The criteria to ease visitation restrictions at long-term care and personal care homes across Saskatchewan has been unveiled, with some facilities able to begin increased visitations effective April 29.
“If at least 90 per cent of the residents in that facility have been fully vaccinated, and three weeks have lapsed since the last second dose vaccination, then starting on Thursday, April 29 – one week from today – long-term care and personal care home residents will be able welcome up to two people at a time indoors, and up to four visitors at a time outdoors. And it does not have to be the same two or four consistent visitors,” Minister for Seniors and Swift Current MLA Everett Hindley announced during a COVID-19 update earlier this afternoon.
Additionally, seniors who are fully vaccinated will also be able to leave the facility and return without having to quarantine.
Even with the restriction criteria eased, facilities will be working with local Medical Health Officers in order to guage additional factors such as the level of community transmission and the number of cases within a facility.
An estimated 44 locations in the province have met the new criteria, with an additional 115 closing in on reaching the criteria requirements.
Hindley noted that the past 12 months have been difficult for seniors and their families, but the tight restrictions were required in order to best protect seniors during the pandemic.
“This had to be done to protect our seniors, but it doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking,” Hindley admitted.
“As the Minister for Seniors, this is by far the number one question and the number one phone call, and letter, and email, that I have heard and had come into my office – when can we visit our mom or dad, our grandma or grandpa, or aunt and uncle in the long term care home.”
Hindley said the new measures are coming into effect thanks to the increased impact of the provincial vaccination campaign.
“No we can’t fill up Mosaic Stadium just yet, but some of us can go see mom on Mother’s Day, and that’s a pretty good place to start,” Hindley said. “It’s one small step in getting back to the people we love to see, and the places we love to go, and the things that we all love to do.”
Saskatchewan Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab noted Saskatchewan has looked at the evidence in other parts of the world, Canada and the US regarding the safety of increasing long term care home visitations following high vaccination uptake.
And while restrictions are being eased, family and support persons entering these facilities are still required to follow public health guidelines on masking, physical distancing, hand hygiene and temperature screening.
Dr. Shahab said that the public should still enter these facilities cautiously despite measures being in place to safely start visiting. Many loved ones with families in long-term care have already been vaccinated.
“If you have any concern before visiting because you may have been exposed or you have any concerns, get tested. Testing is widely available if you plan to visit your loved ones in Long Term Care regularly. Especially if you haven’t been vaccinated yet get tested on a weekly basis. And if you have had one dose but think you may get exposed every now and then, again consider getting tested. I think those are all additional measures we can do over the next little while.”
“Certainly the hope is that as more and more of the people who visit regularly are vaccinated, one dose and then preferably two doses, the visitation guidelines will be further relaxed. But I think we’re starting in a very careful way. But it is all of our responsibility to get vaccinated, not just to protect ourselves but to protect our loved ones, our family, and at the end of the day our community.”
It was also announced that Saskatchewan is gearing up for the delivery of vaccines at pharmacies across the province.
Opportunities will be provided at 63 pharmacies in 14 communities before the end of the month, with their booking systems opening as of Monday April 26. Some pharmacies will have their booking systems available as early as tomorrow, and the first vaccination shots could be delivered as early as Thursday, April 29.
More pharmacies are expected to be added in the coming days and weeks following the initial pilot-project.