Social Visitation Guidance – March 18
The Provincial Health Officer announced last Thursday that as the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the province continues to decrease, social visitation will be re-opening in long-term care. This will take place March 18—although homes are free to open back up before then if they are ready.
The Ministry of Health has published updated guidance for operators on how this will work. The key points are:
- Core elements of infection prevention and control remain in place, including hand hygiene, screening for symptoms, and mask-wearing in all communal spaces. Vaccination requirements for visitors remain in place.
- Masks no longer need to be worn for visits in single-occupancy rooms (provided the visitors are fully vaccinated).
- Visitors 12 and older still need to test negative using a rapid antigen test before they enter the home. This can now be done on-site or in the community up to 48 hours before a visit. Long-term care homes can provide visitors with rapid tests to take in the community and test prior to arriving at the site, however each care home may maintain their own procedure for this.
- You can find the full guidance document here.
Access to rapid tests through the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA)
There have also been some recent changes to the PHSA rapid testing program which may make it easier for home care operators to use rapid antigen tests with their staff:
- At-home self-testing is now permitted; individuals taking rapid tests are no longer required to be observed or tested by a trained individual
- Symptomatic testing is also now permitted
- You can find more information on rapid testing here.
Resources to support you through the changes
- Safety Huddle: Responding to Visitor Emotions: a safety huddle intended to support staff deal empathetically and calmly with visitors who may have a strong emotional response to being away from their loved one for some time.
- COVID-19: Social Visitation Essentials – Online Course: a free online course developed by SafeCare BC and the Family Caregivers of BC intended to provide visitors with an understanding of measures that should be taken to protect those who are living and working in the care setting.
- BC Centre of Disease Control Visitor Guidance: Posters and guidance documents for long-term care homes including visitation guidance, infection prevention and control measures, and outbreak management.