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‘Light at the end of the tunnel’: Alberta lifts more restrictions at continuing care facilities

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EDMONTON —
Some restrictions at continuing care facilities are set to be lifted as Alberta announced a two-phase reopening plan on Tuesday.

The easing restrictions apply for licensed supportive living facilities, long-term care facilities and hospices.

The first phase can be implemented as soon as operators are able to make changes necessary for the transition, according to Alberta Health. Facilities must have the changes in place by July 31.

“Residents and their family members have made tremendous sacrifices over the course of this pandemic,” said Tyler Shandro, Alberta’s health minister, in a news release. “Thanks to the power of vaccines, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

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Alberta Health said the restrictions being lifted present a “low to medium risk” factor due to the high rates of vaccination at facilities. There are currently six active cases of COVID-19 in continuing care facilities in the province.

“Since December 2020, there has been a 99 per cent decrease in the number of active cases of COVID-19 among staff and residents in these facilities,” said Tom McMillan, with Alberta Health, in a news release.

Over 90 per cent of Albertans over the age of 70 have received a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 87 per cent are fully vaccinated, according to Alberta Health.

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Under the new rules, the amount of visitors will not be limited, limits on dining and recreation activities for residents will be removed and residents will no longer be required to be screened or quarantine when returning from being off-site.

“Residents can resume many of the activities they once loved to do and have more opportunities to connect with their loved ones,” said Shandro in the release.

There are still some rules for visitors, including being screened for COVID-19 symptoms or known exposure before entering and wearing masks in common areas of facilities.

Alberta Health also recommends visitors who have not been fully vaccinated, including children under 12, wear masks in all areas of facilities.

“This is a measured, practical approach that lifts restrictions in an incremental manner as our vaccination rates continue to climb,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health in the news release.

“The restrictions lifted today will go a long way to improving residents’ quality of life while critical protections will remain in place to protect their health.”

There are also some situations where residents who are not fully vaccinated may still need to quarantine, such as when returning from an outbreak unit at a health-care facility.

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The restrictions that will be remaining in place for continuing care facilities include:

  • Screening upon entry and continuous masking for staff, students, volunteers and service providers
  • Enhanced cleaning and disinfection routines in common areas
  • Single-site staffing requirements
  • Testing guidelines
  • Isolation and quarantine protocols
  • Outbreak procedures

“These remaining restrictions may be lifted in Phase 2 at a later date,” said McMillan in the release. 

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