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Fear Omicron in LTC, Ontario taking further action

The new Omicron variant is a risk in long-term care homes. And Ontario is trying to play ahead by putting in place temporary measures that will come into effect starting tomorrow when access to CTCs by general visitors will be suspended while only designated caregivers will be able to continue to enter long-term care homes. The daily absences of all residents for social reasons were also suspended. 

The alarm caused by the extreme contagiousness of the Omicron Covid-19 strain has prompted the provincial government – after consulting chief medical officer of health Kieran Moore – to take further action to protect the health and safety of residents, staff and caregivers in long-term care homes. “We know that residents of long-term care facilities are at greater risk due to Covid-19. Given the high community infection rates we are seeing with the Omicron variant, the time to act is now, in addition to the measures we have already taken, these new temporary rules will help keep residents safe and help staff stay in the workplace.”

The situation is constantly evolving but the government assures that it will continue to closely monitor the situation in long-term care homes and that it will continue to implement the necessary measures to protect residents and staff.

At the moment outbreaks and infections in Ontario’s LTC are rising slowly but steadily. According to the latest available data, outbreaks have risen from 19 to 26 while infections among residents have risen from 28 to 31, those among staff from 44 to 56.

Earlier this month, the government put in place policies in LTCs designed to optimize safety for residents and staff, including the requirement that all general visitors must be fully vaccinated to enter LTC. However, the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant will likely mean that staff will be exposed to or contract Covid and that it will be imperative to keep the virus out of homes to prevent serious outcomes for residents and staff.

“I fully understand that these new temporary measures will have an impact on the ability of older adults to have close contact with many of their friends and family,” said Minister Phillips, “but we must remain vigilant against the Omicron variant to protect them and long-term care staff.” “We know that these measures are difficult for both residents and their families to accept, but we must protect the most fragile people, including residents of long-term care homes,” added Dr. Kieran Moore.

Although Covid-19 vaccinations have proven to be very effective, it is important that Ontario residents do not lower their guard in the ongoing fight against the pandemic and that all staff, health workers and residents in long-term care homes continue to practice basic public health measures, including screening at the entrance, the use of masks, physical distancing, hand hygiene and isolation at home in case of illness.

In the meantime, the reopening of schools in the province scheduled for January 3 remains a mystery. Speaking from Mississauga today, Premier Doug Ford said the government would meet soon to make a decision. “I know that Health Minister Elliott has discussed this with the Minister of Education Lecce and we will make an announcement in the coming days. We want to see how things go and of course consult Chief Medical Officer Moore,” Ford said.

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