‘Christmas in July’ event sparks aged-care cluster

Brad Hazzard discouraged Christmas in July events.

Brad Hazzard discouraged Christmas in July events. Photo: AAP

A worrying coronavirus outbreak in a NSW aged care facility sparked by a Christmas in July event has ballooned out to 20 cases. 

The cluster at the Wyoming Residential Aged Care Facility in the Sydney suburb of Summer Hill included 18 residents and two staff members by Monday afternoon.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the outbreak had been sparked by a super-spreader ‘Christmas in July’ event at the facility, which is owned by Hardi Aged Care and regulated by the federal government.

“I understand that the actual numbers are believed to have occurred off a super-spreading event that occurred in the aged care facility,” Mr Hazzard said.

“Sometimes it isn’t a good idea to have a ‘Christmas in July’ right in the middle of a pandemic, but I do understand that it is an effort to try and provide entertainment and support to residents.”

Chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said all of the infected residents lived on the top floor of the building.

She said the entire floor, all 32 residents, had been taken to hospital either to be treated for the virus or as a precaution.

“The reason for that is that some of them are obviously positive and others are close contacts of the positive cases,” Dr Chant said.

She said residents on the ground floor had not been exposed to the assistant nurse who first tested positive.

Mr Hazzard revealed that of the 61 residents at the facility, ten had refused vaccination – and at least seven of those had tested positive for the virus by Sunday night.

“There had been a number of refusals for personal choice, others for medical reasons,” he said.

“I have to say it is a strong message though to everybody that you should get vaccinated.”

One in every four workers at the centre remain unvaccinated.

Daily case average hits 201

It comes as the state confirmed 207 new local COVID-19 cases and another death on Monday, with a concerning number active in the community while infectious.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said at least 72 cases were in the community during part or all of their infectious period, with the infection status of another 46 cases still be investigated.

“It is really in our hands as to how we deal with the cases coming down as a community but also our rate of vaccinations,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“One learning we have had in the last five weeks is that the vaccinations, both vaccines, are working extremely effectively.

“We still don’t know of anybody in intensive care who has received both doses of the vaccine.”

Dr Chant said transmission of the virus among workplaces was also a threat, with one workplace resulting in 30 infections.

“It is critical that people don’t work whilst they have symptoms,” Dr Chant said.

Of the 207 cases recorded in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday, 40 per cent were in southwestern Sydney and 25 per cent were in western Sydney.

The seven-day average now exceeds 200 per day, with 1408 cases in the past week and 3634 since June 16.

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A southwestern Sydney man aged in his 90s has become the 15th person to die since the current outbreak began.

The man had received one vaccine dose and was waiting for his second dose when he was linked to an outbreak in Liverpool Hospital’s aged care ward.

In NSW, some 232 COVID-19 cases are in hospital, including 54 in intensive care – 25 of whom require ventilation.

Dr Chant said zero community transmission by the end of August remained the focus for authorities, noting the vast majority of the community was doing the right thing.

She defended keeping Shellharbour in lockdown despite no cases since October, saying the area was closely connected to Wollongong.

There have been 13 cases recorded in Wollongong in the past fortnight.

Ms Berejiklian denied the emphasis on vaccinations was an admission that zero transmission was a futile cause, saying the combination of new cases and vaccination rates would dictate changes to restrictions.

About 460,000 shots were administered in NSW last week, meaning 41 per cent of the state’s adult population is now at least partly vaccinated.

Dr Chant said she didn’t want one dose of Pfizer wasted after questions about a nurse reportedly sacked for giving unused, soon-to-expire doses to eligible family members.

Meanwhile, about 300 Australian Defence Force troops have joined NSW police patrolling streets in Sydney’s west and southwest to ensure COVID-19 health orders are being observed in eight hotspot areas.

Strathfield South Public School in Sydney’s west is closed and all staff and students are self-isolating after a COVID-19 case.

Sydney public transport services have been restored to a regular weekday timetable to avoid overcrowding as the construction industry resumes with limitations after a two-week hiatus.

Tradies from the eight worst affected local government areas in Sydney’s west and southwest are still not allowed to work or leave their area.

-with AAP

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