Ontario announced return of masking requirements in LTC homes

Nearly 1,700 staff test positive for COVID as of Nov. 7, finds report

Ontario announced return of masking requirements in LTC homes

It’s back to the way it was during the pandemic for Ontario long-term care homes.

Staff in the province’s LTC homes are once again required to wear respiratory masks amid the new surge of COVID-19 cases in the facilities. 

The rule took effect on Nov. 7, CBC reports, citing a memo from the Ministry of Long-Term Care to LTC licensees dated Nov. 2. The requirement is based on advice from Dr. Kieran Moore, chief medical officer of health, according to the report.

"Recent trends have shown a moderate to high level of community transmission of COVID-19 and an increase in COVID-19 outbreaks in LTCHs, with an increased risk of hospitalization amongst residents," Kelly McAslan, assistant deputy minister, long-term care operations division, says in the memo, according to the CBC report.

The directive also says it is “strongly recommended" that caregivers and visitors wear masks indoors, except when in a resident’s room or when eating or drinking, according to a CTV News report.

Since Oct. 18, all health-care staff working in Manitoba hospitals, personal care homes and other health-care facilities have been required to wear a medical mask during direct interactions with patients, residents and clients. Staff providing care services operated by regional health authorities, including services in the community such as home care, are also required to wear masks when providing care.

Surge in COVID-19 cases

The implementation of masking requirements in Ontario LTC homes comes after a rise in the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the system, according to a Public Health Ontario report.

Between Aug. 27 and Oct. 28, 2023, there were 5,459 COVID-19 cases among Ontario LTC home residents. Among these patients, 181 were hospitalized and 106 died.

Meanwhile, there were 1,698 COVID-19 cases among LTC homes staff recorded that same period. No one died or was hospitalized.

The masking requirement is appropriate, given the situation, says Dr. Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics at Sinai Health System in Toronto, in the CBC report.

"Right now, we have had a significant COVID wave that started this summer, and it certainly has kind of ripped through our long term care homes," Sinha says. “Luckily, with a lot of previous vaccinations and infections, we're not seeing anywhere near the rates of deaths that we've seen before or hospitalizations.”

Ontario, along with other Canadian provinces, lifted its masking requirement earlier this year.

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