Updates on PCR testing, advice on case management and contact in Ontario

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  • Symptomatic tests will be available for people at high risk and people who work in high risk settings.
  • Individuals with symptoms compatible with COVID-19 are presumed positive and should follow isolation and / or self-monitoring guidelines.
  • Screening of asymptomatic contacts of cases is generally no longer recommended, except for high-risk contacts / individuals who are part of confirmed or suspected outbreaks in high-risk settings, as recommended by public health.
  • Positive rapid antigen tests will no longer require confirmation by PCR.
  • Based on the latest scientific evidence, people with COVID-19 should self-isolate for five days if they are fully vaccinated or are under 12 years old, and if their symptoms improve for at least 24 hours.

Groups eligible for PCR testing

As of December 31, 2021, PCR testing will only be recommended for individuals if they belong to the following groups:

  • Symptomatic people belonging to one of the following groups:
    • Hospitalized patients
    • Patients in emergency departments, at the discretion of the treating clinician
    • Healthcare workers in contact with patients
    • Staff, residents, essential caregivers and visitors to hospitals and community living spaces, including long-term care, retirement homes, First Nations elder care lodges, group homes, shelters , hospices, temporary foreign worker establishments and correctional facilities
    • Outpatients for whom COVID-19 treatment is being considered
    • Underhoused or homeless
  • People from First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities and people traveling to these communities for work
  • Symptomatic elementary and secondary students and educational staff who received a PCR self-collection kit through their school
  • People admitted / transferred to or from a hospital or collective living area
  • High-risk contacts and asymptomatic / symptomatic people in the context of confirmed or suspected epidemics in high-risk settings, including hospitals, long-term care, retirement homes, other collective living spaces and institutions , and other settings as directed by the local public health unit
  • Individuals and an accompanying caregiver, with prior written approval for overseas medical services from the General Manager, OHIP
  • Asymptomatic tests in hospitals, long-term care, retirement homes and other places of collective living and institutions in accordance with guidelines and / or provincial guidelines

If you have symptoms of COVID-19

People who have been vaccinated, as well as children under 12 who show symptoms of COVID-19, will need to self-isolate for five days after symptoms appear. These people can end isolation after five days if their symptoms improve for at least 24 hours and all public health and safety measures, such as masking and physical distancing, are followed.

Unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or immunocompromised people should self-isolate for 10 days.

If you work or live in a high-risk healthcare setting (i.e. hospitals, long-term care, retirement homes, group living settings), you should notify your employer. People who work or live in these settings should not travel to work for 10 days from the onset of symptoms or the date of diagnosis. To ensure sufficient manpower, workers in these settings may have the option of returning to work early on the seventh day of their isolation, with one negative PCR test or two negative rapid antigen tests on days six and seven. Contact your employer or the occupational health and safety department for more information.

All household contacts should also self-isolate for the same length of time as the person showing symptoms, regardless of their immunization status. If you are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, you should also consider notifying your close contacts beyond your family contacts by providing them with the link to Ontario.ca/exposure. Those eligible for a laboratory PCR test are encouraged to get tested.

If you have any concerns about your symptoms, contact your doctor, health care provider or Telehealth for more information and advice. If you develop severe symptoms that require medical attention, such as shortness of breath or chest pain, call 911.

If you don’t have symptoms of COVID-19 but you’re not feeling well, self-isolate until symptoms have improved for at least 24 hours.

If you’ve been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19

If you are fully vaccinated and have no symptoms, and you are not living with the positive case, you are advised to:

  • Self-monitoring for symptoms for 10 days since your last interaction with the positive case
  • Maintain mask, physical distance, and respect for all other public health measures if you leave the house
  • Do not visit any high-risk environment or anyone who may be at greater risk for disease (eg, the elderly) for 10 days after your last exposure.

If you are not fully vaccinated or if you are immunocompromised, you should self-isolate immediately for 10 days after your last contact. If you live with the positive case, you should self-isolate for the duration of their isolation period.

Those eligible for the test are encouraged to get tested.

If you live, work, attend, volunteer, or have been admitted to a high-risk health care facility, you must notify your employer and must not visit the high-risk facility for 10 days since your last exposure. or onset of symptoms, or from the date of diagnosis. To ensure sufficient manpower, workers in these establishments will be able to return to work early on the seventh day of their isolation with a negative PCR test or two negative rapid antigen tests on days six and seven. If you live in a high risk environment, you should self-isolate regardless of your immunization status.

If you have COVID-19 based on a positive test result

If your PCR, rapid molecular, or antigenic test is positive and you are fully vaccinated or are under 12 years of age, you should self-isolate for five days from the positive test result if you have no symptoms or immediately. onset of symptoms and until their symptoms improve within 24 hours (or 48 hours if gastrointestinal symptoms).

If you are partially vaccinated, unvaccinated, or immunocompromised, you should self-isolate for 10 days from the onset of symptoms or from the date of your test (whichever occurs first).

In addition, family contacts of people who test positive should also be isolated during this time. Individuals should self-isolate regardless of their vaccination status.

You should also inform your close contacts. Close contact is anyone who you have been within two meters for at least 15 minutes, or several shorter periods, without personal protective equipment within 48 hours before your symptoms started or your positive test result, depending on the first possibility.

Appropriate use of rapid antigenic tests

Ontario currently has a limited supply of rapid antigenic tests that are a priority for healthcare and high-risk settings. This includes the use of a rapid antigen test for the “test on the job” in which asymptomatic staff in these areas can return to work when they would otherwise be in home segregation.

The focus on using rapid antigen testing for these areas will help keep hospitals, long-term care homes, and retirement homes and assembly places operating as safely as possible. As of December 20, a total of 50 million rapid antigenic tests had been deployed at more than 49,000 sites since the start of the pandemic, the vast majority (around 41 million) being deployed in these priority sectors.

A rapid antigen test can be used to confirm whether a symptomatic individual has COVID-19, without the requirement for confirmatory PCR or rapid molecular testing.

In addition to allowing Ontario to directly procure additional rapid tests where possible, the province continues to urge the federal government to make faster tests available to provinces as quickly as possible.

How to access media during isolation

If you need help during isolation, visit COVID-19: Support for people. People can also contact their public health unit for a variety of isolation supports, including:

  • Use of isolation facilities;
  • Referrals to support services and community agencies;
  • Mental health supports;
  • Courier and delivery supports for food and necessities;
  • Additional resources available to support isolation by the High priority communities strategy.

Employers cannot threaten, fire or penalize an employee in any way because the employee has taken or is planning to take job protected leave due to COVID-19, and doctors’ notes are not not necessary for employees to use the leave. You can find out more about the job protected leave here.

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