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School return delayed to January 5, isolation and testing rules changed

TORONTO – Students will return to in-person learning two days later than planned according to the province’s top doctor.

Dr. Kieran Moore, chief medical officer of health for Ontario announced that students will go back to school January 5, 2022, giving schools extra time to put in place new masking and other measures for staff and students.

The return-to-school announcement was one of several made by Moore this afternoon (December 30).

Classes in schools will have more cohorting students to keep groups separated, higher-risk activities will be limited, and certain activities like school band will be “paused.”

Students were set to return to class on January 3, 2022.

Moore said that there will be more information issued involving the use of the rapid antigen tests and the expanded online screening for students before the start of class next week.

Testing rules change

Ontario’s testing strategy will change as of December 31. Starting New Year’s Eve, PCR testing will only be available to demographics that are most at risk, and employees who work in high-risk settings. People who test positive with a rapid antigen test are no longer required to confirm the test result

“Given the high risk in our communities, a positive test by a [rapid antigen test] does not need PCR [test],” Moore said confirming to Postmedia that either test is acceptable for confirming a COVID-19 case and that the isolation recommendations should be followed regardless.

Asymptomatic PCR testing will no longer be allowed under the new regulations.

“The Omicron variant is rapidly spreading. We must preserve these resources for those who need them the most,” Moore said confirming changes also are being made to isolation and COVID-19 hospital admission reporting.

He said he expected that there will be six-to-eight weeks of widespread Omicron activity in the province.

Isolation rules change

Effective December 31, a positive COVID-19 test will mean a five day isolation period from the time symptoms appear. Moore said the highest infection period for the Omicron variant is two days before symptoms show, and three days after. If a person has tested positive, everyone in the household is to isolate.

“Our primary message is this: if you’re sick, stay home,” said Moore.

ICU and hospital reporting will change to better reflect the reasons for being hospitalized. Moore explained that when person is admitted to a hospital for a non-COVID related medical issue, patients are tested for the virus as well. Those numbers have been added to the hospitalization numbers up until now. Moore said hospitals are to clarify if patients are hospitalized with COVID-19 being the primary reason.

Capacity changes

Venues like theatres, arenas and other large spaces are limited to 50 per cent of its regular capacity, or 1,000 people, whichever is the lower amount.

Contact Tracing

Contact tracing is being limited to people in high-risk settings like long-term care homes, and people who test positive. When a person tests positive for COVID-19, it will be their responsibility to do their own contact tracing

Vaccine changes

People living in LTC homes and other “congregate living settings” will be allowed a fourth-dose booster of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine if it has been at least three months since receiving a third-dose booster.

Record COVID-19 infections reported

Ontario reported a record number of new COVID-19 cases (13,807) Thursday with a test positivity of 30 per cent.

By: Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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