UPDATE: Judy Reid emailed Peace Arch News after this story was posted to advise that her husband was able to leave his room on Friday (Jan. 22). She said it was his first time outside its walls since the outbreak was declared at Morgan Place on Nov. 26.
(Original story below)
A South Surrey woman whose spouse calls Morgan Place Care Facility home says vaccine clinics so far “have not benefited” seniors like her husband.
Nor, adds Judy Reid, have residents and their families, been given any firm indication of when that might change.
“Receiving the vaccine does not help any senior in a long term care facility if they continue to be locked up,” Reid told Peace Arch News by email, after reading PAN‘s Jan. 15 online story on Amica White Rock residents’ optimism after receiving the vaccine that morning.
“The health system has not proposed or communicated any plans for increased freedom for long term care residents,” Reid continues. “This is distressing for both residents and families.”
While that changed somewhat Friday (Jan. 22) during a government news conference detailing vaccine roll-out plans – during which Health Minister Adrian Dix said changes in long-term care would start to be seen in March – Reid maintained her husband “has no hope for any freedom right now.”
The province began vaccinating high-priority residents last month and Fraser Health announced Jan. 15 that clinics at all 151 of the region’s long-term and assisted-living facilities were to be completed by the end of that day.
Reid said her husband received his first dose the week of Jan. 4. Pfizer recommends a 21-day gap between its first and second dose, while Moderna recommends 28. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization has OK’d a gap of up to 42 days between doses, and the province has been shooting for 35.
A Fraser Health spokesman said this week that health authorities will follow the guidance of the provincial health officer when it comes to easing health-order limitations in its long-term facilities.
During the Jan. 22 news conference, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said that while that time is inching closer, it has not yet arrived.
“We are not yet at the point where we can lift the restrictions in long-term care or our communities,” Henry said, emphasizing that continued adherence to health orders and social-distancing measures are important factors in any return to normalcy.
She noted that COVID-19 variants are a potential “wrench” in the plan. The variants “make the virus more transmissible,” she said, and could lead to a rapid increase in cases if the chains of transmission aren’t broken.
Asked when people might be able to take masks off, Henry said she’s hopeful that once those at risk are immunized, “by the summer we should be able to have some types of our normal lives back again.”
Dix, meanwhile, said changes to social activity within care homes “on a normal day” and changes with respect to visitation will be seen in March.
Once everyone is safe, “it’s going to allow a lot of things to happen, including more visits from family members and loved ones and friends,” he said.
“That’s the whole purpose of the immunization plan.”
Reid said Friday that a Jan. 20 update from Morgan Place has given her some hope. An outbreak declared Nov. 26 – which has meant she hasn’t been able to see her husband in nearly two months – appears to be nearing its end, she said. They have had 56 positive cases to date at the facility, including 13 deaths, but currently have just three active cases. All of those involve staff, the update notes.
At the same time, if her husband isn’t helped to resume daily walking, Reid said she will apply for essential-visitor status.
“They may not have the staff to do that, so that is where I can help with mobility and his mental health,” Reid said.