Visits at Regina care homes to remain restricted as rules ease elsewhere on Thursday

·3 min read
Care homes in Regina will not allow visitors on Thursday, as was announced a week ago.  (GagliardiPhotogra/Shutterstock - image credit)
Care homes in Regina will not allow visitors on Thursday, as was announced a week ago. (GagliardiPhotogra/Shutterstock - image credit)

Regina families that had hoped to visit their loved ones in long-term or personal care homes on Thursday after five months of lockdown got some disappointing news.

Saskatchewan health officials announced Wednesday that care homes in the Regina area will remain largely off-limits to visitors due to the continued high concentration of coronavirus variants of concern in the region.

Only family members or support people who are providing unmet care needs for a resident, or who want to see a loved one who is dying or whose health has taken a turn for the worse, can enter a care home under Level 3 of the province's "compassionate care" visitation system.

The same restriction will remain in place for homes in Emerald Park, Lumsden and Cupar, the Ministry of Health stated in a news release.

"Additional family presence can be supported for specific circumstances including critical care or intensive care units and maternal, postpartum or pediatric units," according to the release.

Abrupt change in plan

The Regina area reported 809 known active cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, down from 876 one week before on April 21.

During that same period, the cumulative number of coronavirus variant-of-concern cases confirmed in the Regina area increased to 3,584 from 3,118.

Wednesday's announcement about restrictions remaining in Regina and other areas came a week after the province said visitation rules would be relaxed on Thursday in all homes throughout the province that meet two key criteria:

  • At least 90 per cent of residents received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

  • The second round of doses took place at least three weeks ago.

Minister of Health Paul Merriman said Thursday that local public health officers always had the option of imposing local exceptions in areas that remain COVID-19 "hotspots."

"We just want to make sure that we're not letting people in there," Merriman said. "The vaccine is extremely important to people. It's 90 per cent, but there still is a chance of people getting the virus. That [remaining] 10 per cent could still be able to get it.

"We still have a lot of work to do to be able to make sure that we can get everybody vaccinated in those care homes, the residents and the staff."

The ministry recently stopped publicly reporting how many care home residents — and how many prioritized health care workers (including care home staff) — have received first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccine. Instead, those people are now captured in the province's broad, age-based vaccine uptake breakdowns.

As of April 16 — the last time the province released such data — about 84 care home residents had been fully vaccinated.

By contrast, as of April 21 — the last day this data was given out — 79 per cent of Saskatchewan health-care workers, including but not limited to staff at care homes, had received their first dose, while only 47 per cent had received two doses.

For more on how the resumed visitation in eligible care homes will work beginning on Thursday, click here.