The Ontario government has begun to lift restrictions on Long Term Care Homes as of this week. Since Monday, a number of changes have made it easier for family and caregivers to visit residents of the LTC homes, and, depending on their vaccination status, residents will be able to enjoy social day trips outside the homes.
In an statement announcing the new rules, Paul Calandra, Minister of Long-Term Care, said: “Our government responded swiftly to the Omicron variant to protect the health and safety of residents and staff in long-term care homes. With public health and health care indicators now improving, we are cautiously lifting these measures so our residents can spend time with more friends and family that play such an important role in their health and wellbeing.”
Under the new arrangements, the maximum number of designated caregivers per resident is increasing from two to four and will continue to be subject to a limit of two per resident at one time. The rules for social day trips require that residents have had at least three doses of COVID-19 vaccine. As for visitors to the LTC residences, general visitors, five years and older, who have had at least two doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be able to resume visits. The number of visitors at a time, per resident, will also increase from two to three, including caregivers.
The ability of visitors to visit the residences also means that adult day programs can resume, along with the return of entertainers and external personal care services in the homes. However, the government is asking that social group activities should remain small, with up to 10 individuals.
More changes are coming in March. Effective March 14, general visitors under five years old will be able to resume visits, and the number of visitors at a time, per resident, will increase from three to four, including caregivers. All residents regardless of their vaccination status will also be able to enjoy social overnight absences. Testing requirements for all staff, caregivers and visitors continue to be in place.
The government stated noted that “it is important for Ontarians to not let their guard down in the ongoing fight against the pandemic. All staff, caregivers, visitors and residents in long-term care homes need to continue to practice basic public health measures as required such as screening and testing at entry, masking, physical distancing, hand hygiene and staying at home when sick”.
As of February 3, 2022, provincial data shows that about 84% of eligible long-term care staff, and about 91% of eligible residents, have received their third dose. In addition, a fourth dose is being offered to eligible residents.