Ontario Updating COVID-19 Measures in Long-Term Care Homes

Arshad Khan

In consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Ontario is updating its COVID-19 measures in long-term care facilities as the respiratory illness season draws to a close. Other guidance and requirements that are no longer required are being adjusted to reflect the high vaccine uptake among residents and the availability of safe and effective antivirals that are reducing the risk of severe outcomes for residents. Homes will continue to be required to monitor residents daily to detect the presence of infection, and indoor masking requirements will remain in place at this time. Ontario will now be in line with other provinces across the nation that have already implemented similar changes as a result of these changes.

The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated sacrifices on the part of individuals, families, businesses, the health care system, and especially the long-term care industry over the past three years. According to Dr. Kieran Moore, Chief Medical Officer of Health, “Ontario has reached a point where it can begin a safe, cautious, and balanced reduction of public health measures in long-term care homes across the province” as a result of their ongoing efforts. We will continue to collaborate with the sector to ensure that residents and their families receive the level of care they need and deserve in a secure and comfortable setting. The residents’ health and safety remain our top priorities.

Ontario is implementing a phased approach to updating COVID-19 measures for people who live in, work in, or visit long-term care facilities in conjunction with the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health. Starting on March 31, 2023, the first phase involves realigning measures, which include:

  • Testing of staff, caregivers and visitors who don’t show symptoms (asymptomatic) is no longer required.
  • Masking outdoors is no longer recommended for residents, caregivers and visitors, although wearing a mask outdoors continues to be recommended for staff when they are close to a resident.
  • Daily temperature checks or screening of residents returning from an absence is no longer required.
  • Removing the limit of one caregiver at a time during a COVID-19 outbreak, or when a resident is symptomatic or isolating.
  • Social and physical activities can be held without adjusting for physical distancing.

In addition, long-term care facilities that have not changed their COVID-19 proof-of-vaccination requirements are urged to reevaluate their policies and consider allowing qualified staff and visitors, regardless of whether or not they have been vaccinated.

In addition, they will assist in ensuring that residents in long-term care receive the necessary level of care and quality of life, and that valuable staff time and resources are devoted to resident care and efficient infection control methods. To keep homes safe for residents and staff, the government will continue to collaborate closely with the Chief Medical Officer of Health to monitor the pandemic.

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