If Visiting Make Sure You're COVID Clear

·3 min read

Thursday April 22, 2021, Everett Hindley, Minister in Charge of Issues Affecting Seniors, announced that today, Thursday April 29, residents of care homes will begin to be able to receive visitors, two per resident indoors or four outdoors, and it does not have to be the same two or four consistent visitors. The only criteria is that at least 90 per cent of residents in the care home must be fully vaccinated, and a minimum of three weeks must have passed since the second round of vaccines were administered. Visitors will be required to follow all current public health orders including the wearing of masks but will not be required to be vaccinated or show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test. Likewise, the province has said nothing about the ratio of care home staff who have or have not been vaccinated.

As of April 16, the status of vaccinations of Long-Term Care Residents was reported as 7,752 out of an estimated 8,392 having received first doses and 6,853 had received a second. In residents of Personal Care Homes, 5,866 of an estimated 4,247 had received first doses and 3,719 had received a second. Obviously, the governments estimators missed about 1600 seniors residing in Personal Care Homes, a number that represents 11 per cent of the province’s seniors in care.

Opposition Leader Ryan Meili while agreeing that it has been very hard on families to be separated for so long, wanted some key things in place to ensure the continued safety of the residents and staff. "I would want to make sure that all of the staff working there and anyone who's on a list to go and visit is fully vaccinated, because the last thing we want, especially as we see growth in new variants, is to get back to what we saw this winter," he said. Of the 475 deaths reported as of April 25 from COVID-19, 235 or 49.5% have been in the 80 and over age group. It is important to remember that while the vaccine may have been available for all long-term and personal care home residents, not all of them received the vaccine. Some, as in the general population, declined to receive the vaccine and some simply could not receive it for medical reasons and therefore these residents remain highly vulnerable to transmission.

Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Saquib Shahab, offered some cautionary words to Thursday’s announcement. “It is all of our responsibility to not just protect ourselves, but to protect our loved ones, our family.” Get vaccinated if possible and if that’s not possible, at the very least get tested, especially if there is any concern at all that there may have an exposure to COVID-19. Testing is widely available. Although Minister Hindley did not share this on last Thursday’s news conference, CBC learned and reported that the province has also equipped care homes with rapid COVID-19 test kits. If you plan to visit your loved ones, get regularly tested, Dr. Shahab advised. “Especially if you haven’t been vaccinated, you have to get tested on a weekly basis.” He continued that people who have received one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and may be exposed “now and then” through work or something like that, should also consider getting tested before entering a care home. As more and more of a home’s regular visitors become fully vaccinated the rules and restrictions regarding visitation can be further relaxed.

So if visiting with your mother or grandmother in a care home is in the plans for Mother’s Day 2021, the best gift to give is NOT giving COVID.

Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wakaw Recorder