Ontario is allowing visits to COVID-19 outbreak-free long-term care homes, retirement homes, group homes, and other congregate settings in a “cautious start” beginning June 18.
On Thursday, Premier Doug Ford said he knows how hard it is for people who have not been able to see their loved ones in long-term care, which has been “heartbreaking” but has saved “thousands of lives.”
“This difficult decision was necessary to keep the vast majority of homes outbreak free. Together we have saved countless lives. I am so grateful to all the families who worked with us,” Ford said.
“I know this is the day we have all been desperately waiting for.”
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But the premier said that these settings are still vulnerable to the virus and the province must remain vigilant in caring for the homes, while moving forward.
According to Long-Term Care Minister Merilee Fullerton, long-term care homes will allow outdoor visits of one person per resident each week at a minimum.
Retirement homes will resume indoor and outdoor visits in designated areas or resident suites when physical distancing can be maintained.
And, other residential care settings will be able to allow outdoor visits of two people at time.
Physical distancing will be required for all visits which will ensure the health and safety of residents, staff, and visitors.
Fullerton added that in order to visit the home the person must test negative for the coronavirus in the past two weeks. There will also be an “active screening questionnaire” and for people to wash their hands before entering, and wearing a mask while in the facility.
Additionally, long-term care and retirement homes, as well as other residential care settings, must meet the following conditions: homes must not be in an outbreak, homes must have an established process for communicating visitor protocol and the associated safety procedures, and must maintain the highest infection prevention and control standards.
“We know the visitor restrictions have been tough on residents, as families and loved ones play an important role in providing care and emotional support to residents. We are confident these visits can occur safely,” said Fullerton.
“With the possible spread of COVID-19 in our long-term care homes still being a real threat, people will need to follow strict health and safety protocols in order to protect our most vulnerable.”
According to the province, other residential care settings will also be allowed visitors under similar rules. These residential care settings include homes serving people with developmental disabilities, shelters for survivors of gender-based violence, and children’s residential settings.
On May 26, Ford said the province is investigating long-term care homes after reports from military members helping in long-term care homes show “heartbreaking and horrific” concerns.
The provincial government will also take over five more long-term care homes that Ford is “most concerned” about and will perform “rigorous inspections” of 13 more homes over the coming weeks.
To date, the Ministry of Long-Term Care says there are 65 active outbreaks in the facilities across the province. And, there are 683 confirmed active cases amongst residents.
There have been a total of 1,772 reported deaths.