reports from 2016 and 2018 both found the home was not following proper protocols for caring for “altered skin integrity.”
WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGE
Johnson called the ministry to report the bedsore, but was told an inspection would take some time. She made another call to police, and an investigation was launched.
She began documenting problems at the home, including multiple instances where Haines was left in bed all day, lying on her back on the open bedsore.
The ministry published a report in June finding the home’s records didn’t show proper monitoring of the bedsore, which should have included repositioning every one to two hours to ensure she wasn’t lying on the wound.
“It was an excellent report, but what happens now? Who follows up?” said Schernitzki. “There are no consequences.”
By the time that report was released, it was too late to address the issues within it. Haines died on Feb. 29. The family says they were told by the investigating coroner that she died of sepsis from the bedsore.
The couple felt strongly that the home was criminally negligent, but the police investigation was closed after Haines died without charges being laid. They continue to fight, filing a complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, a civilian body that oversees complaints about police in Ontario. The case has since been reopened.
The home said it is “deeply saddened about the passing of this resident” and that its “utmost priorities are the safety and well-being of our residents.”
‘No tolerance’ for abuse, says minister
Most homes have not faced any punishment for failure to comply with the law. Only two Ontario homes have been shut down in the last decade for repeatedly failing to meet safety standards. Other sanctions available to the ministry appear to be ineffective in preventing future repeat offences.
Marketplace host David Common called into a press conference with Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton earlier this week to ask her to speak to the fact that despite orders that are available to inspectors, homes still appear to make the same behaviours repeatedly.
“There’s no tolerance whatsoever for negligence or abuse,” she said, noting that she feels her government is prioritizing serious offences in their inspections.
“They must be dealt with in a fulsome way.”
‘No consequence,’ says former inspector
But a former inspector said that in her experience, issues weren’t dealt with in a fulsome way, and that’s part of the reason why she left the job.
Rebecca de Witte, who worked as an inspector for three years up until March of 2017, said she felt identifying problems in the homes wasn’t helping get rid of them.
“When you arrive, everything looks really good. And then as time goes by, old habits crop up again,” she said.
She said she would often inspect a home and find the same problems that she saw when she had last been there.
“There is no consequence if the homes completely ignore everything you find,” she said.
Federal government proposing new rules
In its speech from the throne in October, the federal government promised to work with the provinces and territories to set out a national standard of care for long-term care, and would amend the Criminal Code in order to “explicitly penalize those who neglect seniors under their care.”
For de Witte, governments need to focus on the big picture instead of what she calls “band-aid” fixes.
“Funding for air conditioning isn’t going to help long-term care, but changing the buildings will,” she said. “Pandemic pay isn’t going to help long-term care, but changing the funding model will.”
Meadus wants to see criminal charges for negligence and monetary penalties for repeat offenders.
“If the home is not able to provide safe care they shouldn’t be in business,” she said.
Click here to see the methodology of our investigation and statements from those featured in our story.
As the number of people infected with COVID-19 continues to climb, the virus has crept back into long-term care and retirement homes across the country.
After spreading like wildfire through hundreds of facilities in the spring, killing thousands of seniors, health officials were able to bring it under control during the summer, said Dr. Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics at Sinai Health in Toronto.
But after Labour Day, as COVID-19 cases sharply rose among the general public, so too did the number of outbreaks in long-term care.
“It really reminds us that the outbreaks that we see in our nursing homes and our retirement homes across the country are really the product of community transmission,” Sinha told Dr. Brian Goldman, host of the CBC podcast The Dose.
LISTEN | What have we learned about COVID-19 to keep my elderly loved one safe in long-term care this time around?
The Dose23:15What have we learned about COVID-19 to keep my elderly loved one safe in long-term care this time around?
“What really worries me now going into the second wave is that as we’re seeing the community transmission ramp up, we’re seeing more and more homes get into outbreak,” Sinha said.
“It’s only going to be a matter of time before that translates into more deaths … deaths that unfortunately, I think, many of us feel are just utterly preventable.”
Based on data provided by provincial health ministries, CBC News estimates that as of Tuesday evening, there were active COVID-19 outbreaks in more than 120 long-term care homes in Canada’s hardest-hit provinces alone: Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia.
On top of the LTC count, there are close to 100 outbreaks in retirement homes in those provinces, primarily in Ontario and Quebec.
“Outbreaks” are defined differently in various provinces. In Ontario, only one case — either a resident or a staff member — triggers outbreak protocols. Other provinces count two or more cases as an outbreak.
Given how deadly COVID-19 has been among elderly Canadians, any resurgence of cases in long-term care facilities is concerning, experts say — but not surprising.
“It’s very similar to the schools, in the sense that what we see in long-term care homes is going to reflect what we’re seeing in the community,” said Ashleigh Tuite, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.
“So as we see community transmission increase, we expect to start seeing increases in long-term care homes and retirement homes because they’re not sealed off from the rest of our community.”
Staff who work in long-term care and retirement homes live in the community, Sinha said, so in places where there is a lot of coronavirus circulating — such as hot spots like Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal — it’s much more likely they “are inadvertently getting COVID and then inadvertently bringing it into [care] homes.”
Although it’s “early days,” Sinha sees some hope in the fact that the majority of outbreaks this fall appear to be much smaller than they were during COVID-19’s first assault on long-term care homes last spring.
“Perhaps we have better systems in place that we can identify it early, isolate quickly and not let small outbreaks become massive outbreaks,” Sinha said.
That’s the big question, Tuite said, that will determine whether COVID-19 will be less catastrophic this time around.
“What do those outbreaks look like?” she said. “Are we able to nip them in the bud and, you know, basically find infected staff before they transmit to residents?”
Whether that happens will reveal if the changes governments and long-term care homes have pledged since the spring are enough to combat this round of COVID-19, said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto’s University Health Network.
“What is disappointing is how much of it we’re seeing this early in the fall, knowing there’s a long fall and winter ahead,” Bogoch said.
“It’s not like we don’t know what we’re doing now,” he said. “We have a very good idea of how this virus spreads, who’s vulnerable, and we saw the tremendous vulnerabilities of our long-term facilities during the first wave.”
Some vital policy changes were promised as a result, he said, including fixing the problem of underpaid care workers moving between homes, ensuring access to personal protective equipment and integrating infection prevention and control measures in long-term care homes.
“This has theoretically been done, but has it actually been implemented to an extent that will protect the long-term care facilities throughout the course of the fall and the winter? The answer remains to be seen.”
Long-term care lockdowns ‘last resort’
In addition to protecting seniors from COVID-19 infection, Sinha emphasized the importance of protecting them from re-living the lockdown of long-term care and retirement homes that happened in the spring.
The thought of going through that fear, loneliness and isolation again is traumatizing, he said.
“I can’t imagine the emotions that people are feeling right now,” Sinha said. “[But] I think we’re going to do a better job this round … about making sure we’re not shutting families out completely.”
Even as COVID-19 cases rise, some provinces, including Ontario, have recognized that and aren’t locking long-term care homes down completely, allowing residents to have at least one designated “family caregiver.”
That caregiver not only provides much-needed emotional support, but also helps understaffed homes with tasks such as feeding and bathing their elderly family member, Sinha said.
In addition, it’s important for people to consider their loved one’s wishes when weighing the risks and benefits of seeing them in long-term care, he said. Many of his patients tell him the value of family visits overrides their worries about getting COVID-19.
The way to visit as safely as possible, he said, is to make sure that you’re following public health guidelines in all other aspects of your life, including avoiding crowds, physically distancing, wearing a mask and handwashing.
“If you know that you’re doing the right things yourself personally to protect yourself against COVID and then you’re following all the protocols and precautions [at the long-term care home],” then it’s likely pretty safe, Sinha said.
Tuite agrees that access to family visits should be maintained during this next phase of COVID-19.
“I think lockdowns should be a measure of last resort,” she said.
“At this point we know enough about the virus, we have enough tools that we can control it,” Tuite said.
“The fact that there’s COVID circulating doesn’t mean that we need to lock these homes down. It means that we need to have really strong infection prevention and control measures in place. It means that people who are going into the homes need to be screened.”
And, Tuite said, it means flattening the COVID-19 curve once again.
“The best way to protect people living in long-term care homes is to keep community transmission low,” she said.