Ontario taking further action to keep long-term care residents safe

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TORONTO – Access to long-term care homes by general visitors is being paused as has been day absences for all residents for social purposes, as of December 30. However, designated caregivers may continue to enter long-term care homes.

In response to the evolving Omicron situation, the Ontario government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, has taken these actions to protect the health and safety of residents, staff and caregivers in long-term care homes.

“We know that long-term care residents face an increased risk of COVID-19. Given the high community infection rates we’re seeing with the Omicron variant, the time for more action is now,” said Rod Phillips, minister of long-term care in an announcement December 28. “In addition to the steps we’ve already taken these new temporary measures will help keep residents safe and help critical staff remain on the job.”

The government will closely monitor the situation in long-term care homes and continue to adjust measures as necessary to keep residents and staff safe.

Earlier in December, the government put in place policies in long-term care homes designed to optimize safety for residents and staff, including the requirement that all general visitors need to be fully vaccinated to enter a home. The province is also requiring all staff caring for a resident with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 wear a fit-tested, seal-checked N95 respirator. However, the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant will mean staff being exposed to or contracting COVID-19 in the community and more outbreaks in long-term care homes. This means that it is imperative to keep COVID-19 out of homes wherever possible and prevent spread within homes, with the most important objective being the prevention of severe outcomes for residents and staff.

“I understand that these new, temporary measures will impact residents’ ability to have close contact with many of their friends and family members,” said Minister Phillips. “We must remain vigilant against the Omicron variant to protect long-term care residents and staff.” 

“We know these measures are difficult for residents and families, but we must stand strong to protect our most vulnerable, which includes residents of long-term care homes,” said Dr. Kieran Moore, chief medical officer of health. “I encourage everyone to get their booster shot as soon as possible so we can keep everyone safe with the added layer of protection that the vaccine provides.”