Families will be able to take long term care residents outside on the grounds of their homes

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Family members visit a resident at Lambton Meadowview Villa through a window in mid-March, 2020. The province says residents can now go outdoors on the grounds without it being considered an absence from the home.

The provincial government is making some changes to how it deals with COVID-19 in long term care homes.

Late Thursday, Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, released two changes to Directive 3 which governs the COVID-19 response in long term care homes.

One allows essential care givers to take long term care residents for a walk on the grounds of their home. Until now, that had been considered an “absence” from the home and was not allowed. For weeks, families have been begging for seniors – some of whom have not been outside since the pandemic began – to be let outdoors now that 90 per cent of the long term care residents are vaccinated.

Yaffe has also changed the definition of a COVID-19 outbreak. When the pandemic began, even one case in a long term care home prompted public health to declare an outbreak at a home. That mean more restrictions and inevitably led to the further isolation of the seniors living in the home.

Now Yaffe says there must be two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the home and one must have acquired at the home, for an outbreak to be declared.

The letter Thursday to medical officers of health also says the province is working on a “more significant update” to the rules by Monday.