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No COVID-19 vaccination, visits restricted in B.C. senior care homes

Most staff vaccinated, others to be subject to 3 tests a week
Rose Sawka, 91, reaches out to her son Terry Sawka, on a daily visit through the window at a Prince Rupert senior care home in early 2021. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

Opening up B.C. senior care homes to more visitors requires strict rules around full COVID-19 vaccination, and a testing and mask routine for any senior home employees who have not been immunized.

For fully vaccinated visitors, the rules are simple as of July 19: no more appointments necessary, wear a mask in common areas and family groups can visit together and hug their loved ones in their rooms without masks. Visitors who haven’t had two shots and 14 days to build their immunity will still be allowed in, but must wear masks, and all visitors will still be subject to screening to check vaccination status and any symptoms of illness before entering.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says every facility is expected to ensure that visiting hours extend to evenings and weekends, after care home residents went months with a single designated visitor or in some cases, no visitors allowed.

Henry says the “vast majority” of care home staff and residents have received two vaccinations, but the exact status of each won’t be known to public health authorities until the July 19 order requires them to report their vaccination history to employers. A shortage of care home workers means those without full immunization will still be allowed to work, but they will be required to wear masks and be subject to three rapid tests each week.

“Volunteers and personal service providers who generally work in long-term care will need to be fully vaccinated before they’ll be able to resume activities in care homes,” Henry said July 8.

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On Friday, B.C. recorded its second straight day without a COVID-19 outbreak in long-term care, assisted living or independent living senior facilities, and the second day with no additional deaths from the coronavirus.

Public health teams recorded 45 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours up to July 9. There are currently 661 active cases, up from 649 on Thursday, with 73 people in hospital, up one, and 19 in intensive care, the same as on Thursday.

By region, the new and active cases for July 9 are:

• eight new cases in Fraser Health, 170 active

• 14 new cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, 248 active

• 19 new cases in Interior Health, 181 active

• no new cases in Northern Health, 30 active

• four new cases in Island Health, 21 active


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