COVID-19: As pandemic wanes, B.C. eases care home visit restrictions

B.C.’s seniors’ advocate, Isobel Mackenzie, says the changes are as important to seniors as they are to their loved ones.

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Seniors in care homes will soon be able to visit, touch and hug an unlimited number of family and friends.

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COVID-19 restrictions first banned then dramatically limited in-person visits last year, but as of July 19, visits will no longer need appointments, fully immunized relatives and friends can drop the masks, and groups can visit together.

The new rules mean social and recreational events that have been banned in care homes throughout the pandemic can resume, the provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said in a news release.

While indoor events like dances will still be limited to residents and staff, family and friends will be allowed to attend outdoor events, such as barbecues.

Meanwhile, B.C. announced 59 new cases of COVID-19 and one additional death on Thursday. The province currently has 649 cases, with 74 people in hospital, including 19 in intensive care.

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One person from the Interior Health region has died from the virus, bringing the death toll in B.C. to 1,760.

As of Thursday, 78.4 per cent of eligible British Columbians age 12 and older have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 40 per cent, or 1,854,387 people, have received a second dose.

Personal service providers and volunteers at care homes will be required to be fully immunized under the new rules. However, the province is not forcing that rule onto home staff, instead saying they must continue to wear a mask at all times and submit to regular rapid testing for COVID-19.

B.C.’s seniors’ advocate, Isobel Mackenzie, says the changes are as important to seniors as they are to their loved ones.

“We know that the impact of being separated from loved ones was as profound on the spouse who was not in care or the children who felt the lack of access was destroying their lives,” said Mackenzie.

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