Thanks to vaccines, COVID-19 outbreaks in continuing care facilities have been smaller and fewer COVID-related deaths have been reported than in previous waves. However, residents in these facilities remain uniquely vulnerable to severe outcomes, including hospitalization and death.
It was announced in a release on Tuesday that effective Oct. 25, masking will be required for visitors at continuing care facilities at all times and residents will be required to quarantine after being admitted to the facility or returning from hospital until they test negative for COVID-19.
“Protecting vulnerable Albertans is always our top priority. Even with remarkably effective vaccines, residents in these facilities remain at risk, which is why we are increasing the protection around them. We will continue doing whatever it takes to protect vulnerable Albertans and slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Jason Kenney, Premier.
Health officials are strongly encouraging unvaccinated family and friends to not visit residents in person at this time. Facility operators are also able to implement additional rules, such as requiring proof of vaccination, as appropriate.
“By protecting continuing care facilities, we are protecting our health-care system and our entire community. These measures will make residents safer while still supporting their quality of life during this difficult time. I continue to call on all Albertans to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible to protect our most vulnerable friends and neighbours,” saidJason Copping, Minister of Health.
Starting Oct. 25, all visitors must wear masks in all indoor areas of all continuing care facilities, including while in residents’ rooms. Masking is mandatory for all visitors regardless of vaccination status. Residents are not required to be masked at this time.
The only exception to this mandatory masking measure will be in cases where there are communication challenges with residents who may be hard of hearing or have dementia. Any exceptions will be determined by the facility staff.
“These changes are necessary as we closely monitor the spread of COVID-19 in our province. We continue to balance the need to protect residents and staff from COVID-19 with ensuring that these residents enjoy a meaningful quality of life. We will continue watching closely and adapt these measures as needed in the months ahead,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health.
In addition, all residents who are transferring to a continuing care facility from hospital or returning from a hospital stay longer than 24 hours must stay in quarantine until they test negative for COVID-19. A PCR test must be used, with testing conducted by Alberta Health Services.
Facility operators have the authority to implement additional COVID-19 measures in their facilities, after consulting with residents and their families. This includes actions such as requiring visitors to show proof of vaccination or undergo rapid testing.