Students will resume classroom learning on Wednesday January 5, 2022, just two days later than scheduled, Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said in an online press conference later. -midday. This, along with several changes to the testing and isolation guidelines, were the main topics of his discussion on Thursday, December 30, 2021.
“As cases continue to increase at a rapid rate and the evidence for the Omicron variant evolves, our response must evolve alongside other jurisdictions to ensure the protection of those who live and work in our most risky environments.” “Said Dr Moore.
“Due to the rapid transmission of Omicron, many jurisdictions have had to adjust their testing strategies, and Ontario is no different,” said CMOH. For this reason, starting tomorrow, Friday, December 31, 2021, state-funded PCR tests will only be available to vulnerable people, including those with significant medical conditions, who are symptomatic or at risk of disease. serious due to COVID-19.
This includes testing to confirm the diagnosis of COVID-19 before starting treatment, and for workers, residents, and others in high-risk settings such as hospitals, long-term care, homes. of retirement and places of collective life.
In addition, most people who test positive on a rapid antigen test will no longer be required or encouraged to take a confirmatory PCR or rapid molecular test, and there will no longer be testing for asymptomatic people in the community. .
“This updated eligibility will ensure that those most at risk for serious results and those who care for them have prompt access to test results,” said Moore.
“This, we recognize, reflects some important changes from our previous COVID testing strategy, which meant that anyone with symptoms could receive a PCR test. But the Omicron variant is spreading quickly and we need to preserve these resources for those who need them most, ”he continued.
“I hope Ontarians understand that we must together protect this finite resource for those who need it most. Ontario also currently has a limited supply of rapid antigenic tests, which is true around the world, and these are being preserved to prioritize healthcare and high-risk settings to ensure safety. of these backgrounds.
This means that, according to the new guidelines, “if you have symptoms of COVID-19 and are not eligible for a PCR test, and do not have access to a rapid antigen test, you should assume that you have COVID-19 and isolate, ”explained Dr. Moore.
Ontario is also changing the required isolation period, he said, “based on growing evidence that generally healthy people with COVID-19 are most contagious during the two days before onset of their symptoms and for three days after their symptoms. [have developed]. “
People who have been vaccinated, as well as children under 12, should self-isolate for five days after the onset of symptoms. This also applies to their immediate family contacts. Isolation can end after five days if symptoms resolve or improve for at least 24 hours and all public health safety measures, such as masking and physical distancing, are followed.
Dr Moore clarified: “If you have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and you are fully vaccinated, have no symptoms and are not living with a positive case, you are advised to continue monitoring symptoms. for 10 days from the time you last interacted with that person and follow all public health measures when you are outside your home.
Unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or immunocompromised people should self-isolate for 10 days, as the risk of shedding the virus persists in these people.
In addition, people who work or live in high-risk healthcare facilities can return to work 10 days after their last exposure or onset of symptoms, or from the date of their diagnosis. But, he stressed, “to ensure sufficient manpower, workers have the option of returning to work after isolating themselves for seven days on the basis of a negative PCR test on the sixth day, or two tests. negative rapids every six and seven days “.
“Ontarians have been brilliant at protecting each other,” said MCOH, “and I know we will continue to do so through basic public health measures of masking, hand hygiene and distancing. . “
Dr Moore continued, “Regarding case and contact management, I want to thank our amazing public health professionals for their tireless efforts. “
Moore, the former Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL & A) public health officer of health, then referred to the reports from that public health unit, as well as the Kingston Health Sciences Center (KHSC) as critical to new changes in reports which will hopefully give a clearer picture of how to approach Omicron.
“As we continue to see increased hospitalizations and intensive care admissions, many people have noted the importance of distinguishing between patients admitted to hospital or intensive care for COVID-19 versus those admitted for other reasons such as a fracture or appendicitis, but also a positive test for COVID-19, ”explained Moore. “As a result, we have asked hospitals to update their daily reports to include this important information and we expect to start receiving it, as well as adjusting our public reports, in the coming days.”
Omicron, he said, “is a new enemy that we continue to prepare for, but we need to take a different approach and take additional steps to limit transmission, provide additional protection in high-risk settings and continue to protect Ontario hospitals with critical care capacity. . “
Back to schools
“I know many parents and students are eager to hear about back to school,” said Dr. Moore. “I and my colleagues across Ontario have always argued that schools should be the last to close and the first to open. [Having schools open] is essential to the positive mental health and academic success of our children.
He then confirmed that students would return to in-person learning on Wednesday, January 5, 2022, saying: “This will give our schools more time to start putting in place additional health and safety measures, including the deployment. additional masking options. for students and educators, and further improve air ventilation in schools. These and other measures, including updating the COVID-19 filter for schools and daycares, and requiring students, parents and staff to conduct rigorous symptom screening and monitoring, create more layers of protection to keep schools safe and open to in-person learning. “
“In conclusion,” said Moore, “I understand we’re all tired and just want this pandemic to be over. Unfortunately, we have to get through this Omicron wave. And we ask you for even more as we prioritize our testing. [and] prioritize our management of case contacts. [We] ask you to take all necessary precautions to protect yourself and your families. Omicron presented us with new challenges; we had to be flexible and adaptive to this new variant. I hope that with our efforts now, 2022 turns out to be a year when we can beat this virus. I wish you all a very safe and happy New Year. “
Visit the Department of Health for more information on changes to public health measures and advice in response to Omicron.