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Ontario quietly changes LTC rules; visitors no longer have to mask in resident rooms

Ontario has quietly changed masking rules for long-term care homes, no longer requiring visitors or caregivers to wear them when alone with a resident in their room.Long-term care homes are one of the only places where provincial mask mandates remain, after Ontario lifted most such requirements in June.But the rules were changed as of Friday, though no public announcement was made. Operators were notified and the COVID-19 guidance document for long-term care homes was updated on an Ontario government website, said a spokesperson for Long-Term Care Minister Paul Calandra.

Ontario’s top doctor urges mask wearing, warns mandate could return “Our government is protecting our long-term care homes by investing in Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC), hiring and retaining nurses and PSW’s, and increasing daily hours of care for residents,” Jake Roseman said in a statement.“Additionally, we are now offering COVID-19 bivalent booster vaccines to long-term care residents, which will add a further layer of protection against the virus.”Several other changes to COVID-19 rules took effect that day. Visitors no longer have to confirm in person or online that they are symptom free, instead homes are now only required to post signage listing COVID-19 symptoms.A limit of four visitors per resident at a time for indoor visits has been removed, and long-term care homes can now set their own visitor policy.

As well, residents are no longer required to be tested for COVID-19 when they return from an absence.Staff and volunteers, meanwhile, are still required to wear medical masks for their whole shift while indoors and must not remove them while in resident areas or while interacting with residents. They are allowed to remove masks for

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Felicia Parrillo - Covid - End of free COVID-19 test kits in pharmacies for most Quebecers -
End of free COVID-19 test kits in pharmacies for most Quebecers
COVID-19 rapid tests for free at their local pharmacies as of Monday.Those who are considered to be at high risk of complications from the disease — including immunocompromised and pregnant people — will still be able to pick up test kits at no additional cost until April 2024.Seniors, full-time students under the age of 25 and children who benefit from free medication under the province’s drug insurance plan will also still have access to free COVID-19 tests, according to the Health Ministry.The ministry, which announced the move in late March, cited the improving pandemic situation in Quebec as the reason for scaling back the program.Quebec’s pharmacists association, the Association québécoise des pharmaciens propriétaires (AQPP), said those who do not meet the criteria for no-charge tests will still be able to buy kits in pharmacies.“Since the start of the program, Quebec pharmacies have distributed nearly 9,250,000 kits of self-administered tests,” AQPP president Benoit Morin said in a statement.In December 2021, the government announced that COVID-19 rapid tests would be made available to the general population through select pharmacies. People would have access to five free tests every 30 days.The Health Ministry says COVID-19 tests will continue to be distributed for free in schools and child-care centres.— with files from Global’s Felicia Parrillo and The Canadian Press
Covid - Mask rules change at hospitals in Kitchener and Guelph -
Mask rules change at hospitals in Kitchener and Guelph
Read more: Several southwestern Ontario hospitals lift mask mandates The hospital says it will allow patients to ask that anyone who comes into their presence wear a mask.“This choice will be honoured and respected without question,” a release from the hospital says.It also warns that masks could also be required when interacting with a patient in isolation or those with respiratory illnesses.The hospitals says that universal masking could return during cold and flu season or if there is an outbreak at the hospital.The mask requirement also changed at Grand River Hospital in Kitchener on Monday although it asked that visitors wear them in the chemo suite as well as when they are in direct contact with patients.“Patients will continue wearing masks if they have respiratory symptoms,” an announcement from GRH read. “Visitors – please continue to stay home if you are feeling unwell.”Down the road in Guelph, the hospital also began to lift masking measures on Monday but it did keep some current rules in place.As with SMGH, masks will not longer be required in hallways, meeting rooms, breakrooms, the Bistro, and shared offices but they will still be required in clinical areas.This means that masks will still be required in areas such as nursing stations and patient rooms.“Based on how we move through this first phase, we will look to implement a second phase.