Province announces easing of restrictions at care homes to begin May 30

Saskatchewan Health Authority CEO Scott Livingstone. (Brandon Harder/Regina Leader-Post)

On Thursday, the province announced a plan to further ease visitor restrictions in long-term care and personal care homes in alignment with the three steps of the recently announced Re-opening Roadmap. Mental Health and Addictions, Seniors and Rural and Remote Health Minister Everett Hindley said that the province made the decision because of the vaccine uptake in the province.

“Saskatchewan’s vaccination program continues to enjoy huge uptake across all age groups but especially with our seniors. As you know residents of long term care homes and personal care homes were the very first Saskatchewan people to prioritize at the start of our vaccine rollout back in January. Mobile clinics visited every long term care home and personal care home in the province delivering not just first shots but also second shots,” Hindley said in a press conference on Thursday.

Hindley explained that nearly every resident of long-term and and personal care homes is currently fully vaccinated and over 60 percent of all adults have had one dose the province can ease these restrictions around the province.

“Now these restrictions were perhaps the most difficult the government imposed throughout the pandemic and they were also the most necessary,” Hindley said.

Improving case numbers in the province were also a factor in the change.

“Today our seven day average of new cases dropped to 169 its lowest level in nearly two months. Every shot in every arm makes Saskatchewan just a little bit safer and it brings us much closer to the day that everything returns back to normal,” Hindley said.

Every resident age 12 and up are eligible for vaccination today and Hindley hopes by the end of July every Saskatchewan resident will have either their first or second vaccination.

“So if you haven’t done so already please go get your first shot and when it’s your turn also get your second shot, recognize there might be some challenges as demand is far exceeding supply at the moment but we are trying to get vaccines out to people as quickly as we can as the supply allows. Let’s get things back to the way they should be so we can all have a great Saskatchewan summer,” Hindley said.

On May 30, residents in care homes will be able to safely see more family members and visitors as the province moves to step one of the Roadmap.

“This replaces the previous requirement that had 90 per cent of residents in long term care homes needed to be vaccinated to be fully vaccinated before allowing visitors,” Hindley said.
According to the province, all residents of long-term care and personal care homes will be able to welcome an unlimited number of visitors, two at a time, indoors.

As well, up to four family members or support persons at a time will be able to visit outdoors.

When the province reaches Step 1, three weeks will have passed since reaching the threshold of more than 70 per cent of citizens aged 40 and older having had their first dose of vaccine.
Care home visitation will continue to be limited to compassionate reasons only until May 30, except for fully vaccinated residents of homes where 90 per cent of residents have been fully vaccinated and three weeks have elapsed since the last second dose vaccinations..
Family and support persons visiting care homes must continue to follow public health guidelines on masking, physical distancing, hand hygiene, temperature screening, and may be offered an optional rapid antigen test.
As well on Sunday all care home residents who go on outings will no longer be required to quarantine upon their return.

The most current statistics that Hindley had seen was that 96 per cent of long term care residents had received first doses and about 89 per cent have received second doses.

“As of yesterday (Wednesday) about 40 per cent of long term care homes had met that 90 per cent threshold,” Hindley said.

Residents must continue to abide by all public health measures in place, including current restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings, while away from the home.
There are 252 personal care homes, 151 long-term care homes and eight other health-care facilities that accommodate long-term care beds in Saskatchewan.

Hindley explained that the province is close to reaching step two of the vaccination threshold of the Roadmap and that could come any day.

“When step two starts all long term care and personal care homes will be able to welcome four visitors at a time indoors and nine visitors at a time outdoors. Our Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. (Saqib) Shahab is still considering how restrictions may be relaxed further when we move to step three which will be likely some time in July and we will make an announcement at a later date,” Hindley said.

The 90-day wait period for people who have had COVID-19 to get vaccinated was also recently lifted by the province. According to Shahab, it was put in place because of the original limits on vaccine supplies in the province.

“Because vaccine supply is abundant it is important that we all get vaccinated when we become eligible by age, first dose and then second and that is why the 90 day period has been lifted,” Shahab said.
With May long weekend beginning on Friday, Shahab also offered some advice about the possibility of camping.

“I think we have all become really well versed on how to navigate what we are able to do and enjoy the great outdoors during the age of COVID,” Shahab said.

He advised that if anyone in your household is feeling unwell stay home and get tested. He also said to do all shopping locally before you head out to a campsite so you have most of the supplies needed.

“I think it is important for all of us to enjoy the great outdoors in a way that we keep other safe,”

This included wearing a mask and practicing physical distancing when indoors.

“I think those principles have worked well for us and they will continue to work. And of course get vaccinated if you haven’t already,” he said.