17 Apr COVID-19 Update from Ottawa Public Health
OPH has developed further guidance on meal planning, shopping, cooking, and accessing food for those in need during COVID-19. Please visit http://OttawaPublicHealth.ca/GroceryCOVID19 for more information.
Long-Term Care Homes
OPH continues to work closely with the healthcare sector including Long-Term Care Homes. Locally, LTC ‘strike teams’ have been assembled to implement the Action Plan released by Ontario Health (more details follow). In concert, OPH Public Health Nurses and Public Health Inspectors have been aligned to the facilities to provide additional support in outbreak management.
On April 15, 2020, the Government of Ontario announced the COVID-19 Action Plan for Protecting Long-Term Care Homes to keep residents in long-term care homes safe.
This plan is focused on a three-pronged approach:
- Aggressive testing, screening, and surveillance enhancing testing for symptomatic residents and staff and those who have been in contact with persons confirmed to have COVID-19; expanding screening to include more asymptomatic contacts of confirmed cases; and leveraging surveillance tools to enable care providers to move proactively against the disease.
- Managing outbreaks and spread of the disease supporting long-term care homes with public health and infection control expertise to contain and prevent outbreaks; providing additional training and support for current staff working in outbreak conditions.
- Growing Ontario’s long-term care workforce redeploying staff from hospitals and home and community care to support the long-term care home workforce and respond to outbreaks, alongside intensive on-going recruitment initiatives.
Beyond the activities announced in this Action Plan, the Ontario government is also moving forward with the following additional measures:
- Public health units will be working with each individual long-term care home to assess immediate needs for support – for testing, outbreak management, or staffing.
- Asking hospitals to temporarily stop transferring hospital patients to long-term care and retirement homes, leveraging current capacity in the hospital sector.
The Ontario government is also working in the very near term to deliver:
- enhanced testing and surveillance for symptomatic residents and staff and those in contact with persons confirmed to have COVID-19;
- testing of asymptomatic residents and staff in select homes across the province to better understand how COVID-19 is spreading;
- risk and capacity assessments for all homes;
- working with Ontario Health, the Ontario Hospital Association, and public health units to assemble infection control and preventions teams and additional supports;
- enhanced guidance on personal protective equipment and continued priority distribution to homes;
- enhanced training and education to support staff working in outbreak situations; and
- redeploying hospital and home care resources into homes.
The Government of Ontario also passed emergency orders restricting long-term care staff from working in more than one long-term care home, retirement home or health care setting, and guidance on masks and conservation of PPE supplies.
Further guidance and Ministry of Health directives are available in French and English on the Ministry’s website.
Expansion of Testing Criteria
In addition to now allowing for testing of some asymptomatic residents and staff in long-term care and retirement homes experiencing an outbreak, the Province added a list of less common COVID-19 symptoms to the testing criteria and has again increased the categories of people eligible for testing.
These expanded criteria will allow us to test more people and get a better sense of the potential scope of infection in our community. This is important into the future to enable more targeted strategies and the eventual relaxation of restrictions.
The new categories of people eligible for testing, if they are experiencing at least one symptom, include people and workers in congregate settings, first responders, caregivers, people with frequent health care contact and people living in remote, isolated, rural or indigenous communities.
This revised testing criteria has been added to the Ottawa Public Health website and is available here.