In consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, the Ontario government announced the gradual resumption of visits to long-term care homes, retirement homes, and other residential care settings.
Provincial officials say family and friends will be allowed access to these settings beginning June 18, 2020.
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.
Other residential care settings will be able to allow outdoor visits of two people at time.
Physical distancing will be required for all visits.
This approach will ensure the health and safety of residents, staff and visitors, Provincial officials say.
Details were provided on Thursday, June 11 by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care, and Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services.
“Thanks to the hard work of our frontline workers and the collective efforts of everyone in stopping the spread, we can now allow families to reunite with their loved ones safely and in person with strict public health measures to protect residents, visitors and staff,” stated Premier Ford in a press release.
“But I ask everyone to be cautious and act responsibly as the battle to contain COVID-19 is not over and the risk to our loved ones still remains.”
Visits will resume next Thursday, one week after the release of visitor guidelines, Provincial officials say.
They will be subject to strict health and safety protocols, including requiring visitors to pass active screening every time they visit, confirming with staff that they have tested negative for COVID-19 within the previous two weeks, and complying with the infection prevention and control protocols.
This includes bringing and wearing a face covering during visits.
Additionally, long-term care and retirement homes, as well as other residential care settings, must meet the following conditions before they welcome visitors:
– Homes must not be in outbreak;
– Homes must have an established process for communicating visitor protocol and the associated safety procedures.
– And homes must maintain the highest infection prevention and control standards.
For retirement homes, visitor admissions will vary from home to home depending upon their individual circumstances.
“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,” stated Minister Fullerton in a media release.
“We are confident these visits can occur safely. 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.”
Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, said seniors living in retirement homes have been doing their part to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“Our government appreciates their cooperation and we are happy they will soon be able to enjoy visits with family and friends while continuing to stay safe,” Minister Cho stated in a media release.
Provincial officials say 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.
“We are all looking forward to the day when we can once again see family and friends, and spend time together,” said Minister Smith in a media release.
“Today is an important first step in reconnecting loved ones who have been separated all spring.”
As the COVID-19 outbreak evolves in Ontario, the direction on visits at long-term care homes, retirement homes and residential settings will continually be updated keeping the safety and emotional wellbeing of residents and staff at the forefront, Provincial officials say.
Visits have been restricted since mid-March, with only essential visitors permitted to enter long-term care and retirement homes.
In the event of an outbreak at an individual home or residential care setting, non-essential visits will again be restricted.
If a second wave of COVID-19 occurs, the government will revert to restricting visitors at all homes and residential care settings to protect residents and staff, Provincial officials say.
These public health restrictions for long-term care homes, retirement homes, and residential settings are meant to provide meaningful and equitable access to visits for all residents, while considering the staffing and space capacity available to the home to maintain safety of residents, staff and visitors.
The government recently announced the launch of an independent, non-partisan commission into Ontario’s long-term care system beginning in July 2020, Provincial officials added.
Details of the commission are now being finalized, including the terms of reference, membership, leadership of the commission and reporting timelines.
Testing of long-term care and retirement home residents and staff for COVID-19 has been completed, or is in the process of being completed, with additional rounds of testing currently underway.