Leeds-Grenville & Lanark – Leeds, Grenville and Lanark, like the rest of Ontario, is seeing a surge in new COVID-19 infections in the past two weeks with between 50 and 150 new infections each day. We have both Delta and Omicron COVID-19 variants circulating – more and more Omicron from the available lab testing results. Delta can cause serious disease among older people and those with underlying health problems. Omicron tends to have milder more cold-like symptoms with cough, fever and loss of taste and smell. It can cause serious disease in people who have underlying health conditions or who are not double vaccinated. The third booster of Pfizer of Moderna increases the protection against developing COVID symptoms when infected with the virus.
Layers of Protection
Given the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus on the community, it is important to have several layers of protection against the virus (assessing symptoms and staying home when sick, vaccine, masks, physically distance, fewer in-person contacts, hand washing, regular cleaning) so that people can continue to have important social contact, go to work, school and daycare, and businesses and services can function safely.
New Provincial Direction
COVID 19 Infections
To respond to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus, the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore, is providing new direction to the public who have symptoms.
- When symptoms develop, check the provincial assessment tool to see if they are COVID-19 symptoms – one of the main symptoms (fever, cough, loss of taste or smell, shortness of breath) or two of other symptoms (sore throat, headache, extreme tiredness, nasal congestion, muscle aches and joint pain, vomiting/ diarrhea) are associated with COVID-19 infection.
- Testing is not needed when these symptoms are present, and it will not be able to book an appointment at Assessment Centres or pharmacies, except for specific circumstances. This ensures testing is available for people and workers in highest risk settings. Individuals with a booked appointment currently will be able to go to be tested.
- Isolate if fully vaccinated or under 12 years old, along with other household members, for 5 days and with symptoms improving. If not fully vaccinated, and 12 years or older, or if immune compromised then isolate for 10 days, including household members.
- If a Rapid Antigen Test is done, a positive result is confirmatory of COVID-19 and a PCR test is not needed. When the test is positive then contact close contacts and let them know they should watch for symptoms for 10 days after their exposure.
- Two negative tests done 24 to 48 hours apart mean that the symptoms are likely not due to COVID-19. It is still important to stay home until symptoms are resolving, and follow public health precautions. Including wear a mask and physically distancing.
- You do not need to report symptoms or the result of a Rapid Antigen Test to Public Health.
Individuals who work in high-risk settings (e.g., hospitals, long-term care and retirement homes and other congregate living settings) have additional precautions as it is important to protect the vulnerable people in these settings.
Fourth Vaccine Dose for Residents of Congregate Settings
All residents of long-term care homes, retirement homes, elder care lodges and other congregate care settings for older adults will be offered a fourth dose of vaccine, a minimum of three months or 84 days since their third dose. This will ensure they have added protection from COVID-19.
The province is also mandating third doses for all staff, students, volunteers, caregivers and support workers in congregate care settings. Those currently eligible for a booster by Dec. 28, 2021must receive their third dose by January 28, 2022. When general visitors will be allowed in these settings again, they too will have to provide proof of a booster dose.
Return to School After Winter Break
Schools will be open for in-person learning on January 5th. More details will be provided by Boards of Education. Students and staff must screen for symptoms before leaving for school. If they have COVID-19 symptoms then they will follow the direction about isolation as outlined above. Schools do not need to report to Public Health if people are away from schools with COVID symptoms or the results of testing if it is done. Classes will not be dismissed if there is someone with COVID-19 in the class.
To reduce the risk of the spread of the virus in the classroom setting, it is critical to follow all public health precautions including wearing a well-fitted three ply cloth mask or a medical mask, regular hand washing, and limiting close contact with others. Outside of school, playing with friends is safest when outside or, when inside, when wearing a well fitted mask.
Workers who develop symptoms consistent with COVID-19 must stay home and follow the directions outlined above. They must notify their employer and identify who their close contacts in the workplace are. The employer can then notify the close contacts that they should monitor for symptoms. Public Health will not be contacting workplaces regarding positive cases except in high risk settings.
A review of the Workplace Health and Safety Plan can identify whether any changes need to be made to preserve the workforce in light of the increase in COVID-19 infections in the community. Screening for any symptoms before coming to work is critical along with the use of well fitted 3 ply cloth mask or medical mask, maintaining distance among co-workers, and cohorting staff groups who do a similar job. COVID-19 and workplace health and safety | Ontario.ca
Large Indoor Settings
As of December 31, 2021, at 12:01 a.m., Ontario is restricting spectator capacity in large indoor settings to 50 percent, or 1,000, whichever is less. The new limit will apply to spectator areas of sports and recreational fitness activities, concert venues and theatres.
For more information about Ontario’s updated public health measures and guidance, visit www.healthunit.org/coronavirus or call 1-800-660-5853 x2222. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter @LGLHealthunit or Instagram at lglhealthunit.z.