Ontario relaxes long-term care visiting rules, as province reports fewest COVID-19 cases since March


Ontario relaxes long-term care visiting rules-Milenio Stadium-GTA
(Steve Russell/The Canadian Press)

Ontario is relaxing visitation rules for long-term care facilities, as the province reports 102 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday — the fewest on any single day since March 25.

Effective immediately, up to two people at a time can visit a loved one outdoors, said Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton Wednesday. Visitors no longer need to show they’ve taken a COVID-19 test in the previous two weeks.

As of July 22, people will be able to visit loved ones inside these homes, without the need for testing, Fullerton said.

The 0.3 per cent increase in overall cases brings the total in Ontario since the outbreak began to 37,052. Of those, 88.8 per cent are considered resolved by the Ministry of Health. Another 135 were marked resolved today.

Thirty-one of the province’s 34 public health units reported five or fewer newly confirmed infections of the novel coronavirus, while 19 of those 31 confirmed no new cases at all.

There are now about 1,400 active cases of COVID-19 provincewide.

Ontario’s network of labs processed 23,769 tests for the novel coronavirus in the last 24 hours. Another 22,029 are in the queue waiting to be completed.

The number of patients in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of COVID-19 sits at 115, the fewest since the province began reporting that figure in early April. Thirty-one of those people are being treated in intensive care, while 22 are on ventilators.

The province’s official COVID-19 death toll grew by nine and is now 2,732. A CBC News count based on data directly from public health units puts the real current toll at 2,762.

Changes coming to long-term care visits

Meanwhile, the Minister of Long-term Care confirmed today that the province will loosen restrictions for visitors to long-term care facilities, initially put in place to help curb the spread of the illness.

Details of the impending changes were first reported by the Toronto Sun this morning.

Visitors to any of Ontario’s 626 long-term homes who intend to meet with a resident outside will no longer need to provide proof that they have been tested for the novel coronavirus in the previous two weeks.

Further, the Sun reported, indoor visits — currently restricted to essential health-care workers and the families of residents in palliative care — will again be permitted beginning later this month.

Primary caregivers will also be allowed to see residents inside. CBC News has heard from various families with loved ones in long-term care who have been deeply worried about limitations on primary caregivers, and the effects on residents. Some physicians have also vocally supported allowing essential caregivers to return to facilities.

Ontario’s long-term care homes have been especially hard hit by COVID-19, with more than 1,800 residents having died of the illness since the outbreak began in January. The ministry says it is currently tracking ongoing outbreaks in 38 facilities.

Child-care operators call for full reopening

A group of Ontario child-care operators is asking the province to allow the sector to fully reopen in September.

The six operators, who are all women, say a government plan that restricts capacity could result in the closure of some centres.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said this week that the province was planning to expand the number of children allowed in daycare centres effective July 27, from the current cohorts of 10 to 15 children.

Lecce said that should help restore 90 per cent of the province’s pre-pandemic child-care system capacity.

The providers call the cohort numbers “arbitrary” and say they will reduce available child-care spaces for families.

The group says full capacity can be accommodated safely if they adhere to strict physical distancing and the recommendations for school reopenings made by Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children.


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