Today for their daily provincial address, Premier Doug Ford and the Ontario government announced that beginning on June 18, a “cautious restart” of family visits for residents living in long-term care homes, group homes, and retirement homes will begin.
The houses that are permitting visits will be the ones who have not or are currently not experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak.
According to Ford, families will be able to visit them as long as there are strict guidelines in place for the visit.
“We need families to be able to see their loved ones,” Ford told the media.
“I know this day we have all been desperately waiting for but we can’t take this progress for granted, we can’t forget that these settings are vulnerable to COVID-19 outbreaks so we must remain vigilant, we must move forward, but we must do it carefully”.
Previously, visitation from outside parties were only permitted for those considered essential visitors, as Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams advised that visits only take place if the resident is either extremely ill or is in need of end-of-life care.
With the province beginning to loosen the restrictions put in place, the recommendations for care home visits are also being loosened, as long as visitors follow the proper protocols.
There are rules for visiting, however. The province is stating that for one to be permitted to visit someone in a long-term care home setting, they need to have been tested negative for COVID-19 within two weeks of the planned visit, as well as passing an “active screening questionnaire”.
Afterwards, visitors are required to wash hands upon arrival and before departure, and have a mask on at all times while maintaining a physical distance.
Merrilee Fullerton, the Minister of Long-Term Care, provided updates about the condition of long-term care homes during the pandemic and has said that progress has been made.
“We are seeing the infection numbers stabilize in our long-term care homes and that is thanks to the tireless effort of staff, our hospital partners and the Canadian Armed Forces,” Fullerton told the media.
“On the advice of the chief medical officer of health, we have developed a responsible phased visitation plan that will allow you to visit your loved ones in long-term care and retirement homes that are not in outbreak starting next week”.
Rules will be different for long-term care homes and retirement homes. According to Fullerton, the province is “allowing one visitor per resident at a minimum of one visit per week for an outdoor visit only”.
In the case of retirement homes, Fullerton says that they will have “indoor and outdoor visits with the number of visitors being left to the discretion of the home”.
As of right now, there are a total of 77 COVID-19 outbreaks occurring within long-term care settings and 29 occurring in retirement homes. According to reports, 5,307 residents in long-term care homes have battled COVID-19, and more than 1,600 residents have died.
This is a situation that hits close to home for the Premier, as his wife Karla asks him daily when she can visit her mother who resides in a long-term care home and was previously diagnosed with COVID-19.
“It hits home. I hear her. I see even when we visit outside the window and I talk to other families… We’re going to do everything we can until you can see your loved ones – it means everything to people,” Ford said.
Ford has also stated that the homes that are permitted to have visitors will have the final say as to whether or not they will even allow people to come visit.
Long-term care and retirement homes were not the only support homes updated today, as Todd Smith, the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, laid down the visitation rules for homes that support people with developmental disabilities, shelters for gender-based violence survivors, and children’s residential settings.
According to Smith, a total of two visitors per resident will be allowed in the outdoor area of the homes mentioned, as well as a series of health measures.
“Congregate care settings will be responsible for implementing and communicating infection prevention and control protocols to visitors, which include active screening for all visitors, proof of a negative COVID-19 test within the previous 14 days, temperature checks, physical distancing during the visit, mandatory mask-wearing and disinfection of the outdoor area used for visit… We ask all visitors to please take these guidelines seriously and listen to all the staff on-site,” Smith said.
Ontario COVID-19 updates and stats
Today Ontario has recorded the lowest number of new COVID-19 cases in almost 11 weeks.
According to health officials, 203 new cases have been reported today, which brings the province’s total of cases to 31,544.
This is the lowest amount of infections reported since March 28, when 151 cases of the virus were reported.
Confirmed cases: 31,544 (+203)
Recoveries: 57,148 (+505)
Deaths: 2,487 (+12)
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