COVID-19: Province Revises Visitation Criteria for Congregate Care Settings

On July 15, the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (the “MCCSS”) released an revised guidance for MCCSS funded and/or licensed congregate living settings (the “Revised Visitation Guidance”) related to visitation.  This guidance is an update to previous guidance released by MCCSS on June 11, 2020, which we covered in a previous article.  Here, we review key elements the Revised Visitation Guidance, which expands visitation options:

Expanded Visitation

Starting on July 22nd, congregate care “centres” will be permitted to allow indoor visits with “residents” by non-essential visitors where certain conditions are met.  Please note that the terms “centre” and “residents” are those of MCCSS and not those preferred by PooranLaw or support providers but are used in this article for consistency with the MCCSS guidance documents.

Before a centre can admit non-essential visitors for indoor visits, the centre must meet a number of conditions:

  • The centre must not be in outbreak (outbreak is defined as having one or more active COVID-19 cases among residents or staff).
  • The centre must have protocols in place to maintain the highest infection prevention and control (“IPAC”) standards before, during, and after visits. This includes rules that non-essential visitors wear non-medical masks at all times (during both indoor or outdoor visits). Other topics that must be covered by visitation policies are provided in the Revised Visitation Guidance.
  • The centre must establish a process for communicating visiting requirements, procedures, and policies about the resumption of home visits to staff, residents, and families. An information package must be provided to visitors on these procedures, and it must outline the centre’s approach to non-adherence by visitors (which can include discontinuation of visits).
  • The centre must establish dedicated areas for indoor and outdoor visits.
  • The centre must maintain a list/log of visitors that is available to relevant staff.


Once visiting is permitted, centres must follow the following rules:

  • Only 1-2 visitors at a time per resident are permitted for indoor visits (to maintain physical distancing), while up to 2 visitors are permitted per residents for outdoor visits. Visitors can only visit one resident at a time.
  • Visits must be booked in advance. Visits can be time limited to ensure equitable access to visits, but must not be limited to less than 30 minutes, and at least one visit per week per resident (if requested).
  • Indoor visitors should be escorted by staff to a space or room where the visit will take place (this should not be a shared bedroom).
  • Practices should be adopted in distributing visits that maintain meaningful and equitable access for all residents while being able to consider those in greatest need and maintain safe staffing and space.

So long as the above requirements are implemented and followed, indoor visits by non-essential visitors can occur starting on July 22, 2020.  However, centres are still encouraged to prefer outdoor visits (which minimize infection risk).

One additional change to visiting with immediate effect (impacting outdoor visits by non-essential visitors) is that non-essential visitors are no longer required to attest to having recently tested negative before being permitted to visit.

Rules for Essential Overnight Absences

The Revised Visitation Guidance also provides rules for essential overnight absences by a resident from the centre (for example, to the family home of the resident).  The Revised Visitation Guidance defines such absences as those necessary to maintain the health, wellness and safety or any applicable legal rights of a resident. The view of what is necessary to these goals is to be viewed through the lens of whether it is “truly vital”, The centre must also consider whether the support or case an overnight absence would provide can be reasonably, safely, and fully assumed by agency staff or by an essential visitor to the residence instead.

Residents returning from an overnight absence must pass active screening, self-isolate or limit contact with other residents for 14 days, use a face covering if possible in common areas, and self-monitor for symptoms.

For the full text of prior guidance documents on visitation in various settings, see the links below:

As always, PooranLaw will continue to monitor developments related to restrictions on congregate care support providers and provide updates here. In the meantime, if you require legal assistance, we encourage you to reach out to 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.