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Media Release: Changes to COVID-19 testing eligibility and isolation requirements will help prioritize resources where they are needed most

Hastings and Prince Edward Counties/Dec. 31, 2021

As the highly contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19 is resulting in a surge of cases across the province, eligibility for PCR COVID-19 testing is being modified to ensure resources are available for high-risk individuals and settings. To support this change in testing protocol, screening and isolation requirements have been updated.

These changes will help prevent illness and death among vulnerable populations, while protecting the capacity of the health care system. In addition, this protocol will protect in-person learning and prevent business closures.

Testing changes

  • Effective today, publicly-funded PCR testing will only be available for high-risk individuals who are symptomatic and/or are at risk of severe illness from COVID-19, including for the purposes of confirming a COVID-19 diagnosis to begin medical treatment, and workers and residents in the highest risk settings, as well as vulnerable populations. A full list of eligible individuals can be found here.
  • Individuals with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 are presumed positive and they should follow isolation and/or self-monitoring guidelines.
  • Testing for asymptomatic contacts of cases is generally no longer recommended, except for high-risk contacts/individuals that are part of confirmed or suspected outbreaks in high-risk settings, as recommended by public health.
  • Positive rapid antigen tests will no longer require PCR confirmation.

Isolation changes

  • Based on the latest scientific evidence, individuals who are fully vaccinated, as well as children under 12, are required to isolate for five days following the onset of symptoms. This also applies to their household contacts.
  • The isolation can end after five days if symptoms are resolved or improving for at least 24 hours (or 48 hours if the symptoms affect the digestive system), and all public health and safety measures, such as masking and physical distancing, are followed.
  • If you have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, are fully vaccinated, have no symptoms and don’t live with the positive case, you are advised to self-monitor for symptoms for 10 days since you last interacted with the case and adhere to all public health measures when outside your home.
  • Individuals who are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or immunocompromised are required to isolate for 10 days.
  • Individuals who work or live in high-risk health care settings can return to work after 10 days from their last exposure or symptom onset, or from their date of diagnosis.
  • To ensure sufficient staffing levels, workers will have the opportunity to return to work after isolating for seven days based on a negative PCR test on day 6, or two negative rapid antigen tests at 6 and 7 days.

“These changes will reduce strain on testing centres and ensure testing is available for the most vulnerable settings as we plan for significant spread of the Omicron variant,” says Dr. Ethan Toumishey, Acting Medical Officer of Health at HPEPH. “However, testing alone will not stop the spread of a virus this contagious – individuals with symptoms must isolate as directed, even if they do not qualify for testing. Please, if you have symptoms – do not wait for a test. Stay home as directed to help slow the spread of illness and limit pressure on our health care system.”

Fourth Doses to Long-Term Care Residents

In the coming days, based on the recommendations from the Ontario Immunization Advisory Committee, HPEPH will begin delivering a fourth dose of mRNA vaccines to residents of long-term care homes, retirement homes, Elder Care Lodges and other congregate care settings if at least three months, or 84 days, have passed since their third dose. For further updates, follow HPEPH on Facebook and Twitter. 

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Media contacts

Emily Tubbs, Communications Specialists
etubbs@hpeph.ca

Maureen Hyland, Communications Specialist
mhyland@hpeph.ca

About Hastings Prince Edward Public Health

Hastings Prince Edward Public Health (HPEPH) is a public health agency that serves the counties of Hastings and Prince Edward from four local offices. We monitor the health of our local population, deliver programs and services within our communities, and help develop healthy public policies. We provide information and support in many areas to help improve the health and well-being of our residents. Together with our communities, we help people become as healthy as they can be. For more information, please visit hpePublicHealth.ca. You can also find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

We invite community partners and residents to share this Media Release with their respective networks.

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COVID-19 VACCINES IN HPEPH

Appointments for individuals 5+ can be booked through the provincial vaccine booking site, or by calling 1-833-943-3900 from 8 am to 8 pm, 7 days a week.  

Due to limited supply, HPEPH will initially be prioritizing available bivalent vaccine for residents and workers at identified highest-risk facilities.  Some HPEPH vaccination clinics MAY offer the bivalent vaccine, as availability allows. Vaccine clinics in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties will continue to offer monovalent vaccines (the same mRNA vaccines given as the primary series) for all eligible individuals until a steady supply of the bivalent vaccine is available.

Visit the HPEPH vaccine booking web page for details.

COVID-19 PROTOCOLS

Symptoms or exposure? Visit www.ontario.ca/exposed for the most up to date information about what to do.

For the most up to date information on current provincial restrictions, visit https://covid-19.ontario.ca/public-health-measures.

The Ministry of Health has launched a new toll-free line as an additional resource to help answer questions from the public regarding evolving COVID-19 testing and isolation guidance. The line can be reached at 1-888-777-0730, and is available from 8 am to 6 pm, 7 days a week.