MONTREAL -- A Montreal long-term care facility that has become a major hub of COVID-19 cases during the pandemic's second wave closed its hot zone on Sunday.

In an email sent to family members of residents on Saturday, Barbra Gold, Maimonides' Geriatric Centre Director for Support Program for the Autonomy of Seniors, said the decision was made after consulting with public health authorities, infectious disease specialists and other health care professionals.

“We have decided that the best way to break the cycle of infection is to temporarily close our hot zone,” she wrote. “As a result, we are transferring those residents who would benefit from being in an acute care setting to the Jewish General Hospital and the remainder to Hotel Dieu Hospital.”

According to Gold, as of Saturday there were 30 residents with active COVID-19 infections living in Maimonides' hot zone, which is situated on the facility's seventh floor.

While all 30 were originally supposed to be transferred, on Sunday the region's health authority announced that 10 had been cleared to return to their rooms by a physician. 

Gold said the transferred patients would be accompanied by the nurses and PABs who have been caring for them.

"What we’ve done with the transferred is, we’ve sent the staff that were supposed to be with these residents," said Associate CEO of CIUSSS West-Central Montreal Francine Dupuis. "So it’s not more or less for [the rest of] Maimonides, it’s just that they went with the residents. We wanted to make sure these residents felt comfortable, it’s a different environment and it’s in French.”

Dupuis said the regional health authority is examining potential changes at Maimonides and other CHSLDs within its jurisdiction.

"Honestly, probably putting everyone into the same place, we thought was the best decision because they were not in contact with the non-infected people, but perhaps it’s not the best decision," she said. "Perhaps these people should be spread in more than one ward.”

Spokesperson for the Centre-west of Montreal's health and social services Barry Morgan said 18 Maimonides residents are being transferred to Hotel Dieu Hosptial, two to the Jewish General Hospital and "10 other residents, after being evaluated by a physician, are back in their rooms after they had been transferred to the hot zone at Maimonides," he said.

Ten Maimonides residents have died of COVID-19 during the pandemic's second wave. As of Friday, 18 staff members and seven caregivers had also tested positive for the virus. On Thursday, management announced a new preventitive measure, requiring all caregivers to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within the past two weeks, though that measure will not come into effect until Dec. 14.

In her letter, Gold acknowledged the concerns of residents' family members.

“Faced with this reality and after conducting additional evaluations and consulting with the professionals mentioned above, we believe that other factors are likely contributing to the situation,” she wrote. “These include having a high density of very contagious individuals in a relatively small area (the seventh floor) that has not been built to accomodate them.”