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Province bans visitors from long-term care facilities

Eleanor Donahue, a 100-year-old resident of Pioneer Lodge in Fort Macleod, visits at a safe distance with son Tim Donahue and grandson Mac Donahue.

The province last week put long-term care centres and other facilities under COVID-19 lockdown.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw ordered a province-wide ban on visitors help to limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect Albertans.

“I know the medicine that I am presently prescribing  of physical distancing is a bitter pill to swallow,” Dr. Hinshaw said during a news conference Thursday.

Residents of continuing care sites are at extreme risk if exposed to COVID-19.

Under an amended public health order, no visitors are allowed unless a resident is dying or the visitor is essential for delivering care that cannot be delivered by staff.

There are 1,451 cases of COVID-19 in Alberta.

The number includes 151 confirmed cases of staff and residents at continuing care facilities.

“I know it is difficult to no longer be able to visit loved ones who are residents in these facilities, but this measure was necessary to keep everyone safe,” Dr. Hinshaw said.

At Pioneer Lodge in Fort Macleod, for example, family members have stood outside the windows of residents’ rooms to visit on cell phones.

Dr. Hinshaw said such contact is important during the pandemic. 

“I encourage Albertans to look for other ways they can still stay in touch with friends and family who may residents in these facilities,” Dr. Hinshaw said.

“Being isolated physically does not mean we are alone. Be physically distant but virtually connected.”

The new restriction applies to all licensed supportive living, long-term care and other continuing care facilities in the province. 

It also applies to all residential addiction treatment operators licensed under the Mental Health Services Protection Act.

“This order is an aggressive but necessary step to help limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health of vulnerable Albertans,” Health Minister Tyler Shandro said. “Our government will support any action needed to protect the lives of residents at continuing care facilities across the province.”

Any visitor entering a care facility is health screened prior to stepping inside.

Screening includes a temperature check and a questionnaire. Anyone sick will not be allowed into the building.

Those who are well will be required to wear a mask or face covering.

Other public health measures for continuing care facilities include screening of staff, enhanced cleaning and other infection prevention control measures, and outbreak protocols.

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