All visitors of Ont. long-term care homes must now be fully vaccinated, province says

Only vaccinated visitors will now be allowed inside long-term care homes in Ontario and starting Friday, long-term care residents can host up to two vaccinated visitors indoors only after they present a negative COVID-19 test, the Ontario government announced Tuesday.

The province confirmed that a series of new public health measures will be implemented this week in long-term care homes as the more infectious Omicron variant spreads rapidly in Ontario.

“Our priority is to protect long-term care residents from COVID-19. Faced with rising rates of community infection and the emerging threat of the Omicron variant, we are immediately implementing further measures to protect our most vulnerable based on the best available scientific and medical advice,” Rod Phillips, Ontario’s long-term care minister, said in a news release issued today.

The province said effective immediately, all general visitors to long-term care homes must be fully vaccinated to enter and it appears no exception will be made for children who have not yet received two doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine.

At 12:01 a.m. on Friday, more measures will come into effect, including the testing of all staff, students, volunteers, and caregivers at least twice a week before they gain entry to the facility, regardless of vaccination status.

Caregivers must be fully vaccinated unless they have a valid medical exemption or are attending to a resident in palliative care.

“Caregivers will be required to have a first dose by December 20, 2021 and all required doses to be considered fully vaccinated by February 21, 2022. In the interim, designated caregivers who are not fully vaccinated would need to restrict their visit to the resident’s room,” the news release read.

Only two visitors will be allowed to see a resident at one time indoors and a maximum of four visitors will be permitted outdoors.

Social day trips will only be permitted for residents who are fully vaccinated and overnight absences for social purposes will be suspended for all residents.

Additional restrictions will be implemented at retirement homes starting Dec. 22.

The province says rapid antigen tests will be required for staff, volunteers, contractors, and essential caregivers two times per week prior to entry.

Rapid tests will also be required for general visitors and support workers and the province says it is “strongly encouraging” retirement homes to restrict general visitors to only those who are fully vaccinated.

“As we continue to learn more about the Omicron variant and see its impacts on other jurisdictions around the world, it is critical we provide those at greatest risk from COVID-19 in our congregate care settings with an extra layer of protection against this new enemy,” Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said in a written statement. 

“By strengthening public health measures in these settings, we can ensure our most vulnerable are kept safe and shielded from the threats posed by Omicron and other variants of concern.”

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