Ontario’s chief physician says school starts are delayed until Wednesday

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore holds a 3 pm ET news conference. CBC News broadcasts the announcement live in this story.

Ontario will push the return to school by Wednesday, Jan. 5, and the province says it will provide N95 masks to school staff and authorized child care facilities.

The province also says it will implement an additional 3,000 independent HEPA filter units for school boards. Only indoor sports with low contact and safe leisure activities will be allowed from January.

Teaching was to resume as early as Monday in large parts of the province, but critics called for clarity on the back-to-school plan in light of the increase in COVID-19 cases.

Several short-term measures will be implemented in the schools, such as virtually only school-wide assemblies and multiple cohorts for lunch and recess areas for elementary school students, reports The Canadian Press.

The province also says it will further limit capacity in large indoor venues starting at 6 p.m. 12:01 Friday.

Meanwhile, publicly funded PCR testing from Friday will only be available to those at risk of COVID-19 and workers, residents in high-risk environments such as hospitals, LTCs, nursing homes and community centers.

Rapid antigen testing is also being maintained and prioritized for high-risk settings, Moore said.

Most individuals with a positive result from a rapid antigen test will no longer be required to have a PCR test and there will be no test for asymptomatic individuals.

“We need to conserve these resources for those who need them most,” Moore said, adding that the move is intended to ensure that those most at risk of serious outcomes have timely access to test results.

“If you have COVID-19 symptoms and are not eligible for PCR testing and do not have access to rapid antigen testing, you should assume you have COVID-19,” Moore said.

“These changes are not unique to Ontario,” he added.

Meanwhile, Ontario is also updating its COVID-19 isolation guidelines.

People who are fully vaccinated should be isolated for five days if they have symptoms of the virus, while those who are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or immunocompromised should be isolated for 10 days.

The positivity rate rises to 30.5%

Ontario reported a pandemic height of 13,807 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday – well above the previous record set on Wednesday and ahead of an expected announcement from the province’s health chief.

Infectious disease experts have said that the actual number of new cases is likely to be far higher than those reported every day because many public health services in Ontario have reached their testing capacity.

The seven-day average of daily cases has for the first time topped 10,000 in the province and now stands at 10,328. It’s about to double every five days or so.

The positivity rates also continued to rise. Public Health Ontario recorded a 30.5 percent positivity rate Thursday on 67,301 tests, the highest level ever seen in the province. The previous three days had prices of 26.9, 24.9 and 24.5 per cent, respectively.

“We need to be prepared to see our cases continue to grow,” Moore said.

“We have not seen a similarly rapid increase in admissions and intensive care units,” he added.

As of Wednesday night, there were 96,455 test samples in the backlog waiting to be completed – also a new pandemic height.

The number of patients with COVID-19 in hospitals rose to 965, up from 726 on Wednesday and 440 at the same time last week.

There were also 200 people treated for COVID-related illnesses in intensive care units, up from 169 last Thursday.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province is working with hospitals to differentiate between patients admitted to hospitals and critical care due to COVID-19 and those who test positive while in care for other reasons. Daily data will soon reflect this distinction, she said.

The Ministry of Health recorded the deaths of eight more people with the disease, pushing the official toll to 10,179.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore was due to hold a press conference on Tuesday, but it was postponed after US health authorities reduced the isolation times for COVID-positive Americans from 10 to five days and similarly shortened the time needed by close contacts. to quarantine.

Officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the guidance was consistent with growing evidence that people with coronavirus are most contagious in the two days before and three days after symptoms develop.

Like Ontario, many areas of the United States are experiencing dramatic increases in new COVID-19 cases. While early research suggests that Omicron may cause less serious illness than previous variants, the large number of people who become infected – and therefore need to be isolated or quarantined – threaten to crush the ability of US hospitals, airlines and other companies to stay open, said the CDC.

The Ontario Department of Health said Moore wanted time to review the U.S. changes before announcing any revised policies for the province.

Hospitalization, death less likely with Omicron: study

A new study from Public Health Ontario suggests that Omicron is actually less likely to lead to hospitalization or death than the Delta variant, which drove the third wave in the province.

The agency identified 6,314 Omicron cases that saw symptoms occur between November 22 and December 17, and matched them with Delta cases based on age, gender, and start date.

It found that after adjusting for vaccination status and region, the risk of hospitalization or death was 54 percent lower in Omicron cases than Delta cases.

“Omicron appears to be the first dominant variant showing a decrease in the severity of the disease,” the study said.

“Although the severity may be reduced, due to the portability of Omicron, the absolute number of admissions and the impact on the healthcare system are likely to be significant.”

SE | Ontario parents worried about back-to-school plans:

Ontario parents are anxious as other provinces delay return to school

Ontario parents are anxious and frustrated by the lack of information, as some other provinces are delaying return to school amid soaring cases of COVID-19. 2:55

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