SUDBURY -- It's been an agonizing few days inside Sudbury's Amberwood Suites Retirement Home after marking its third COVID-related death in three days.

On Monday, residents, staff and essential care providers were being swabbed once again in a bid to see if they were successful in curbing transmission within the facility.

It's been one week since the number of cases skyrocketed to 32 residents and three staff. Officials said this is the worst outbreak northeastern Ontario has seen since the start of the pandemic.

"It's been an absolute relief for the family," said Diane Jeffery whose mother, a resident inside Amberwood, tested negative for COVID. "They're still very concerned and we're very concerned. It's been very stressful because when it first started at Amberwood, we didn't know what was going on."

Jeffery said things didn't go smoothly at the beginning of the outbreak for her mom, who needs a fair bit of care, but things have since improved.

"It looks like things are better -- she's able to get out of bed and into her chair, she's dressed and fed, so things are physically better, but what I'm worried about now is her mental health," she said.

"I haven't seen her since Dec. 27. I talk to her every day, sometimes multiple times a day, and she phoned me the other night when the second person died and she was quite upset because she had just spent an hour talking to another Amberwood resident who was very stressed out because she was friendly with the man who died."

Public Health Sudbury & Districts said there have been no new cases at the facility as of Monday afternoon. Jeffery said with each swab, though, they are on pins and needles until the results come back negative.

"My mom's nervous," she said. "I mean, she's pretty tough but I mean she's 83 and she's in a wheelchair."

Offering resources

Holly Browne, manager of health protection at Public Health, said they meet with the facility every day to determine what they need.

"Whether they need additional staffing and if they're having a problem with their personal protective equipment, so there are daily touch-bases as a meeting, but there are also individual touch bases as an in-between," said Browne.

She said they're also working closely with the facility and their other partners like Health Sciences North and the City of Greater Sudbury to get this outbreak under control.

Residents have been confined to their rooms out of an abundance of caution as they wait to see if they've contained the outbreak.

"We're taking all necessary precautions to protect those that have not tested COVID positive and also to ensure that those that are positive have a speedy recovery," Browne said.

It's unclear when the health unit will be getting more vaccines to continue with vaccinating long-term care homes and retirement homes in the region. At last word, they were reportedly expecting them next Monday.

Sudbury NDP MPPs France Gelinas and Jamie West have been calling for provincial oversight of the home, an independent body they're hoping families can trust to get the information they need.

Increased testing

CTV News reached out to the Minister of Seniors and Accessibility Raymond Cho, but his office declined our request for an interview. But it did offer a statement that said, in part:

"The Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority is aware of the outbreak and is in communication with the home and local public health authorities who are leading the response. We have increased testing and investment in infection prevention and control measures in retirement homes to help contain the spread of COVID-19."

The statement added they will also continue to offer the resources and support retirement homes need to protect residents, staff and families.

Amberwood's parent company, Autumnwood, also declined a request for an interview.

In the meantime, Jeffery said she continues to wait, hope and pray that things will get better inside the retirement home -- and that they've stopped the spread.

"It's devastating, it's too close to home," she said. "It's one thing if it's happening on the other side of the country where you don't know anyone, so it doesn't hurt you as much, but when it's close to home, it's not fun. They're supposed to be enjoying their golden years."

She suspects the outbreak was caused by holiday visits.

"Christmas did them in," Jeffery said. "I'm just glad it's under control and no new cases so far but it's been very stressful."

She said Amberwood's daily emails to families have been reassuring, letting them know that all efforts are being taken to protect their loved ones.