Information for Long-term Care Homes and Shelters

Long-term Care Homes & Retirement Homes

COVID-19 information and resources for Long-term Care Homes, Retirement Homes and Shelters


  • General visitors, including children under age 5, can visit
    • Indoor Visits: There is no limit to the number of visitors for indoor visits.
    • Outdoor Visits: There are no limits on the number of visitors permitted at outdoor visits.
    • Homes should ensure physical distancing (at least 2 metres) between groups.
  • Essential Visitors
    • There are no limits on the total number of essential visitors allowed to come into a home at any given time.
    • Essential visitors are the only type of visitors allowed when there is an outbreak in a home or area of a home or when a resident has failed screening, is symptomatic or in isolation.
  • Mask use
  • For LTCHs, refer to section 1.3 of the Minister’s Directive, which states LTCHs are required to ensure that:
    • Indoor visits – essential and general visitors must wear a medical mask
    • Outdoor visits – Masking is no longer required when outdoors for staff, residents, students, volunteers or visitors, but remains encouraged as an added layer of protection against COVID-19.
  • Screening and testing requirements
  • Screening and testing requirements
  • There are no provincial directives requiring vaccination for visitors. However, visitors should always follow the vaccination policy of the individual long-term care home.

Note: Only essential visitors are allowed during outbreaks or when a resident is in isolation.

Masking: It is recommended that RHs ensure that the masking measures set out in MSAA’s COVID-19 Guidance are followed.

  • While masking continues to be strongly recommended, all visitors will be able to remove their mask while in a resident’s room. Mandatory masking for staff, students, volunteers, and visitors while indoors (not in a resident’s room) will continue.
  • Outdoor masking for staff, students, volunteers, visitors and residents will continue to be recommended but not required.
  • Staff, students, and volunteers must continue to follow masking requirements as set out in MSAA’s COVID-19 Guidance. Diligence with masking in the remaining required situations remains an important defense mechanism to help minimize the spread of COVID-19.
  • Masking updates have been made to balance the risks and benefits to resident quality of life while encouraging visitors for residents.
  • Number of visitors
    • Will be based on the capacity of the location where the visit will take place
  • Screening and testing requirements
  • Vaccination requirements
    • Note: Only essential visitors are allowed during outbreaks or when a resident is in isolation.
  • General visitors and Essential visitors are permitted.
  • Screening and testing requirements
    • COVID-19 testing is not required
  • Additional protocols include:
    • Wearing of masks at all times for indoor visits
    • Visits must be scheduled in advance
    • Outdoor-only visits are encouraged, when possible
  • It is recommended to contact the facility directly prior to your visit, to confirm the protocols.

Directives and Guidance for Long-Term Care and Retirement Homes

The following directives and guidance documents must be followed:

Mask Use

  • Masks are not required outdoors for staff, residents, students, volunteers or visitors (general or essential), however, outdoor masking is still recommended and encouraged where tolerated as an added layer of protection when in close proximity to others.
  • Staff providing care or interacting with a suspected, probable, or confirmed case of COVID-19 must wear:
    • A fit-tested, seal-checked N95 respirator (or approved equivalent)
    • Eye protection (face shield, safety glasses with side protection or goggles)
    • Gown
    • Gloves
  • General visitors
    • However, recognizing that long-term care residents miss seeing the faces of their loved ones, the ministry recommends (but no longer requires) caregivers and visitors to wear masks when they are alone with a resident in their room. For residents living in shared rooms, homes should seek to designate a space that enables residents to interact with their visitors without masks. When not in a one-on-one setting with a resident in their room or a designated space within the home, visitors and caregivers are required to be masked.
  • Residents
    • Homes are required to have policies regarding masking for residents.
    • There is no requirement for residents to wear a mask inside the home.
    • Homes’ policies must set out that residents are encouraged to wear or be assisted to wear a medical or non-medical mask when receiving direct care from staff, in common areas with other residents (except meal times), and when receiving visitors.
  • Exceptions to the masking requirements:
  • Homes must also have policies for individuals (staff, visitors, or residents) who:
    • Have a medical condition that inhibits their ability to wear a mask
    • Are unable to put on or remove their mask without assistance form another person

Protocols for Shelters, Group Homes, and Co-Living Settings

This guidance applies to congregate living settings as defined in the COVID-19 Action Plan: Vulnerable People and the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Guidance: Congregate Living for Vulnerable Populations document. Adult correctional institutions are not included in this guidance; separate guidance has been created for corrections.

The following directives and guidance documents must be followed:

Mask Use

  • Congregate living settings should ensure universal masking is adhered to at all times, for the purpose of source control, whether or not there is an outbreak.

  • All staff and visitors should adhere to universal masking while indoors when interacting with clients and/or in designated client areas during their shift. Well-fitted medical (surgical/procedure) masks are strongly recommended. Staff and visitors should also wear a mask outdoors when there are individuals present who are immunocompromised and/or at a high risk of severe disease from COVID-19 and physical distancing is not possible.

  • If tolerated and can be done safely, clients should be offered a well-fitted medical mask (preferred) or non-medical mask to use when they are or may be in shared spaces and when receiving direct care.

  • For further guidance on universal mask use, refer to the following Public Health Ontario (PHO) documents: COVID-19: Universal Mask Use in Health Care, COVID-19: Universal Mask Use in Health Care Settings and Retirement Homes and COVID-19: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Non-Medical Masks in Congregate Living Settings.

Other Public Health Recommendations

  • All staff, volunteers, residents, and visitors should follow routine infection prevention and control practices (e.g. disinfecting surfaces, hand hygiene).
  • Wherever possible, employers should work with staff and unions (if applicable) to limit the number of work locations where staff work, in order to minimize risk.
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