A Vancouver man has now been charged with perpetrating a hoax call to the Lynn Valley Care Centre that left the seniors’ home dangerously short-staffed while an outbreak of COVID-19 was rapidly spreading.
The call came during the early morning of March 8, the same day a man in his 80s died of complications from the virus – the first fatal case in Canada.
The caller pretended to be a health officer and said no one should be going in or out of the building due to the outbreak. As a result, few staff showed up the next day.
North Vancouver RCMP confirmed in July that they had arrested a suspect in the case and that they would be recommending charges to the Crown.
In an open letter to the community at that time of the arrest, the care home’s leadership said it took a full day to determine exactly what had happened. By then, the damage was done.
“Unfortunately, a great deal of harm had already been done to our capacity to provide the high standard of care for which LVCC has come to be known,” the letter stated. “It caused needless fear among residents and their families. It created apprehension among our staff who, just like the majority of Canadians five months ago, knew little about the disease and its dangers, became reluctant to come to work. And it diverted valuable time and resources away from our capacity to work at a time when we faced the greatest challenge in our centre's history. That call kicked us while we were down, really down.”
On Sept. 25, the Crown swore one charge of conveying false message with intent to alarm against Taymour Aghtai, 26. His next court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 1.
Aghtai is under orders to not contact, directly or indirectly, the care centre or anyone who works there.
Over the course of the outbreak at the centre, 52 elderly residents tested positive for COVID-19, 20 of whom died. There were also 26 confirmed cases among staff.