Visitors will once again be allowed at B.C. care homes

Visitors return to care homes

UPDATE: 12:45 p.m.

Visitors will once again be allowed at British Columbian long-term seniors care homes, after they were barred back in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced residents of long-term care homes and assisted-living facilities will be allowed a single assigned visitor, in a designated visitor area of each facility.

Dr. Henry says each home will need to provide a written plan showing they will be abiding by the province's new regulations around visitors. Visitors will be required to wear a mask during their visit, and the visits must be booked in advance.

There are currently COVID-19 outbreaks at five long-term care facilities in B.C., and visitors will not be allowed at places with active outbreaks.

Some care homes will require several days to adequately prepare for visitors. 

The province is providing $160 million for B.C.'s 680 facilities to hire up to three new staff members to help implement the new regulations at long-term care facilities. Facilities will also receive a total of $26.5 million to help cover the COVID-19 expenses they've incurred over the past several months.

Dr. Henry said the new regulations at long-term care homes will be reviewed every month, and she hopes to further relax regulations over time. She did add that if outbreaks at care homes begin to increase, visitors could once again be barred from the facility. 

Long-term care homes have been hit particularly hard by the virus in B.C. Close to 100 care home residents have died from COVID-19 in the province and elderly people are much more likely to be hospitalized if they contract the disease.

Dr. Henry said this decision to allow visitors has weighed on her over the past several weeks, as "we know what can happen if we don't get it right." 

"We're at the point where the risk in our communities is very low, it's not zero," she said. "The negative consequences of not having your family, not having your loved one, is starting to outweigh the risks."

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the coming weeks will be emotional for residents of these facilities, many of whom haven't seen their loved ones in person for several months. 

ORIGINAL: 12 p.m.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provide an update on COVID-19 in  British Columbia, while they speak on new rules pertaining to visits to long-term care homes.

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