COVID-19 Updates:

  • Community Update

Ontario Appoints New Patient Ombudsman

The Ontario government has appointed Cathy Fooks as Ontario’s new Patient Ombudsman to help improve the quality of care and supports people receive in hospitals, long-term care homes and in their own homes through home and community care.

The Patient Ombudsman provides support for Ontarians who have voiced concerns about their health care experience. The Ombudsman also investigates unresolved complaints about public hospitals, long-term care homes and home and community care, and makes recommendations to the government to prevent the recurrence of similar issues.

In this role, Ms. Fooks will also oversee an investigation into the care and health care experiences of long-term care home residents during COVID-19. This work will complement the government’s independent commission into Ontario’s long-term care system which will begin in July 2020.  

Ontario and Canada Helping Small Businesses Go Digital

The Ontario government, in partnership with the federal government, is helping small businesses reach more customers through the Digital Main Street platform. It is a $57-million program which will help up to 22,900 Ontario businesses create and enhance their online presence and generate jobs for more than 1,400 students.

The new program was unveiled today by Prabmeet Sarkaria, Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction, joined by Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.

Ontario to Resume Family Visits in Long-Term Care Homes, Retirement Homes, and Other Residential Care Settings

In consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, the Ontario government announced the gradual resumption of visits to long-term care homes, retirement homes, and other residential care settings. 

Family and friends will be allowed access to these settings beginning June 18, 2020. Long-term care homes will allow outdoor visits of one person per resident each week at a minimum. Retirement homes will resume indoor and outdoor visits in designated areas or resident suites when physical distancing can be maintained. Other residential care settings will be able to allow outdoor visits of two people at time. Physical distancing will be required for all visits. This approach will ensure the health and safety of residents, staff and visitors.

Visits will resume next Thursday, one week after the release of visitor guidelines. They will be subject to strict health and safety protocols, including requiring visitors to pass active screening every time they visit, confirming with staff that they have tested negative for COVID-19 within the previous two weeks, and complying with the infection prevention and control protocols. This includes bringing and wearing a face covering during visits.

Additionally, long-term care and retirement homes, as well as other residential care settings, must meet the following conditions before they welcome visitors:

  • Homes must not be in outbreak;
  • Homes must have an established process for communicating visitor protocol and the associated safety procedures; and
  • Homes must maintain the highest infection prevention and control standards.

For retirement homes, visitor admissions will vary from home to home depending upon their individual circumstances.

Other residential care settings will also be allowed visitors under similar rules. These residential care settings include homes serving people with developmental disabilities, shelters for survivors of gender-based violence, and children’s residential settings.

As the COVID-19 outbreak evolves in Ontario, the direction on visits at long-term care homes, retirement homes and residential settings will continually be updated keeping the safety and emotional wellbeing of residents and staff at the forefront.

Visits have been restricted since mid-March, with only essential visitors permitted to enter long-term care and retirement homes.

Ontario Introduces Public Transit Safety Guidance

Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation and Kinga Surma, Associate Minister of Transportation, released comprehensive safety guidance for public transit agencies as the province reopens and more people return to work. This guidance, developed in consultation with health and transit officials, provides transit agencies with the information they need to help protect employees and passengers during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The guidance document provides transit agencies with best practices and tips to help stop the spread of COVID-19, such as maintaining physical distance between people whenever possible, highly recommending that passengers wear face coverings or non-medical masks when taking transit, practicing proper hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, installing physical barriers between drivers and passengers, using physical markers between seats and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and objects.

The provincial transit agency, Metrolinx, has identified over 40 actions to help keep staff and passengers safe when riding GO trains, GO buses and the UP Express. These strategies include:

  • Piloting health and safety kiosks that provide customers with tools and advice on how to stay safe.
  • Enhanced deep-cleaning processes for vehicles and in stations.
  • Providing hand sanitizer on every GO bus and in every station, so passengers can apply during their trip.
  • Installing dividers for safety on GO trains and buses.

This guidance is part of the work that Ontario and public health experts are doing to carefully monitor the key public health indicators, as outlined in A Framework to Reopening our Province.