As Canada’s number of COVID-19 cases have continued to climb, restrictions have been tightened at facilities in Grey-Bruce to help prevent a widespread outbreak of the virus.
Ontario’s chief medical officer Dr. David Williams deemed that only “essential” visitors be allowed in long-term care, retirement and supportive housing as part of the province’s efforts to stop the spread.
The Ministry of Health’s definition of “essential” is restricted to family of dying or very ill person, or the parent of child or youth in treatment setting.
According to Williams’ memo, the recommendation applies to all long-term care homes, retirement homes, supportive housing and hospices.
On Saturday, Bruce County announced it was following the directive, and visiting both its long-term care homes — Brucelea Haven in Walkerton and Gateway Haven in Wiarton — would no longer be allowed except for compassionate reasons.
“Admissions to the homes are continuing with screening protocols in place to ensure the health of residents,” the county said in a release. “Admissions for failed screening may be denied.”
Grey County also announced on Saturday that it would comply to the province’s advisory and only allow essential visitors, effective immediately. Grey County runs three long-term care homes – Lee Manor in Owen Sound, Grey Gables in Markdale and Rockwood Terrace in Durham.
“We recognize this is a significant change for residents and loved ones,” The Grey County statement read. “The health and well-being of all Ontarians, including long-term care residents, their families, and staff, is the government’s number one priority.
The statement said Grey County was working on a system to allow families to connect with their resident remotely, via phone or video. Instructions were to be shared with families early in the coming week.
Hospitals in the area were also restricting visitors.
Grey Bruce Health Services issued a news release late Sunday afternoon outlining measures it is taking to restrict transmission of COVID-19.
Visitors are asked not to come to any of the six hospitals in Owen Sound, Southampton, Wiarton, Meaford, Markdale and Lion’s Head. Exceptions will be made for compassionate reasons on a case-by-case basis (woman and child-care unit/labour and delivery, palliative care and critical care) and individuals will be screened for illness and travel prior to entry, the hospital said in a news release.
All GBHS staff and physicians coming into the hospital will be screened with anyone who has travelled outside Caanda in the past 14 days to self-isolate and monitor for symptoms.
All elective surgeries are being reviewed with an announcement expected Monday, to be posted on the GBHS website.
Also being reviewed are all non-urgent outpatient clinics, with a full list of cancellations being posted on the GBHS website on Monday.
Volunteer services have been suspended until further notice and the gift shop closed.
An assessment centre has also been set up at the Owen Sound hospital to screen patients who have had respiratory symptoms and have travelled or have been in contact with a person with COVID-19, the release said.
The centre, which is located near the hospital, is expected to open in the next few days and an announcement will be made when plans are finalized. Assessment centres are also being established in Hanover and Kincardine.
Hanover and District Hospital said Sunday that it was also restricting visitors as of Monday to only one visitor per patient at a time.
“Please do not visit if you have a cough, cold or fever,” the HDH statement said. “This is to protect the safety of our patients and staff.”
The front entrance at the Hanover hospital was to be closed with all visitors entering through the emergency entrance. Upon arrival, visitors will be screened before entering the building and will be asked to clean their hands and may be asked to put on a mask.
The Hanover gift shop was to also be closed and volunteers staying home.
The South Bruce Grey Heath Centre, with hospitals in Chesley, Walkerton, Durham and Kincardine, was also planning to move forward to active screening and restricting access to one entrance at each site.
All visitors were to be greeted by SBGHC staff who will check for symptoms and ask about recent travel history and contacts.
“Staff and physicians will have a separate entrance,” it said on the SBGHC website.
The corporation would also be limiting visitors to one per patient.
“We would ask you respect the restrictions as we are looking out for the health of your loved ones,” the SBGHC website said. “However, our staff will be available to meet with families and caregivers around special circumstances.”
SBGHC was also suspending volunteer and high school co-op programs.
The Grey Bruce Health Unit confirmed its first two cases of the virus early Sunday afternoon, a couple in their 50s who had travelled on a cruise ship. A member of the Beaver Valley Ski Club in Grey Highlands east of Markdale also tested positive for the virus, but that case is being monitored by Waterloo public health.
Symptoms of the virus range from mild – like the flu or other common respiratory infections – to severe and can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing.
Those who have travelled abroad to countries considered high risk and exhibiting symptoms of the viru were asked to contact their doctor, Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 or the Grey Bruce Health Unit at 519-376-9420, ext. 3000. To find out more on how to protect yourself against the virus, and what to do if you are sick after you travel visit www.ontario.ca/page/2019-novel-coronavirus