Continuing care facilities in Alberta can begin to lift even more of the restrictions that have been in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the province announced Tuesday.
The Alberta government said facilities will take a two-phase approach for easing remaining measures provincewide, adding the adjustments in the first phase focus on restrictions that now present a low-to-medium risk due to the high rates of vaccinations.
More than 90 per cent of Albertans over the age of 70 have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 87 per cent are fully immunized with two doses, the government said.
Lifted restrictions in Phase 1 include:
- Visitors will no longer be limited in number or conditions
- Visitors will still need to be screened for symptoms or known exposure upon entry and wear masks in all common areas
- Visitors who have not yet been fully vaccinated, including children under the age of 12, are strongly recommended to wear their mask continuously in all areas of the building
- All limits to dining and recreation activities for residents are lifted
- Residents are no longer required to be screened upon re-entering the building or are required to quarantine if they have gone off site. However, the province said in specific circumstances, such as returning from an outbreak unit of a health-care facility, residents who are not fully vaccinated may be required to quarantine
The first phase comes into effect as soon as operators are able to make any necessary changes. Facility operators have until July 31 to fully implement the changes, the province said.
“This is a measured, practical approach that lifts restrictions in an incremental manner as our vaccination rates continue to climb,” chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said in a news release.
“The restrictions lifted (Tuesday) will go a long way to improving residents’ quality of life while critical protections will remain in place to protect their health.”
The remaining restrictions that may be lifted in Phase 2, at a later date, 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
Since December 2020, there has been a 99 per cent decrease in the number of active cases of COVID-19 among staff and residents, the province said, adding as of Tuesday there were only six active cases in continuing care facilities provincewide.
“Thanks to the power of vaccines, there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Health Minister Tyler Shandro said in a statement.
“Residents can resume many of the activities they once loved to do and have more opportunities to connect with their loved ones.”
The latest measures are in addition to rules that were relaxed in May, that allowed more visitors at long-term and other continuing care congregate living settings.
The province said the new two-phase approach comes after it gathered feedback from continuing care operators, Alberta Health Services and more than 2,000 residents, family members and others who participated in telephone town halls in late June.