Twenty-eight Canadian soldiers deployed to long-term care facilities in Ontario and Quebec have tested positive for COVID-19, officials at the Department of National Defence said Wednesday. (Ivanoh Demers/CBC)

28 Canadian soldiers contract COVID-19 in long-term homes

Twenty-eight Canadian soldiers deployed to long-term homes in Ontario and Quebec have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the Department of National Defence announced Wednesday.

Twelve of the cases were reported in Ontario and 16 in Quebec, according to the DND.

This presents a dramatic increase in the number of infections. Just last week the military reported only five cases of the coronavirus – four in Quebec and one in Ontario.

The Canadian military deployed nearly 1,700 soldiers to nursing homes to reinforce regular staff overwhelmed by deadly COVID-19 outbreaks in dozens of facilities.

Quebec, which accounts for more than half of Canada’s infections, has seen severe COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care facilities, including one in the Montreal area where residents in a private nursing home had been nearly abandoned by the staff.

Premier Francois Legault asked for the military’s help shortly after that case was publicized and Ontario Premier Doug Ford followed suit.

It’s unclear what is driving the sudden surge in cases.

Military officials said before deploying to long-term care homes Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel are trained in a number of areas including: safe movement of patients, protocols for wearing and using personal protective equipment, assisted feeding, and bedside care.

Soldiers also receive mental health and resilience training to prepare them for the current reality in the nursing homes that have been the epicentre of Canada’s deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

Military officials said they have contracted hotels to house soldiers providing direct on-site support to long-term care homes. Independent food, transportation and laundry systems are made available to personnel to ensure the force is self-sufficient, officials added.

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