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Friday, 31 December 2021 17:28

Ontario Updates Public Health Measures

HI everyone, please see below for a summary of of updated public health measurers and guidance in response to the Omicron variant.

 

News Release:

Ontario Updating Public Health Measures and Guidance in Response to Omicron | Ontario Newsroom

 

Updated Testing and Isolation Guidelines in Response to Omicron

As cases continue to rise at a rapid rate and evidence on the Omicron variant evolves, our response needs to evolve alongside other jurisdictions to ensure those living and working in our highest-risk settings are protected.  Effective December 31, publicly-funded PCR testing will be available only for select high-risk individuals.

Members of the general public with mild symptoms are asked not to seek testing, and anyone who is sick should protect their community by staying home.

Ontario is also changing the required isolation period based on growing evidence that generally healthy people with COVID-19 are most infectious in the two days before and three days after symptoms develop.  These changes will maintain the stability of critical workforces, including frontline health-care workers, first responders and critical infrastructure like energy and food and supply chains.

 

Return to Class Following the Winter Break

As our government continues to decisively respond to the Omicron variant of COVID-19, the new measures and guidelines announced today will add additional layers of protection to keep schools as safe as possible opening for all students across Ontario on January 5th, 2022.  We are following the Chief Medical Officer of Health and the Children’s Health Coalition’s recommendation to return to in-person learning in safer schools. 

The government has taken decisive action to protect schools — including ventilation improvements in every Ontario schools and 70,000 HEPA filter units in classrooms — more than any province in Canada, along with take-home PCR testing, enhanced cleaning and over 2300 staff projected to be hired.  We are taking nothing for granted, which is why we are building upon Ontario’s plan for safer schools by reopening on January 5th with the necessary precautions and putting in place these measures: 

  • Providing non-fit-tested N95 masks for staff as an alternative to medical/surgical masks, and additional supply of 3-ply cloth masks for students in January.
  • Building on record investments in ventilation, the government is deploying an additional 3,000 standalone HEPA filter units to school boards in January.
  • Symptomatic elementary and secondary students and education staff will continue to have access to PCR self-collection kit through their school. 
  • Updating the screening tool for the school community ahead of the return to class
  • Supporting and encouraging school board-led vaccine clinics for staff to enable booster access. 

The government, with the Chief Medical Officer of Health is continuing to prioritize safe in-person learning, critical for mental and physical while also working towards increasing youth vaccination rates through hundreds of school-focused vaccination clinics which have had tremendous success getting single vaccination rates up to 42.5% for youth 5-11 and up to 82.2% for second doses in youth age 12-17. 

 

Further Reducing the Spread of COVID-19 in Larger Indoor Settings

Effective at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, December 31, 2021, Ontario is restricting spectator capacity to 50 per cent of the usual seating capacity or 1,000 people, whichever is less, in the indoor areas of the following settings:

  • Spectator areas of facilities used for sports and recreational fitness activities (e.g., sporting events);
  • Concert venues; and
  • Theatres.

Our government and the Chief Medical Officer of Health will continue to monitor the data to determine when it is safe to lift capacity limits in these settings.

 

Administering Fourth Doses to Protect Long-Term Care Residents

In response to the rapidly spreading and highly transmissible Omicron variant, our government will be making fourth doses available to long-term care residents; mandating third doses for all staff, students, volunteers, caregivers and support workers; and visitors will be required to provide proof of a booster dose to enter the home once the temporary pause on general visitors is lifted.

The government is committed to using every resource available to protect long-term care residents and staff as we work to stop the spread of COVID-19.  Based on recommendations from the Ontario Immunization Advisory Committee, effective immediately, residents of long-term care homes, retirement homes, Elder Care Lodges and older adults living in other congregate settings will be eligible for a fourth dose of an mRNA vaccine if at least three months (84 days) have passed since their third dose.  Many of these individuals have already reached booster eligibility and are now likely becoming increasingly more susceptible to COVID-19 infection due to waning immunity. 

To bolster the protection against this highly transmissible variant, the Minister’s Directive on Long-Term Care Homes COVID-19 Immunization Policy is being updated to require that all staff, students, volunteers, caregivers and support workers eligible for a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by December 31, 2021 must receive that dose by January 28, 2022 unless they have a valid medical exemption. 

Once the temporary pause on general visitors is lifted, they will also be required to provide proof of a booster dose to enter the home.

 

Additional Web Resources

For your information, I have also included links to web resources that may be of interest: