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Coronavirus: B.C. announces new rules on visiting long-term care homes

WATCH: B.C. health officials provide update on long-term care home rules.

An emotional Dr. Bonnie Henry announced details on Tuesday to reopen long-term care facilities to visitors.

Holding back tears, B.C.’s top doctor says she understands how tough it has been for residents and their loved ones not to be able to visit each other amid the COVID-19 crisis.

B.C. relaxes rules on long-term care home visits
B.C. relaxes rules on long-term care home visits

“I know that for many seniors in long-term care the pain has been immense,” she said. “You have suffered more than others.”

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“There have been many dark and anxious days; today is a lighter day for us all.”

Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines new rules for visiting B.C. long-term care homes
Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines new rules for visiting B.C. long-term care homes

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlined a number of rules around visits:

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B.C. eases restrictions on visits to long-term care homes
B.C. eases restrictions on visits to long-term care homes

Only one loved one or family member will be allowed to visit a long-term care resident.

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“We are going to start slowly, and, as we expect things will progress well, we will expand these activities, as we have done with every other activity. And we will be monitoring this on an ongoing basis to ensure that we can expand access as soon as it is safe to do so,” Henry said.

Meetings must be booked in advance and anyone showing symptoms for COVID-19 will not be allowed in the care home.

Visitors will be required to wear masks.

Visits will not be allowed at facilities that are experiencing an outbreak.

The policy will be reviewed monthly.

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Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry recommends wearing a mask in these situations
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry recommends wearing a mask in these situations

Visits will be able to start as soon as the care home has the safety precautions and staff in place. Henry asked for patience as it might take some facilities a week to 10 days to prepare for visitors.

The provincial government is providing $160 million to hire up to three staff per care home to ensure the guidelines around visits are being followed. Designated staff will be required to screen everybody who comes in on entry.

The staff will also provide needed guidance to ensure that visitors are able to visit safely.

“We are all a little anxious because we know what can happen if we don’t do this right,” Henry said. “Moving cautiously, with care, will give us the confidence we need.”

Non-essential visits at B.C. long-term care home will be suspended if COVID-19 is reported
Non-essential visits at B.C. long-term care home will be suspended if COVID-19 is reported

As of Monday there have been 386 positive COVID-19 tests from residents of long-term care, and 229 staff people who have tested positive.

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The province is also providing $26.5 million for facilities to address costs that they incurred between March 31 and June 30, 2020.

Those costs include additional screening, costs incurred due to sick time, and self isolation, costs for changes to services, including delivering meals to rooms, or staggering meal times to ensure physical distancing.

Dr. Bonnie Henry on masks on transit and crowd size in B.C.
Dr. Bonnie Henry on masks on transit and crowd size in B.C.

“We have lost almost 100 people in long-term care,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said.

“This, for me — and I know for all of you — regardless of how people do in other places, is too many and has a real consequence on the people who have lived through that, the people who have lived through outbreak protocols, whether it’s one person or 80 people who are affected by COVID-19 in those care homes have felt the anxiety of that, as we do.”

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Read more: List of seniors’ homes and health-care facilities at centre of B.C.’s coronavirus outbreak

‘We will be watching very carefully’: Minimizing risks of COVID-19 at B.C. long-term care homes
‘We will be watching very carefully’: Minimizing risks of COVID-19 at B.C. long-term care homes

-with files from Jon Azpiri