The vast majority of B.C. seniors' homes now have approved plans to accept visitors, according to Health Minister Adrian Dix. He said July 23 that almost 80%, or 465 of 584 homes in the province, are now allowing residents to have visitors. That is up from 318 homes accepting visitors a week ago.
Allowing these visits carries some risk of transmission of COVID-19 in a vulnerable demographic group, although many loved ones of residents have been eager to be able to see their family members or friends.
The new statistics are exclusively for long-term care and assisted living homes, Dix explained in response to a question from Glacier Media. Dix said in June that there were 681 seniors' homes in B.C. that could be having visits, but that number included some additional types facilities licensed under the Community Care and Assisted Living Act, such as child and youth residential care, and residential care for mental health and substance use, according to the Ministry of Health.
Initial provincial restrictions on visits include that they will happen with each resident having a single designated visitor, that each visitor and resident would go to a designated place within the care home and that both the visitor and resident would wear protective equipment.
Personal service providers, such as hairstylists, are also able to go into long-term care and seniors' assisted living facilities if the home has a WorkSafeBC-approved safety plan.
Dix said on June 30 that his government was earmarking $165 million in new funding for up to three new full-time staff per home to oversee the visits and train visitors on how to wear protective equipment.
"We're going to have more to say about some of the details around hiring and training that are taking place in the coming weeks," he said July 23. "We need to make some fundamental change to long-term care to allow for visits, to ensure that the staffing needs of visits are adequately addressed."
The new hires are needed, Dix said, because staff need to spend time facilitating the visits to ensure they are done safely. Prior to the pandemic, "the amount of staff time devoted to visits tended to be zero," he said.
Dix and provincial health officer Bonnie Henry also revealed new data to show the spread of COVID-19 in B.C.
The province recorded 30 new cases in the past 24 hours, including one case that is "epi-linked," or a presumed case that has not been confirmed through testing.
The breakdown of all 3,392 COVID-19 infections by health region is:
• 1,051 in Vancouver Coastal Health (up two);
• 1,750 in Fraser Health (up eight);
• 142 in Island Health (up one);
• 315 in Interior Health (up 11);
• 77 in Northern Health (up eight); and
• 57 people who reside outside Canada (up three).
There are 304 people who are actively fighting the virus, with most self-isolating at home. Of the 16 people who are in hospital, three are in intensive care units.
One person has died from the virus in the past day – the first announced death since July 13. The province's death toll now sits at 190. More than 85.4% of patients, or 2,898 have recovered.