OTTAWA -- There are some hopeful signs at Almonte Country Haven, the site of the deadliest COVID-19 outbreak in eastern Ontario.

Twenty-three of the 82 residents at the long-term care home have died of COVID-19 complications in the past month. Four new deaths were reported over the weekend.

Administrator Carolyn Della Foresta tells CTV Morning Live's Leslie Roberts the tragedy is keenly felt by staff and by the community.

"Each loss is not just a name to us; each loss has become a family member," Della Foresta says. "The way our group has come together and the way our community has come together is truly holding us up."

Della Foresta says staff at the home are doing their best to care for each resident, especially those who are dying, because family members cannot be at their side.

"As our family members are not allowed in, we are doing everything we can to ensure that someone is with a resident as we know they're nearing the end," she says.

"This Saturday evening, one of our personal support workers who had already worked a 10-hour shift realized that one of our dear ladies we going to be going. She spoke with the nurse and asked to stay for the night and so, she stayed until two in the morning with that lady providing comfort, holding her hand, whispering words to her until she passed."

The support from the community has been a blessing.

"We've had local churches and believers in the community come out and surround our property and prayed for protection and peace and healing; we've had schools send us slideshows; we have random strangers put signs up on our property and send us food," Della Foresta says. "Last evening, I was leaving late and we had the most beautiful pathway that a family member had done with solar lights that stick in the ground. It's at these moments where you realize that although people can't be inside helping us, they're doing other things to help and support us and show their appreciation and love.

'An incredible improvement': signs of recovery in some residents

Della Foresta says there are positive signs that some residents of the home may beat the disease.

"We're actually seeing an incredible improvement in many of our residents and we have many residents that have tested positive with no symptoms at all. We are waiting the 14-day period to see what's going to develop there but we are very hopeful as we have many residents who have returned to their baseline and we are now having them tested over the next few days. We're hopeful their once-positive result will come back negative."

Lessons learned

Della Foresta says the toll the virus has taken on Almonte Country Haven may help protect other seniors in Ontario.

"We have learned a lot of lessons and the public health unit has shared with us that they have learned already from what we've gone through. As difficult as these days have been, I truly hope the lessons we've already learned can help guide other homes as they enter this at some point."

Della Foresta calls the support from Ontario's health and long-term care ministries "incredible" but adds there are still extra steps the government could be taking.

"What I would like to see is infection control teams that are sent out to the homes to provide extra guidance and monitor what we're doing," she says. "I think, from the very beginning, infection control team specialists sent out to long-term care homes to help guide and direct would be a great benefit."

She also says there should be changes to how personal support workers and other long-term care staff are paid.

Della Foresta doesn't, however, believe help from the military, as Quebec has requested, would be a benefit at Almonte Country Haven.

"I would like people to appreciate that our population, overall, is battling dementia," Della Foresta said. "We're already going into rooms with masks, visors, and gowns and it's increasing confusion. Our residents don't know who we are right away. I think if you add someone who doesn't know them and who doesn't have a personal relationship, it would be very difficult."