In response to yesterday’s announcement from Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) will be following the Province’s updated COVID-19 testing and isolation guidance and will also be changing how it reports and manages new cases. The arrival of COVID-19’s Omicron variant has led to a rapid increase in cases unlike any seen during the pandemic so far, setting daily case count records and increasing the demand for rapid and PCR testing that exceeds local and provincial capacity.
In an announcement late yesterday afternoon, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore laid out a number of new public health measures in response to the highly transmissible Omicron variant. This includes changing the isolation period for all individuals who are vaccinated, as well as children under the age of 12, to five days following the onset of symptoms; prioritizing Rapid Antigen Tests for health care and the highest risk settings; and PCR testing only for symptomatic individuals at high-risk of severe illness from COVID-19, including those who work in long-term care and retirement homes. As part of yesterday’s announcement, the Province also indicated that fourth doses will be offered to long-term care home residents, and as of January 28th, 2022, booster doses will be mandated for all staff, students, volunteers and caregivers in these settings. The Provincial update also outlined changes to capacity limits in some sport and recreation settings as well as an announcement that school will resume on Wednesday, January 5th, 2022.
The change in provincial case management guidance and the challenges brought on by the Omicron variant have resulted in the need for changes at the local level as well. Starting today, the MLHU will focus its efforts on cases occurring in high-risk settings, including long-term care and retirement facilities, hospitals, and some congregate living settings. The situation has also led the Health Unit to recognize that it will not be advised of every new case, nor will every new case even be detected or reported.
Public health officials are advising anyone who develops symptoms, such as fever, chills, a new or worsening cough, and a decrease or loss of sense of smell or taste, to not wait for the MLHU to contact them, and instead to consider their illness to be COVID-19. Anyone who is vaccinated with two doses and develops symptoms is instructed to isolate, along with their household members, immediately and to remain in isolation for five days from the time their symptoms begin.
“COVID-19 is now spreading in the community faster than we can test for it or detect it. This means we need to focus our case investigation efforts where they can be most effective,” says Dr. Alex Summers, Acting Medical Officer of Health with the Middlesex-London Health Unit. “The Omicron variant requires us to follow a radically different approach to slow transmission in our community. Maintaining physical distance, wearing a mask and limiting time spent with others will slow how quickly it spreads.”
Read about Ontario’s updated public health measures and guidance here. Learn more about the updated eligibility for PCR testing here, and for more information about COVID-19 visit: https://www.healthunit.com/novel-coronavirus.
Dan Flaherty, Communications Manager, Middlesex-London Health Unit, 519-617-0570
Dr. Alex Summers, Acting Medical Officer of Health, Middlesex-London Health Unit