Ontario is pleased to announce that long-term care residents can once again leave their residences for short-stay and temporary absences.
Following the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, effective immediately, residents can spend time away from their long-term care homes for day trips or overnight absences. For ‘short-stay’ absences — those that do not include an overnight stay — homes must provide residents with a medical mask to be worn at all times when outside of the home, if tolerated, and remind them of the importance of public health measures, including physical distancing. When they return, residents must be actively screened but are not required to be tested or to self-isolate.
Residents may also leave for ‘temporary’ absences of one or more nights. Temporary absences will be at the discretion of the home and decided on a case-by-case basis based on safety factors like the risk associated with the absence (e.g., for a family weekend vs. a large gathering) and ability of the home to help residents self-isolate upon return. For the protection of their neighbours, residents who leave on a temporary absence will be required to self-isolate for 14 days when they return to the home. If a home makes the decision to deny a temporary absence request, they must communicate their rationale in writing.
“This is a day we have all looked forward to, and it is my hope that these welcome changes will improve our residents’ quality of life, while keeping them safe,” said Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care. “As Ontarians begin to resume their pre-COVID activities, residents in long-term care will be able to get out and about in their communities and spend time with loved ones again.”
An updated policy for visits to long-term care homes will be released next week. This and other direction on safety in long-term care homes will continue to be updated as Ontario’s experience with COVID-19 evolves, and the government will continue to make every effort to support the safety and emotional wellbeing of residents.