WORCESTERSHIRE County Council has warned the death toll at a city care home could rise after it was revealed 33 out of 45 residents tested positive for the virus.

Three residents at St Stephen’s Care Home died after a mass coronavirus outbreak and ‘a number of residents remain unwell.’

As of November 18, 33 residents and 23 staff have tested positive for the virus. At the beginning of the outbreak in October there were 45 residents and 50 members of staff.

The Worcester News put the following questions to the public health team at Worcestershire County Council, here are the responses we got:

1. Investigations in to the cause of this outbreak are being conducted – how is this going? Do you know how the spread began?

"This is a serious situation and we are continuing to support St Stephen's to manage the outbreak. As part of our response, Public Health in Worcestershire has worked with Public Health England to investigate what has happened. This is a standard procedure.

"In these situations it is not always possible to find a single source, especially at a time when community transmission is so high. In this situation, we know the initial case was identified through routine whole home testing, but due to high numbers of people in the community with Covid-19 it is not possible to confirm the exact source of infection.

"A care home is a high risk setting, with vulnerable people and we know Covid-19 is highly infectious in such closed settings. That is why is care homes are a key priority for our outbreak control plan in the county."

2. When were the residents/staff first tested positive and what was done in those early days to limit the spread?

"Full care home testing, which is an established routine in every care home, was conducted at end of October. It is inappropriate for us to comment specifically on individual testing schedules for residents and staff. The local outbreak team were notified of positive results, as well as PHE West Midlands, and both responded to assist with the management of the outbreak.

"As a standard procedure the local outbreak response team conducts an assessment and the care home is routinely advised on matters such as identifying potential contacts, self-isolation of affected individuals and infection control measures. The situation continues to be monitored."

3. How do you plan on reassuring staff, residents and families of those in the home that they are safe?

"The home is still open and they continue to care for residents. Visits to the care home are restricted to essential visits only, such as end of life situations. Multi-agency support has been provided to the care home since the first positive cases were identified.

"We continue to work closely with our health partners and the home to ensure all necessary actions are being taken. There is national guidance in place to support all care homes to reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection. We are working closely with care homes across Worcestershire to support them in their response to this pandemic.

"The home are receiving regular contact from specialist infection prevention and control staff, and have support available 24 hours a day, should it be needed. All staff and residents are being closely monitored for symptoms and testing of symptomatic individuals is available as necessary. The home continues to participate in the routine testing of staff and residents."

4. How are the residents doing? 

"Sadly, three people have died in this outbreak and we recognise the distress and upset this will cause. Our thoughts are with those who have lost their loved ones.

"A number of residents remain unwell and are being closely monitored. This means the toll of this outbreak could worsen. Care homes look after vulnerable people who are at greater risk of the disease. We know that age and other illnesses make a person far more likely to become poorly and seriously ill with Covid-19.

"This is why we ask everyone in Worcestershire to play their part, and follow all the guidance on hand washing, face coverings and keeping a distance."

5. When you say you are ‘taking action’ what exactly does that mean?

"This is a serious situation and we are dealing with it as such.

"A multi agency approach is taken to support care homes during outbreaks, and actions are put into place to support the home and protect residents. We are supporting the home, with specialist Infection Prevention Control advice, they are receiving regular monitoring of patients in the setting through the Covid Management Service, which provides dedicated medical support, the home also has support to ensure they are able to continue providing safe care.

"In line with standard outbreak management practices, the home has been advised to close to new admissions and visiting is restricted to essential only until the outbreak is declared over."

6. What can we do in the future to prevent outbreaks like this occurring again?

"Care homes are working hard to ensure covid-secure measures are in place. There is national guidance in place to support all care homes to reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection. We are working closely with care homes across Worcestershire to support them in their response to this pandemic.

"This is going to be a difficult winter with Covid-19 in our communities. We are seeing higher levels of covid-19 in our districts and our care homes are nested right in the heart of our communities, and this means we all have to part to play in helping to keep them safe.

"We all need to drive down transmission of this disease by following key prevention measures such as social distancing, washing our hands, and wearing our face coverings. We do this not just for ourselves, but to protect everyone else, including our vulnerable care home residents. It’s up to us all to play our part and stick to the rules."