OTTAWA -- Family and friends can now schedule a window-visit with loved ones at Ottawa’s four city-run long-term care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One week after the city banned window visits at the homes, Mayor Jim Watson announced a new policy that will allow families to “schedule window visits” with loved ones.

“With Mother’s Day right around the corner, I hope this gives families a chance to see their mothers, grandmothers and even great grandmothers in the comfort of their home, while you’re on the other side of the glass,” Watson said.

Under the new policy, families can schedule visits in advance between 9:30 a.m. and 12 p.m., 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The City says if the resident has a safely accessible window within their ground-floor room, the visit will happen there while the window is closed.  For other residents, a common area with a window will be used for the window visit. Watson says a telephone may be provided if available. 

In a memo to Council, General Manager of the Community and Social Services Department Donna Gray says loved ones can only visit the facilities during the scheduled window visit times.

“Only during scheduled visits will visitors be permitted within two meters of the building to allow for residents to safely leave their windows open when not hosting visitors,” said Gray.

The process for booking window visits will be the same as scheduling Facetime, Skype and phone calls with residents at long-term care homes.

The Mayor says visits won’t be allowed if the long-term care home is experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak.

On April 29, the City of Ottawa asked family members to stop window visits with loved ones at city-owned long-term care homes.

Director of Long-Term Care Dean Lett told CTV News Ottawa last week that the decision to limit the visitors on the grounds of the homes was to “prioritize the safety and health of residents and staff.”

“We have experienced a number of situations where families have visited and have not respected the requirements for physical distancing as directed through public health agencies.”

The next morning, Watson ordered the city to develop a new policy to allow families to visit loved ones. Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches said Ottawa Public Health was not consulted on the move, adding ”looking through a window is not a threat.”

Premier Doug Ford weighed in, calling the window visit ban “ridiculous.”