Rules relaxed for long-term care home visits in B.C. as residents get vaccinated

Rules relaxed for long-term care home visits in B.C. as residents get vaccinated

With residents of long-term care homes around the province receiving their COVID-19 immunizations, the province says now is the time to relax visitor restrictions.

Beginning April 1, up to two visitors plus a child will be able to visit their loved ones in long-term care homes for a minimum of 60 minutes, the government announced Thursday.

It means the province’s previous requirement of one single designated visitor has been removed to allow for others. Included in the changes: family and friends will now be able to visit their loved ones in their own rooms without staff monitoring.

Families will also be able to physically touch their loved ones with appropriate protective measures like hand hygiene and masks.

Physical distancing requirements between residents will also be removed and they will once again be able to resume some communal dining and small-group social activities.

The requirement to isolate for 14 days upon admission is set to be eliminated for those who are vaccinated.

“I’m very, very pleased that we are at a place where we can make some changes that will affect people’s quality of life,” Henry said Thursday. “With this added layer of protection…it means that we can support safe, social connections again.”

It’s all incredible news for Milt Swain whose wife of 25 years has been in long-term care at Glacier View Lodge in Courtenay with severe Alzheimers for several years.

“Inside she’s missing that connection, the hugs that sort of thing, the kisses, the close personal contact with someone you’ve been with for so many years,” said Swain.

Dolores Broten is looking forward to seeing her husband more often as well. He is in The Views with advanced dementia.

“I mean it’s been brutal, just brutal,” she said. “I understand it’s for their protection but they didn’t do anything wrong and there they were incarcerated, they were practically in solitary confinement.”

The change is being made now that residents and staff in long-term care homes and assisted living facilities have been immunized for COVID-19, along with essential visitors and those assessed for and awaiting placement in care homes.

“With this added layer of protection, and recognizing the impact on residents and families, it is an appropriate time to ease visitors restrictions and support more safe social connections,” the government said in a presentation.

Asked what the government will be doing to ensure visitors, who are largely not immunized yet, do not mingle, Henry said “that is a concern. The more people that we have in this congregate living environment, we know the risk goes up.”

As such, she said visitors will have to book ahead to reserve their time to visit a loved one and all will be screened upon entrance. Visitors won’t be able to visit family members in long-term care while they’re taking part in any group activities.

“There will be measures in place to ensure that there’s a steady flow of visitors rather than everybody coming at once,” she said.

Henry also addressed why restrictions were being eased while infections were trending upward.

“We need to focus on those things that we can do safely,” she said, adding restrictions were only being eased in places where transmission remains low.

“That gives us some leeway to have some activities, particularly outside activities that are safer.”

The update comes a day after B.C. reported another 716 cases of COVID-19, along with three additional deaths.

The majority of the cases were in the Vancouver Coastal Health (230) and Fraser Health (383) regions, something B.C. Premier John Horgan called “an absolutely unacceptable rise in cases” on Wednesday. Twenty-one of those cases were in the Island Health region.

“I’ve heard from many groups in my community of Langford-Juan De Fuca, and more than any others, it’s children and grandchildren desperate to see their parents and grandparents, and we know that, we understand that,” he said.

RELATED: B.C. hikes fines for gathering rule-breakers

Horgan also announced Wednesday that the province would partner with 14 hospitality and tourism businesses to employ 1,400 laid-off workers for non-clinical roles in the province’s mass immunization centres.

“As long as we need the help and support…they stand ready to go to the last needle, the last jab,” he said.

New visitation regulations with Rob Shaw

According to the latest information posted on the BCCDC‘s dashboard, there are 256 active cases of COVID-19 on Vancouver Island with 14 people in hospital, two of whom are in critical care.Since the pandemic began, there have been 2,996 cases, 28 deaths and 2,707 recoveries in the Island Health region.
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