Essential visits suspended at 14 long-term care homes in Ontario, organization says

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In an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 at their facilities, a care home operator has suspended essential visits at all 14 of their long-term care homes in Ontario.

Jarlette Health Services owns and operates Roberta Place, a long-term care home in Barrie that has been devastated by an outbreak of the highly contagious B117 variant of COVID-19. A spokesperson for the organization said it made the "difficult yet proactive decision" to suspend visits for the safety of all those who frequent the organization's long-term care homes.

"Having assessed the risk associated with the exceedingly high number of positive COVID-19 cases within Ontario, and the advent of the [B117] variant ... we believe it is the best course of action to further safeguard our residents, family members, team members and communities," said Stephanie Barber, a spokesperson for Jarlette.

She said that while essential visits have been suspended, exceptions have been and continue to be made for compassionate end-of-life care.

Meanwhile, Roberta Place Long-Term Care has seen all 129 residents infected with COVID-19 along with 105 staff. Sixty-nine residents have died as of Saturday.

The outbreak includes cases of the B117 variant first detected in the U.K., which prompted residents' families to propose a class-action lawsuit against the home on Monday for what they say was neglect for their loved ones.

The unproven statement of claim filed to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice alleges Roberta Place failed to take basic precautionary measures to protect against the novel coronavirus 10 months after the pandemic took hold in Canada.

According to the most recent numbers provided by the home, Roberta Place said there are currently no active resident cases and 14 active staff cases.

In an emailed statement Saturday, the home also notes that the case count may look higher because they now include both confirmed and probable cases per direction from the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.

There have been no new deaths since Feb. 2, 2021, and no new resident cases as of Jan. 27, 2021, the home said.

Barber said with the planned rollout of public health's rapid testing program, the organization have since amended their suspension and will permit essential visitors to re-enter the homes in tandem with the arrival of rapid antigen testing, along with enhanced infection prevention and control practices at their properties.

"It is our duty to exercise every measure possible to support the health and safety of all those we serve, and to that, we hold ourselves accountable and maintain our confidence in this decision."