STRATFORD, ONT. -- Four more residents of Cedarcroft Place Retirement Home in Stratford have succumbed to COVID-19. That’s eight residents in total that have died since the outbreak began in late October.

“We send our deepest condolences to the families of these residents,” says Dr. Miriam Klassen, Huron-Perth’s Medical Officer of Health.

Monday morning, covered from head to toe in personal protective equipment and wearing a special breathing apparatus, Perth County paramedics entered Cedarcroft Place for a third round of resident and staff testing.

So far, 44 residents and 18 staff have come down with COVID-19 since Oct. 27. That’s more than half the residents, and one third of the staff.

For those with loved ones in the COVID-19 hot zone like Vickie Telfer, whose 93-year-old father Wilfred Johnstone has spent the past five years at Cedarcroft, the past three weeks have been torture.

“We couldn’t talk to him until last Tuesday when he said he wasn’t seeing anyone. He wasn’t getting his meals. He was hungry. He said the treats we left him during our last visit were a lifesaver, more or less,” she says.

Klassen says the retirement home admitted they couldn’t keep up last week, and asked for help.

“On Friday, the facility did reach out and say they were not able to properly staff the residence, despite their best efforts. And for that reason, the LHIN (Local Health Integration Network) and Ontario Health partners stepped in,” she says.

Since Friday, more than 10 Cedarcroft residents have been moved from the retirement home to area hospitals in Stratford, Woodstock, Ingersoll, Goderich and Wingham.

More are expected to moved throughout this week in an effort to quash the outbreak and ensure proper care and staffing for the seniors at the centre of it all.

An earlier outbreak in Huron-Perth at Greenwood Court, a Stratford long-term care home, resulted in four deaths, and 16 positive COVID-19 cases. It has many asking why Cedarcroft’s outbreak is so much worse.

Jeff Renaud thinks he knows. He is part of Huron-Perth’s Pandemic Response Team, as well as being an administrator at long-term care homes in Mitchell. He believes it comes down to the rules and regulations between long-term care homes and retirement homes.

“Long-term care is the second most regulated industry in Canada, and we have much more stringent protocols to follow. In the retirement community their residents are expected to have a higher degree of independence and live on their own, coming and going as they like. That creates its own set of challenges. When you don’t have those processes and policies in place to mitigate risk to the residents, you can end up in a little bit of trouble,” he says.

And that’s where Cedarcroft sits, in the epicentre of Huron-Perth’s worst COVID-19 outbreak, and slowly becoming one of Ontario’s worst outbreaks, as well.

The entirety of Huron-Perth has seen cases rise during this second wave. The region added 20 cases over the weekend. Huron-Perth now has 72 active cases, 47 of which are either residents or staff at Cedarcroft.