This week, the Ministry of Health finally released COVID-19 Guidelines for Group Homes and Co-Living settings. These guidelines are particularly relevant to agencies and workers in the Developmental Services (DS) sector. Residential settings subject to the guidelines expressly include “residential facilities for individuals with developmental or physical disabilities.”
These guidelines recognize the sector’s need for Personal Protective Equipment, special powers and funding to prevent COVID-19 and respond to unique challenges related to shared and supported accommodation and living spaces during COVID-19, as well as the essential nature of support and care staff are providing in these settings. The guidance relates to the following categories:
The Guidelines provide the following recommendations for planning related to COVID-19 in the group living context:
- Mandatory screening of all residents who have left the residence, staff, volunteers and any others entering the premise.
- Mandatory signage about screening, and self-identification if anybody feels unwell to be posted on every entry door to a residence
- Sick leave policies and plans to access additional staff and volunteers to cover workers who cannot come to work if they are sick or in self-isolation
- How to access essential food, medicine and other supplies, medical equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Reviewing infection prevention and control/occupational health and safety policies and procedures with staff and volunteers
- Communicating with everyone about common symptoms of COVID-19, and that if they feel unwell they should stay home and report to supervisor/manager for screening
The Guidelines provide the following recommendations for prevention in the group living context:
- Surgical/procedure masks should only be work inside residential setting if staff/volunteer has direct contact (less than 2 meters) with unwell resident
- If direct contact, also use disposable single use gloves, isolation gowns (which should be laundered in warm water and soap if being reused) and eye protection
- Practicing and teaching proper hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, and social distancing
Day to Day Operations:
The Guidelines provide the following recommendations for day to day operations related to COVID-19 in the group living context:
- Designating only one person to cook and clean kitchen at a time (disinfecting after each use), limiting communal dining unless physical distancing is possible, removing shared food containers and dispense snacks directly to residents using pre-packaged food where possible
- Encouraging residents to remain in their room and to social distance to the best extent possible in shared rooms
- Cancelling group activities and individual outings that require close contact between individuals unless essential
- Creating schedules for using common spaces and reorganizing rooms to create as much distance as possible (i.e. with seating, work areas)
- Limiting outings for essential activities and urgent appoints, limiting outdoor activities to yards/surround area of residence and maintain social distance, arranging for deliveries of medications
- Avoid sharing personal and household items (e.g. utensils, straws, towels, linens, phones, computers, remote controls, toys, electronic devices, cigarettes etc)
- Cleaning personal and household items as often ad between each individual use
Visiting and Visitors
The Guidelines provide recommendations related to visiting and visitors, including recommendations regarding:
- Encouraging virtual visits (i.e. telephone, video interactions) with friends and family
- Discouraging short-term home visits
- Restricting non-essential volunteers and encouraging work from home arrangements where possible
Responding to Suspected Illness
In keeping with guidance for other sectors, the Guidelines indicate that staff and volunteers should tell management immediately if they are unwell or have tested positive for COVID-10. Staff should go home immediately if they are on the premise and should complete the Ministry’s self-assessment tool or go to a nearby Assessment Centre, if directed to by their health care provider or the self-assessment tool.
Similarly, the Guidelines indicate that if residents are suspected of having COVID-19 or test positive for COVID-19 they should be isolated immediately. Further guidance on self-isolating in shared living spaces can be found here.
Finally, the Guidelines indicate that residences should report any staff, volunteer or resident suspected of having COVID-19 to their local public health unit. Residences are also advised to limit the number of staff that are providing care and should follow the above guidance if they are providing care/services.
PooranLaw will provide updates on these Guidelines and other best practices as they become available. In the meantime, if you have any questions we encourage you to speak with your regular PooranLaw lawyer or any member of our team.
Note: This article provides general information only and does not constitute, and should not be relied upon as, legal advice or opinion. PooranLaw Professional Corporation holds the copyright to this article and the article and its contents may not be copied or reproduced in any form, in whole or in part, without the express permission of PooranLaw Professional Corporation.