IMPORTANT COVID UPDATES
Friday, December 17, 2021
On November 26, 2021, a new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, Omicron, was designated a variant of concern (VOC) by the World Health Organization. This variant is spreading quickly and some experts are predicting that it will bring the worst wave of the pandemic to date.
On December 16, 2021, Dr. Brown from the Ontario Science Table, reported that Omicron was now the dominant variant in Ontario. As of yesterday, there were 2421 COVID cases identified in Ontario, as well as a 26% increase in hospitalizations and a 25% increase in ICU admissions.
In response to this situation and to new provincial directives that were announced this week for Long Term Care, CHIRS is taking the following steps:
Mandatory Vaccination Policy for Staff
Earlier this fall, CHIRS introduced a policy that will require all staff working at CHIRS to be fully vaccinated by the first week in February.
Rapid Antigen Testing
Since September 2021, unvaccinated staff have been participating in COVID testing once per week. As of January 2022, we are increasing the testing requirement to twice per week. In addition, ALL staff will be required to participate in the testing program regardless of vaccination status.
Client Home Visits
We know how important family visits are, especially over the holidays so we are doing everything we can to ensure they can still happen and happen in the safest way possible.
To facilitate overnight home visits, protocols are also being developed which may include the requirement for rapid or PCR tests on return to the residence as well as isolation protocols. The nature of the protocols may depend on length of time away and the nature of the absence.
These protocols are being developed in consultation with the Congregate Settings Team of Public Health.
Client Supports in the Community
To err on the side of caution, the following changes are being made to community supports:
Client/Visitor Vaccination Policy
As you are seeing across the city, many places, such as restaurants and gyms require proof of vaccination to enter a facility. While we remain in the midst of this pandemic and the numbers continue to fluctuate we have made the decision to require proof of vaccination for all clients, families, and visitors who enter a CHIRS facility. In order to facilitate this, your CHIRS worker will be contacting you to obtain a copy of your vaccination certificate. If you are vaccinated but don't have a copy of the certificate, don't worry, they can help you access the information you need.
When we are able to return to in-person groups we will revisit this policy.
Additional Updates from the Province
COVID-19 Updated Booster Eligibility
An accelerated schedule has been announced for booster vaccinations (3rd dose), increasing eligibility to all Ontarians over the age of 18, as of Monday, December 20, 2021, for those that received their second dose of vaccine at least 84 days prior (3 months).
Pharmacies will begin administering booster doses to adults 18 and up on a walk-in basis as of December 17, three days before the broader rollout.
Public Health Agency of Canada Travel Advisory.
The Public Health Agency of Canada is advising travelers, regardless of their vaccination status, to avoid non-essential travel internationally. Many foreign governments are implementing strict travel restrictions due to spread of the Omicron variant and international travel options may be limited. As a result, you may have difficulty returning to Canada, or may have to remain abroad for an indeterminate period. Local authorities abroad may impose control measures suddenly, including movement restrictions such as lockdowns. In some countries, you may have limited access to timely and appropriate health care should you become ill.
Community Rapid Antigen Kits
The provincial government announced that starting today, up to two million rapid tests will be given out free of charge at pop-up testing sites in high-traffic areas, including malls, retail stores, holiday markets, public libraries, and at transit hubs, as part of an "enhanced testing strategy" over the holidays. The province said it plans to deploy "pop-up teams" to nearly 50 locations. These teams will either distribute take-home tests or provide asymptomatic rapid antigen screening on site. Take-home rapid tests will also be offered for free at some LCBO stores, beginning with the 100 busiest stores this week. The province said more stores will be added to the program in the "coming days."
Capacity Limits for Large Indoor Venues
Capacity limits in large, indoor venues that seat more than 1,000 people are being reduced by 50% as of December 18, 2021.
Thank you for your ongoing support and understanding as we work to keep everyone safe.
From everyone at CHIRS, we wish you a happy and healthy holiday.