Corp Comm Connects

COVID-19 outbreaks at New Leaf in East Gwillimbury, Georgina leave 1 dead, 50 infected

New Leaf has 13 residences across York Region serving 93 adults living with intellectual disabilities
May 1, 2020
Simon Martin

An institutional outbreak of COVID-19 has turned deadly at New Leaf: Living and Learning together in East Gwillimbury.

As of April 29, York Region Public Health reported New Leaf had 50 COVID-19 cases between six residences in East Gwillimbury and Georgina. Of the total, 26 who tested positive were health care workers and 24 were New Leaf residents. One New Leaf resident died and was East Gwillimbury’s first death related to COVID-19.

New Leaf has 13 residences across York Region serving 93 adults living with intellectual disabilities.

Executive director Ron McCauley said while the number of positive tests might appear high, he takes solace in knowing that very few individuals who have tested positive are showing any symptoms.

McCauley says he is very sensitive about the issue because there is a grieving family, but said he doesn’t think the death should have been labelled as COVID-19 related. The coroner’s report said the individual died due to heart disease, McCauley said, adding he voiced his displeasure with York Region Public Health in their categorization of the death as COVID-19 related.

It could be a week or two until New Leaf is no longer categorized as under outbreak, according to McCauley.

In early March, New Leaf put into place its existing pandemic plan, closing its day programs and limiting contact with people in their residences. A week later, New Leaf implemented a policy that staff could not work at multiples residences, McCauley said.

"We shut it down ahead of the government," he said.

The typical size of a New Leaf group home is five to six residents, with a few having a slightly higher numbers than that.

The high number of cases is in part because New Leaf has been aggressively testing its residents, McCauley said.
"We took the position from the start to aggressively test throughout the agency. It’s Important we know what is happening."

Although families are not allowed to visit, McCauley said family members have been wonderful and supportive throughout the process.

New Leaf has about 200 full and part-time staff across the region and McCauley said their work should not go underappreciated.

That being said, McCauley said New Leaf is dealing with some staff shortages.

"The vast majority have been unbelievably supportive," he said.

There have been 1,487 positive cases of COVID-19 reported in York Region, as of April 29 at 5 p.m., according to York Region Public Health.

Public health has reported 611 resolved cases and 96 deaths.

New Leaf is one of several facilities in the region dealing with institutional outbreaks.

Participation House in Markham is in the midst of dealing with an institutional outbreak. The facility for adults with physical and mental disabilities had every one of its 42 residents test positive for COVID-19.