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Coronavirus: Alberta updates continuing care facility protocols, giving residents more flexibility

Click to play video: 'Hinshaw announces updates to Alberta continuing-care facilities and quarantine' Hinshaw announces updates to Alberta continuing-care facilities and quarantine
Dr. Deena Hinshaw announces updates to Alberta continuing-care facilities orders – taking effect in two weeks -- including changes to quarantine rules and volunteers. – Sep 3, 2020

Alberta’s continuing care facilities will soon be able to use a “risk-based approach” to determine whether residents returning from off-site activities have to quarantine.

As it currently stands, anyone who leaves a continuing care centre for a certain amount of time — like overnight or a weekend away — for any reason, has to self-isolate for 14 days when they get back. Residents who leave for short periods of time, no matter their activities while off-site, don’t have to quarantine.

Read more: By the numbers: 6 months since Alberta’s 1st COVID-19 case confirmed

Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Thursday that a new order, which will go into effect in two weeks, will allow residents more flexibility to come and go, depending on what they do while they’re away.

“The strict restrictions implemented this spring helped limit the spread of the virus but took a toll on other aspects of residents’ health,” Hinshaw said. “We must always balance the need to protect people from COVID-19 with the need to support the overall health and well-being of those who are being protected. These residents need joy, hope and connection just like the rest of us.”

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Hinshaw said since visitor protocols were updated in July, the province has only seen a handful of outbreaks at long-term care facilities, unlike at the beginning of the pandemic in Alberta. She added it doesn’t appear those outbreaks were caused by visitors.

“Rather, it seems that when community transmission levels are high, the risk of staff being exposed outside of work also rises. Most of our outbreaks in these facilities have been limited to one or two cases with no onward spread thanks to the hard work of staff and management in these locations with the support of AHS,” Hinshaw said.

Click to play video: '‘Pandemic fatigue is a very real thing’: Hinshaw discusses pandemic 6 months after 1st case' ‘Pandemic fatigue is a very real thing’: Hinshaw discusses pandemic 6 months after 1st case
‘Pandemic fatigue is a very real thing’: Hinshaw discusses pandemic 6 months after 1st case – Sep 3, 2020

Moving forward, quarantining will only be required for those who engage in high-risk activities when they leave the continuing care site. Those who take part in medium- to low-risk activities will have lesser health requirements, like wearing masks or more strict monitoring for symptoms.

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“There are times when someone can leave the site for a weekend in a very low-risk way and times when a resident may choose to attend an event for only part of a day, such as a family wedding, that may put them at higher risk of exposure,” Hinshaw said.

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Volunteers are also allowed back in continuing care centres, as long as the facilities provide adequate safety guidelines to keep them, staff and residents safe. It’s hoped bringing volunteers back will help to alleviate the staffing challenges facilities have been experiencing as part of heightened health protocols.

Read more: Alberta to create more continuing-care spaces in existing facilities

Hinshaw said the new health order is not a reduction in the overall protections, and restrictions on staff working in multiple facilities are still in place.

She added the two-week period before the new order takes place will give operators the time needed to make adjustments.

As of Thursday, Alberta had 1,415 active cases of COVID-19, with 130 new cases being confirmed in the past 24 hours. No new deaths were reported.

Click to play video: 'Hinshaw clarifies request after outbreak at Calgary Kidanemehret Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church' Hinshaw clarifies request after outbreak at Calgary Kidanemehret Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church
Hinshaw clarifies request after outbreak at Calgary Kidanemehret Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church – Sep 3, 2020

Forty-six people were in hospital as of Thursday, with nine of them being treated in ICUs.

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Labs in the province did 9,500 new tests as of Thursday afternoon.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Hinshaw announces changes for long-term care facilities in Alberta' COVID-19: Hinshaw announces changes for long-term care facilities in Alberta
COVID-19: Hinshaw announces changes for long-term care facilities in Alberta – Sep 3, 2020

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