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COVID-19: Loved ones line up for reopening of B.C. senior home visits

Staff may keep mask rules in place to reduce infection risk
Theresa Hamilton plays tic tac toe on a window with a senior in Mt. Cartier Court as the pandemic limited in-person visitors into senior care homes. Visit restrictions have been eased effective July 19, 2021. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

After more than a year of senior home visits restricted to reduce COVID-19 infections, staff are dealing with lineups of people anxious to see their loved ones again.

Monday marked the first day of a return to visits without appointments, with fully vaccinated people allowed to enter after being screened for symptoms and required to wear masks in common areas of long-term care and assisted living residences. People lined up early to get in, and there were some problems, said Mike Klassen, vice president of the B.C. Care Providers Association.

“While most people have been good about observing rules about bringing proof of vaccination and wearing a mask, there are some who are not living up to those requirements,” Klassen said July 20.

The B.C. government has funded care homes for greeters, and operators are starting their eight-hour shifts later in the day so people can visit friends and relatives after work or during the dinner hour. That effectively determines the visiting hours at each care home.

While the latest public health order from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry allows for visitors to remove masks when in their loved one’s private room, at least one operator has kept the mask requirement in place for additional protection, he said.

Day one also saw the first B.C. care home outbreak declared in more than a week, at Holyrood Manor in Maple Ridge, but it is not connected with the change in visitation rules. The infection was traced to an unvaccinated visitor who came into the facility last week.

“Now that home will have to go on a 14-day outbreak status and no families will be allowed visits,” Klassen said. “Because of how easily the Delta variant spreads, visitors must be careful to respect the guidelines in order to avoid another outbreak and denying other visitors coming in.”

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The 14-day incubation period also applies to those recently receiving their second dose of vaccine. Two weeks must pass before a person is considered fully vaccinated.

“Volunteers and personal service providers who generally work in long-term care will need to be fully vaccinated before they’ll be able to resume activities in care homes,” Henry said July 8.

Terry Lake, CEO of the B.C. Care Providers Association and a former health minister, said the relaxed rules allowing family groups to visit are a welcome change after many months of isolation for residents.

“The change in visitor policy does come with some responsibilities for both care home operators and visitors that I hope everyone will take notice of and respect,” Lake said. “These are things like checking in with greeters during visiting hours, presenting your proof of vaccination and wearing a mask while traveling through the care home.”


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