Visitor restrictions are on the way to long-term care homes across Simcoe Muskoka.

On Tuesday, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit issued a class order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act which will restrict all indoor visits at homes to one essential visitor at a time and suspend general visiting to protect elderly residents from COVID-19.

The order applies to all long-term care homes in Simcoe County and the District of Muskoka but does not apply to retirement homes or other congregate settings.

However, the health unit continues to monitor the situation for possible further action.

“The number of COVID-19 cases and deaths continues to rise in Simcoe Muskoka and Ontario and residents of long-term care homes are so vulnerable because of their age, their care needs and the closed nature of the homes that can facilitate the spread of COVID-19,” Medical Officer of Health Dr. Charles Gardner said. “This order is intended to decrease the risk, and to protect our elderly residents and the staff caring for them.”

In recent weeks, there’s been a fairly significant and continually increasing case count of COVID-19 in Simcoe Muskoka.

The health unit says there have been 24.1 cases for every 100,000 persons for the week of October 25th  – which is up from an estimated 5.4 cases /100,000 for the first week of September

The order identifies what qualifies as an essential visitor.

This includes a person who is not a member of the facility’s staff but is performing essential support services; a person visiting a very ill or palliative resident; or a caregiver who comes in to provide direct care and support.

This ensures that those who come in to help a resident with their meals, personal hygiene, mental stimulation, communications or other needs will not be prevented from visiting.

The Health Unit adds that a maximum of two caregivers may be designated as essential for a resident at this time.

“We are seeking to strike a balance to address both the physical danger of contracting COVID-19 and the importance of addressing the mental health needs of residents living in these care settings,” Dr. Gardner added. “And while they are restrictive they reflect the immediate and serious danger posed by the growing number of cases.”

The order also directs that residents are not to leave the facilities for short-stay or temporary absences except for those required for healthcare.

More information about the order is posted on the health unit website under its COVID-19 pages. 

You can also call Health Connection to speak with a public health professional on weekdays 8:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. and again on Saturdays 8:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. at 705-721-7520.