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Province to ease long-term care visitation restrictions

By Richmond Sentinel

Published 3:49 PDT, Thu July 8, 2021

People in long-term care and seniors' assisted living and their loved ones will have more ways to safely spend time together, with a further easing of visitation rules coming into effect on July 19.

"The pandemic has challenged people living and working in long-term care in ways we never could have imagined, but we are now finally in a place where people can safely spend more time together again," said Health Minister Adrian Dix.

Changes to long-term care and seniors' assisted living include:

• Visitors will no longer need to schedule or book in advance to visit loved ones, and the limit on the number of visitors for each resident will be removed.

• Fully immunized visitors can visit with residents without wearing a mask.

• Larger, facility-wide social events or gatherings are safe to begin again.

• Indoor gatherings may include residents and staff across units of a facility, while outdoor gatherings may include family and friends.

• Adult day programs and in-facility respite can fully resume, providing additional health and well-being benefits for seniors and caregivers in community.

The screening of visitors and practices such as hand hygiene, use of medical masks and physical distancing will remain in place when visitation restrictions are eased. It is strongly recommended that visitors choose to get fully immunized against COVID-19, in order to lower the risk to people in long-term care settings.

At the same time, new public health requirements around vaccinations will add protections for people in long-term care. Effective July 19, new requirements to better protect seniors will include:

• A PHO order will require all long-term care and seniors' assisted living facilities to provide public health with information on all residents, staff, personal service providers and volunteers so their immunization status can be determined.

• Workers who are not fully vaccinated will be required to wear a mask at work and be tested for COVID-19 regularly using rapid tests.

• Volunteers and personal service providers entering long-term care settings must be fully vaccinated.

• Masks are required for visitors who are not fully vaccinated. Masks will not be required for visitors who are fully vaccinated, except when travelling through common areas.

• Each site will continue to maintain a sign-in list for contact tracing purposes and actively promote adherence to all infection prevention control protocols.

"While vital for reducing the spread of COVID-19, we recognize the restrictions on visitors have been incredibly challenging for people in long-term care and their families," said Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s provincial health officer. "Because nearly 80 per cent of people in B.C. have stepped up to be vaccinated, we are now in a place where visitation in long-term care can resume in a more normal way. This means residents and their families and friends will be able to spend more quality time together—safely."

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