LILLEY: Ford government gets strict at nursing homes to keep COVID out – Toronto Sun

Testing of all staff, volunteers and caregivers — even fully vaccinated — will start later this week

Author of the article:

Brian Lilley

Ajax MPP Rod Phillips, Ontario minister of long-term care.
Ajax MPP Rod Phillips, Ontario minister of long-term care. Photo by WAYNE CUDDINGTON /POSTMEDIA

The Ford government is bringing in strict new measures it hopes will protect residents of long-term care homes.


Testing of all staff, volunteers and caregivers — even fully vaccinated — will start later this week in addition to other moves aimed at reducing spread of COVID-19.

A top official, speaking on background, said that the new measures were drafted due to increasing community spread even before Omicron became the growing and soon to be dominant variant in the province.

Under the new rules, all fully vaccinated staff, students, volunteers and caregivers will be tested twice per week starting on Friday. Any visitors or support workers entering a home will need to test negative unless they have a negative test from the day before.

“Our priority is to protect long-term care residents from COVID-19,” said Rod Phillips, the minister in charge, during a Tuesday interview.


“Based on the rising rate of community infection and the emerging threat of the Omicron variant, we are immediately implementing further measures to protect our most vulnerable.”

In addition to the testing requirements, changes will be made to when and where residents leave, how they socialize and who can enter a home.

Anyone designated as a new caregiver must be fully vaccinated to enter a facility while current caregivers must have their first shot by Dec. 20 and be double vaccinated by Feb. 21 to be allowed entry into a home.

For indoor visits, each resident can receive a maximum of two visitors or caregivers at a time while outdoor visits are capped at four.

As for residents leaving the home, day trips for social purposes are still permitted for fully vaccinated residents but a testing regime will be put in place upon return. Overnight absences will not be permitted until further notice.


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Phillips said he understands this may impact on Christmas plans for many families but the ultimate responsibility is to keep residents safe.

“We regret the disruption that this will cause in some families’ lives but the priority has to be protecting the most vulnerable,” Phillips said.

These measures are the strongest we’ve seen in Ontario and Phillips is right that they are aimed at protecting the most vulnerable.

In the first wave the entire country focused on ensuring hospital capacity was fully protected, not realizing the devastating impact COVID-19 would have on nursing homes. In the second wave, vaccines had not yet arrived to offer protection.

Now we have a near fully vaccinated resident population with 86% having had booster shots. Staff is 99% vaccinated and now anyone entering will face regular testing and is required to be vaccinated.


Community spread is the biggest concern for long-term care — for the most part, residents are not going anywhere so infections come in from the outside. Short of locking everyone — residents, staff, volunteers and caregivers — inside the homes until COVID is no longer a threat, the best that can be done is impose measures to reduce the risk.

Regular use of rapid tests is part of that.

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Right now there is a clamouring for the government to distribute rapid tests widely to the general public. Given current, limited supply, I’d rather they be used at long term care facilities, in hospitals and schools to keep those populations safe rather than used to protect Christmas parties.

The federal government has promised to boost the supply of rapid tests, and they are currently the ones in control of them. Until that happens, leave them to the nursing homes.

The iron ring promised at the beginning of COVID never materialized and was likely never feasible. This is the province moving in the right direction, let’s hope it works.

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