Friends and family can visit loved ones in long-term care in B.C. in April

Physical touch is allowed, subject to appropriate infection prevention and control measures are on place.

Vancouver Sun 3 minute read March 26, 2021

It will be a fine day in spring when 97-year-old Anna Hendrickson gets to sit and chat and picnic with three generations of her family in the Lynn Valley Care Centre.

On Thursday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry lifted a ban on general visits to residents in long-term care homes — effective April 1 — even as the number of COVID-19 cases continued to soar outside those homes.

The visiting ban was put in place a year ago as COVID-19 was tearing through care homes in B.C.e, ultimately killing hundreds of residents.

And while one designated person has been allowed to visit in-care family members once a week since the summer, it’s been a struggle, said Hendrickson’s daughter Diane Barnhill.

“I try to pass on family news to her, but it’s just not the same,” said Barnhill, who has been visiting her mom regularly since becoming her designated visitor. “This is incredible news. Now she can see my brother and her grandchildren. It will be very nice for her to have some variety. I’ve been telling her one day we can all sit together on the patio and have a picnic.”

Barnhill said her mom had received her second dose of vaccine last month – a key reason Henry has reopened care homes as the majority of staff and residents in care facilities across B.C. are now vaccinated.

Henry said visits of over one hour would be permitted and could occur without staff monitoring.

Physical touch would also be allowed, subject to appropriate infection prevention and control measures like mask-wearing.

However, a visit must be limited to two adults and one child at a time and must be booked in advance. These visits will also be permitted within a resident’s room.

Long-term care facility residents will also be able to travel outside their facility and not have to quarantine upon their return.

Henry said communal dining and small group social or recreational activities for long-term care residents could resume, but only within a facility unit or floor.

However, with 800 cases of COVID-19 reported in B.C. on Wednesday, Henry warned her change in visiting policy would likely lead to outbreaks in some of those facilities.

“The reality is that it is likely we are going to have more outbreaks in care homes now that we’re allowing more people to come into those care homes,” Henry said. “The rate of transmission in our community remains very high, and in some cases is increasing.”

Henry reported five COVID-19 deaths over the past day, bringing that total to 1,446.

There are now 5,856 active cases of the disease in B.C. — almost 300 higher than reported on Wednesday. Of those cases, 306 are being treated in hospital including 79 in intensive care.

Of the cases reported, 191 were variants of concern. Henry said she expects the more contagious variants to take over the most common form of COVID-19 in B.C.

There was a record 24,000 vaccines administered on Wednesday, with 523,459 people having received one of the three approved vaccine, including 87,212 who have received a second dose.

There was one new health-care facility outbreak at Chilliwack General Hospital.

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