COVID-19 continues to spread in our city and tragically taking the lives of too many. This pandemic creates unprecedent challenges and is forcing us to make hard decisions. Many of these decisions have been unpopular and difficult to adjust to but are made with the intention of saving lives. As a mother of three girls, I clearly recall my first reaction when the Premier announced on March 12th that schools would not return after March Break. Like many parents, this initially created havoc in our regular routines, and it has resulted in real hardship for many families across our city. However, this difficult decision was taken to protect our children and limit the spread of COVID-19. Like every parent, I want everything possible to be done to protect our kids. Finding a balanced solution to protect our loved ones, parents, and grandparents should be no different.
The speed at which COVID-19 spreads forces leaders to make hard decisions quickly. Like closing non-essential businesses, closing our borders, and closing our parks and city facilities. These decisions were not popular but deemed necessary to save the lives of people in our community.
Like many families in our community, my late grandmother lived in a senior’s home that I know ensured she was well taken care of in her last years of life. Our family would visit whenever possible. These visits included birthdays, Christmas, and other important milestones that we shared as a family. They brought true joy to my grandmother, and I cannot imagine how hard it is right now for so many in our city to miss out on these visits. I was deeply saddened to read about the media story banning window visits at our long-term care homes in Ottawa.
Having now had an opportunity to speak with staff on this very difficult decision, I am happy to share that Ottawa Public Health (OPH) and Long Term Care Homes (LTCH) are working together to find a balanced solution to the unprecedented challenges that COVID-19 has introduced to our LTCH.
It is crucial to know that LTCH across the country have been ravaged by this virus, with far too many deaths. These congregate settings of care are high risk for staff working in them, and the already compromised residents living in them. It is essential that staff mitigate the risks posed by having visitors congregate and intermingle with staff and residents on the properties and ensure 100 per cent of visitors comply with physical distancing requirements. This is the risk that must be controlled, or people will die. It’s that simple.
Long Term Care Homes are the highest risk setting we’ve seen for COVID-19 outbreaks in Canada. We have taken important measures by going ahead and closing schools, parks, stop non-essential travel, and restricted visitor access to hospitals. It is hard, but it should come as no surprise that we need to secure access to Long Term Care Homes, including their properties. I know there are countless of very responsible families who do follow the expert advice and guidelines being communicated to them. Unfortunately, some have not done so. Even one case of COVID-19 can have tragic consequences and result in a situation that we cannot control. The most important thing we can do is work together by following the guidance of our health officials and maintaining physical distancing.
City staff are working with Ottawa Public Health to develop a plan that will identify the risks and mitigation measures that can be implemented to once again allow visitors access to the properties. This applies to the 4 LTCH that the City owns and manages. I expect there to be further guidance over the coming week.
Until then, please know that these decisions are terribly hard to make. However, they are made with care and an abundance of caution for the staff and residents of these homes.
Today’s full memo on this is posted below.