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LTC residents can resume hugs with loved ones, day trips

Last Updated Jun 9, 2021 at 8:54 am EDT

A focus on the elderly at the start of the nation's vaccination campaign helped protect nursing homes that were ravaged at the height of the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Long-term care residents in Ontario can finally resume some close contact with loved ones and start leaving homes for social outings and day trips.

The province announced last week it was easing COVID-19 restrictions at homes across the province to allow for increased social connections for residents.

As of Wednesday June 9, long-term care residents can resume the following activities:

  • Residents who have been fully immunized can leave their long-term care homes for day and overnight social outings and trips.

 

  • Residents with mobility limitations or health conditions (essentially, factors unrelated to weather) that make participating in outdoor visits highly unlikely or impossible may have one general visitor at a time inside the long-term care home, in addition to an essential caregiver.

 

  • Regardless of resident and visitor vaccination status, brief hugs can now take place. Where both the resident and visitors are fully immunized, close physical contact, including handholding, can now take place safely.

 

Families and advocates had been calling on the province to ease rules around visits since most residents have been fully vaccinated against the virus and COVID indicators continue to improve across the province.

As of May 30, the province estimates that 97 per cent of long-term care residents and 66 per cent of staff were fully vaccinated. More than 89 per cent of staff were estimated to have at least their first dose.


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Minister of Long-Term Care Dr. Merrilee Fullerton says it remains important that residents and visitors adhere to public health measures in the home, including good hand hygiene and appropriate masking.

“Our government puts the safety and well-being of long-term care residents at the heart of everything we do,” said Fullerton in a statement. “Thanks to high immunization levels, residents and their families can resume more of the activities that contribute to their quality of life.”

The government first announced a loosening of pandemic restrictions on long-term care homes in early May that allowed for communal dining, indoor events and gatherings.

The directive also allowed residents and their caregivers who were fully immunized to have physical contact, like hugging.

The province did say at the time that once the stay-at-home order expired, it would allow for social and temporary outings for fully vaccinated residents.

Ontario recently announced a policy tat makes it mandatory for staff in long-term care homes to provide proof of vaccination, documentation of a medical reason not to be vaccinated or participate in an educational program about vaccination.

Homes are required to track and report on the progress of their COVID-19 immunization policies.

The province’s associate medical officer of health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, said the policy is important in the sector that saw thousands of deaths and infections from COVID-19 and said such policies could be applied to other jobs moving forward.

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