COVID-19 (2019 Novel Coronavirus)

Group Homes & Developmental Service Providers

This section contains information on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) designed to support local health-care providers. Lambton Public Health provides recommendations and resources based on best practices, available evidence, and in the interest of employee and community health. The COVID-19 situation and Ontario Ministry of Health recommendations for health-care professionals are evolving rapidly. Please check this webpage frequently for updates.

Congregate Living Settings, such as group homes, face unique challenges in reducing and controlling COVID-19. This page offers specific guidance for these settings as we continue to respond to COVID-19. Continue to check back with Lambton Public Health for the most up-to-date information. Contact Lambton Public Health with questions, guidance, and support at 519-383-8331 or

Guidance on long-term care and retirement homes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do residents need to be tested for COVID-19 if they move to a new residence within the organization? 

Yes a resident requires a COVID-19 test if they are: 
• Moving, even to another residence within the agency 
• Moving back into the home
The negative test result must be received prior to the resident moving unless they are able to isolate in the new residence until the negative test result is received. 

Do I still need to have a negative test for a visit to a group home?

No, visitors no longer need a negative COVID-19 test within the previous 2 weeks to visit a loved one in a group home setting. However, prior to the visit, visitors must pass a screening questionnaire for signs and symptoms of COVID-19.

After suspected exposure to COVID-19, do individuals who test negative still need to remain in isolation?

When an individual is suspected to have been exposed to COVID-19, they should be tested as per public health guidance. A negative test result will not change public health management because they may still be within the incubation period. Individuals who have a negative test should remain isolated, monitor for symptoms, and be tested again if they experience symptoms. 
If there has been no known exposure, the individual has received a negative test, and are asymptomatic, isolation is not required.

Do group homes allow for indoor visits and how are they being conducted?

Indoor visits at group homes have resumed; however, outdoor visits are preferred when possible as there is a reduced risk of infection. Please contact the group home you will be visiting to learn about the exact process and requirements for visiting a loved one inside the home. For example, your visit will be scheduled and will take place in a designated area inside, and you may be required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), such as a mask or gown, while visiting your loved one.

If you are visiting someone outside of your social circle it is critical that you practice physical distancing for the health and safety of residents, staff, and yourself.

How do I know if a resident is able to leave the home safely? What are important considerations for a resident visit outside of the home to reduce risk for COVID-19?

Leaving the home for reasons other than essential purposes is important for residents’ physical and mental health. With fewer restrictions in place in Stage 3, residents can take advantage of the increasing services but important precautions are needed to reduce the risk for COVID-19.

Decisions about the safest way for a resident to go out will be based on that individual’s ability to understand and comply with Stage 3 guidelines. Other important considerations include their individual needs and the resources available to support those needs.

Decisions should be made on a case by case basis using a person-centred approach. Individual risk assessments should be completed by a resident’s care team to assess whether the client has the ability to adhere to the current Reopening Ontario stage guidelines. This could include reviewing:

Situational risks such as:
• Crowded places
• Close contact settings 
• Confined/enclosed settings with people outside of their social circle

Personal risks such as: 
• Physical distancing 
• Hand hygiene 
• Gathering limits and social circles
• Using face coverings where appropriate or required.

Group home staff can consult Lambton Public Health with specific questions and further information on the current stage can be found on the province’s website.

When are face shields needed as part of staff Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)?

Face shields do not replace face masks, but instead are an alternative use for eye protection. Eye protection (such as face shields) should be worn when:
• Providing care for a symptomatic resident. When a resident is symptomatic, there is greater risk for contaminated respiratory droplets to land on an individual’s face, so, portals of entry into the body (eyes, nose, mouth) should be protected. 
• When there is potential for splashing. Splashing could occur while providing personal care, such as bathing and showering.

Do residents’ laundry need to be washed separately?

If no residents in the home have COVID-19 then laundry can be washed together (do not need to separate). However, visibly soiled laundry should always be washed separately from other residents’ laundry. Wear gloves while handling dirty laundry; a gown can also be worn if laundry is likely to contaminate your clothing.

If any residents in the home have COVID-19, their laundry should be washed separately from everyone else’s. Wear gloves and a gown when handling dirty laundry from a resident who has COVID-19.
After gloves are removed, hands should be cleaned with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

During outside and recreational activities with residents when should a staff person wear a medical mask or face covering?

Follow local rules and by-laws for wearing masks or face coverings.

Masks and face coverings are most effective when physical distancing is not possible. Always attempt to remain physically distant by at least 2 metres to reduce risk for transmission. The risk for transmission of COVID-19 is decreased outside and in well ventilated areas compared to indoors so if possible, spend time outside and avoid small, enclosed spaces. Anyone who is experiencing symptoms should be self-isolating.

When engaging in recreational activities with residents, staff and residents (if not exempt from wearing a mask for health or safety reasons) should be wearing a mask or face covering when physical distancing is not possible. Activities such as fitness classes, going for walks or bike rides, or using playground equipment do not require you to wear a mask or face covering as long as you can remain physically distant. Even when physical distancing is possible, staff should have a mask and hand sanitizer readily available in the event that they need to approach the resident or provide care. This includes when doing recreation off the premise, e.g. bike ride. 

Learn more about permitted recreational activities on the Reopening Ontario website.