Ottawa Omicron Q&A: You ask, we find the answers

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Public health advice on COVID-19 exposures, isolation, testing, and other pandemic scenarios can be confusing, especially in light of the way the Omicron variant is blazing through the country. If you have questions, chances are someone in Ottawa is worried about the same thing too. So we ask you questions.

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Send us your questions about COVID-19 in the comments section below and our journalists will work to find the answers as soon as we can. We will update this story on an ongoing basis.


Questions we have answered

Question: I had a few clinical signs and got a negative PCR test. Can I go back to work before the end of the 10-day isolation period?

ONE: Lucky you! You were able to get a PCR test. Guidance published on the Ottawa Public Health website states that individuals who have symptoms but no known close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 may terminate self-isolation IF you test negative on a PCR test, AFTER you do not have fever and symptoms have been improving for at least 24 hours without antipyretic medication. Those with diarrhea or vomiting should see improvements in these symptoms for 48 hours before returning to a school or childcare facility.

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Q: We have received COVID and 15 days have passed now. How safe is it for us to travel abroad now?

ONE: The Canadian Public Health Agency advises all travelers – regardless of wax status – to avoid unnecessary travel internationally. FB also says that you should not travel if you isolate yourself or have symptoms, even if they are mild. If you are feeling well and need to travel, it is advisable to check your destination’s COVID-19 test, vaccination and other entry requirements.

It should be noted, however: Ottawa Public Health advises that it is common to continue testing positive after recovery after COVID-19 infection, and says that some people may still test positive for weeks or months after their first test, as the test continues to detect non-infectious viral residues.

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To address people who have had COVID and have recovered and are now symptom-free, Canada allows evidence of a positive COVID-19 molecular test when crossing back across the border, rather than a negative one, provided it was taken between 14 and 180 days earlier.

Question: Why does Canada still require PCR testing for short trips to the United States?

ONE: In late November, the federal government lifted the requirement to have a COVID-19 molecular test before returning to Canada for fully vaccinated travelers traveling in less than 72 hours.

Just a few weeks later, as concerns about the Omicron variant grew, they brought this claim back “as another layer of precaution,” according to a Dec. 17 press release.

The Fed promises that “all border measures will continue to be evaluated and are subject to adjustments based on the latest science, evidence and data.”

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Question: If someone tests positive on a quick test, should they still get the PCR test?

A: Yes, if they can (and isolate themselves in the meantime). If they can not, OPH says they should assume they have COVID, and isolate themselves for 10 days from the date of the positive test result or the date of symptom onset if they are symptomatic.

Q: How long should I isolate after my symptoms begin?

A: If you have not been able to access the PCR test for at least 10 days (and until the symptoms disappear) If you have been able to access the PCR test and you test positive, it is 10 days from when the symptoms started, as long as you have no fever (without the use of antipyretic medication) and the symptoms get better for at least 24 hours, or 48 hours for gastrointestinal symptoms.

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If you test positive and need intensive treatment or are severely immunocompromised (eg receiving chemotherapy for cancer or taking prednisone), it is 20 days from the onset of your symptoms, with the same reservations to end the isolation period.

Q: What happens to the schools? Are they resumed?
A: This is a difficult question to answer. Prime Minister Doug Ford said on Tuesday that the province will take a stand on schools over the next few days. Our reporter Jacquie Miller dug into this issue on Tuesday and spoke with Shoshanah Deaton, an Ottawa mother of two who is also a family physician working at a COVID-19 assessment center in Rockland. Here is an excerpt from the story:

Deaton says her children need school – an attitude repeated by pediatricians, mental health experts, educators and working parents who will have to climb if students are again moved to online education at home. But Deaton is not optimistic.

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“I don’t think schools can safely open in January,” she says.

“If they open, officials need to be honest that there will be widespread infections. There can be no question of words or hygiene theater anymore. Teachers will get N95 (masks), although I very much doubt students will get appropriate masks, but what will happen when all these people eat and drink? “

You can read the rest of Jacquie Miller’s story about Ottawa schools here:
Parents are anxiously awaiting news on whether schools will reopen in January


Questions we are examining today

Q: Will fast antigen tests still show positive results after 10 days?
A: Our reporter Taylor Blewett is investigating this question and will find an answer as soon as possible.

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Q: How long do I have to wait to get a booster after having a breakthrough infection?
A: Our reporter Taylor Blewett is investigating this question and will find an answer as soon as possible.

Q: Where can I get a PCR test?
A: Our reporter Taylor Blewett is investigating this question and will find an answer as soon as possible.

Q: What is the difference between a rapid test and a PCR test in relation to the results they give?
A: Our reporter Taylor Blewett is investigating this question and will find an answer as soon as possible.

Question: If I was revealed yesterday and am still scheduled for a booster in four days, should I still get the booster?
A: TBD

Q: With Omicron, is it safe to meet another family outdoors? Each family bubbled with their respective families for Christmas, watching grandparents, aunts and uncles while respecting the limit of 10 people.
A: Our reporter Bruce Deachman is investigating this issue.

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Q: After 10 days of isolation, do we just leave our house? What about the rest of the family?
A: Our reporter Bruce Deachman is investigating this issue.

Q: Ideal time frames for testing? When should you take a quick test vs a PCR test?
A: Our reporter Bruce Deachman is investigating this issue.

Question: Will the new booster protect us from this variant?
A: Our reporter Bruce Deachman is investigating this issue.


Issues that we hope to investigate soon

Q: I tested positive on a quick test. I’m too sick to be tested. I isolate myself. Should I report this to anyone?
A: TBD

Q: Which masks are the best for the worst? Fabric for KN95?
A: TBD

Q: What does the city of Ottawa do to those who do not wear masks indoors (such as condominiums)?
A: TBD

For tight contacts and insulation:

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Q: I have no symptoms, but it has a close contact (not household). What is the protocol?
A: TBD

Question: If a member is ill with cold-like symptoms, why is everyone in the household so isolated?
A: TBD

I have no symptoms, but I have three family members who have had symptoms for 10 days now. How long should someone isolate themselves after the symptoms start?
A: TBD

Q: How long should you isolate yourself if you have a positive outcome and live with someone else?
A: TBD

Q: I tested positive on a quick test. I’m too sick to be tested. I isolate myself. Should I report this to anyone?
A: TBD

Question: If my colleague was exposed to a positive patient and we work in the same compartment, then should we isolate?
A: TBD

With files from Taylor Blewett.

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