Toronto

Visitor restrictions ease in Ontario long-term care, COVID-19 hospitalizations down to 2,155

The loosened visitor restrictions come after more than a month of strict rules aimed at slowing the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Starting Monday, the number of designated caregivers per resident increases from 2 to 4

Staff at St. George Care Community look out of the windows of the Toronto long term care home in January 2021. Starting Monday, the number of designated caregivers per resident at long-term care homes in Ontario increases from two to four, though only two can visit at a time. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Ontario long-term care residents can start taking social trips and see more caregivers as of Monday while the province reported 2,155 people with COVID-19 in hospitals as numbers continue to trend downward.

The loosened visitor restrictions come after more than a month of strict rules aimed at slowing the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Starting Monday, the number of designated caregivers per resident increases from two to four, though only two can visit at a time.

Residents who have had at least three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are now allowed to resume social day trips.

And as of Feb. 21, general visits from individuals five years and older who've had at least two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine will be allowed to resume.

From that day onwards, residents will be allowed to have three visitors at a time, and all residents can go on social day trips regardless of their vaccination status.

Paul Calandra, Ontario's long-term care minister, said vaccinations have been helping homes weather the Omicron wave. He couldn't provide details, however, on the vaccination status of residents who've been dying in increasing numbers since the new variant took hold.

"While we're seeing the indicators going in the right direction, we still think that caution is very important," the minister said at a Mississauga, Ont., funding announcement.

Deaths in the sector spiked in January during the Omicron wave, with 185 reported over the past two weeks. The number of homes in outbreak stood at 290 on Monday — or 46 per cent of all homes — down slightly from last week.

A mandate requiring that all staff in the sector receive third shots of COVID-19 vaccine was recently pushed back until March due to Omicron outbreaks and other disruptions. Even so, the province's long-term care homes are highly vaccinated settings.

As of late last week, the province said 84 per cent of eligible staff had received booster shots, 91 per cent of eligible residents had three doses and some had begun receiving fourth shots.

Calandra said three doses has made a "dramatic difference" for residents, and said the province is seeing positive trends in long-term care homes because of vaccinations.

As of late last week, 91 per cent of eligible residents at long-term care homes had three doses and some had begun receiving fourth shots, according to the province. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The province said 18 virus-related long-term care resident deaths were reported over the weekend. Calandra couldn't provide information on Monday about trends in vaccination status among residents who died from COVID-19 during Omicron, but said the province is "following it daily."

While outbreak numbers have been dropping, Calandra said the province is also doing more inspections of the homes to ensure standards are being met, as well as onboarding more inspectors over the coming months.

Ontario sees 2,155 hospitalizations with COVID-19

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health said Monday morning that as of Sunday there were 2,155 people with COVID-19 in the province's hospitals. That's down from 2,230 the day before and 2,983 at the same time last week, though officials noted that not all hospitals report updated figures over the weekend.

There were 486 patients with COVID-19 who required intensive care, the same as the day before but down from 583 the same time last week.

The province also reported an additional 11 COVID-19 deaths pushing the province's official toll to 11,836.

Ontario isn't sharing data on virus cases and outbreaks in schools, but nine schools were reported closed for COVID-19 operational reasons and 389 schools reported student and staff absence rates of 30 per cent or higher.

With files from The Canadian Press

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