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New Ontario Covid-19 Guidelines

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The Covid-19 Omicron variant has taken a quick grasp on Ontario in the past three weeks. The first two weeks of December is where Ontario Public Health started to see a surge of cases sweep the province. While cases are on the rise, there seems to be a glimmer of hope when looking at the hospitalization rates associated with the Omicron Variant. An Ontario Public Health study shows that the Omicron variant has a lower hospitalization and mortality rate than the Delta variant. However, there is an issue in communicating these findings. A lower hospitalization rate does not mean fewer people are hospitalized. These higher case counts mean a higher whole number of hospitalizations. In this situation, it’s more important to look at the actual count than just a percentage.

What also makes this Omicron wave so challenging to measure is the testing ability that the province currently has. With the high contagion rate of the Omnicron variant, many people are being infected – whether they know it or not. Combining high-spread and limited testing capabilities has forced Ontario to modify its testing guidelines. Here are the new guidelines:

  • Symptomatic testing will be available for high-risk individuals
  • Individuals with Covid-19 symptoms are assumed to be positive and should follow isolation/self-monitoring guidelines
  • Asymptomatic testing is no longer recommended, except for high-risk individuals
  • Positive rapid antigen tests no longer require PCR confirmation

These testing requirements hinder our ability to know how many positive cases there are, limiting the health care system’s insight into hospitalizations that are to come in the upcoming weeks.

One additional modified guideline is the isolation period required for positive cases. At the start of the pandemic, the isolation period for a positive case was between 10-14 days. The guidelines have now changed, specifically for two groups. Fully vaccinated (2 doses) individuals and children under 12 years of age are now only required to isolate for five days IF their symptoms improve over at least 24 hours. This change mirrors the updated guidelines that have come from the CDC.

As this is shaping up to be the beginning of the Omnicron tidal wave, please take the necessary precautions. Use a tight-fitting, multi-layered mask, social distance, wash your hands, and if you experience symptoms, stay home! And remember, what comes up, must come down.