COVID-19 Update Dec 17, 2021

Posted Monday December 20, 2021

Posted By: Emily Ngo

Category: General

To: Ottawa Physicians, Nurse Practitioners, Travel and Walk-In Clinics
Date: Dec 17, 2021
From: Dr Sarah Funnell, Associate Medical Officer of Health, Dr Sarah Erdman, Medical Director

Dear Colleagues,

Omicron is quickly becoming the dominant variant in Ottawa. Due to the surge in demand for testing, COVID-19 testing is no longer available for everyone in a timely manner. Because of this unfortunate reality, OPH will be directing people with any symptoms of COVID-19 who are unable to access a timely COVID-19 test to assume that they are infected with Omicron and self-isolate immediately for 10 days from symptom-onset. Their household contacts, regardless of vaccination status, will also be directed to isolate. Symptomatic individuals must self-isolate even if they test negative on a rapid antigen test as these tests can produce false negative results. It is anticipated that existing testing capacity (both obtaining samples and processing in the labs) will need to be preserved for essential workers and to protect the most vulnerable sectors and populations.

As announced last week, our case management team is experiencing significant capacity challenges, which is leading to a delay in reaching individuals who test positive for COVID-19. As a result, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is asking individuals who test positive for COVID-19 to notify their high-risk contacts to advise them that they might have been exposed. Further information on directions for those who test positive for COVID-19 can be found in this letter. Individuals who test positive will be provided with a letter with detailed instructions on isolation and testing recommendations to share with their high-risk contacts.

We are also directing all high-risk contacts of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 to self-isolate immediately, regardless of vaccination status. This important change in contact management guidance is due to the significantly reduced vaccine effectiveness of 2 doses against the Omicron variant. Please note that the situation is evolving rapidly, and guidance is subject to change quickly.

If testing capacity permits, all high-risk contacts, irrespective of vaccine status, are advised to get tested for COVID-19. Those who are experiencing any symptoms are advised to get tested as soon as possible, while those who are asymptomatic are advised to get tested on or after Day 7 following exposure to someone with COVID-19.

This testing guidance is subject to change as this situation evolves. If testing is not able to be obtained, all high-risk contacts and symptomatic individuals are advised to self-isolate for 10 days from symptom onset (for symptomatic individuals) or break of contact (for high-risk contacts).

The following resources are available to support cases and contacts:

As announced on December 15, Ontario is expanding eligibility of COVID-19 booster doses to all individuals aged 18 and over, as well as shortening the interval to three months following an individual’s second dose. OPH recommends that you encourage your patients who are most at-risk for severe disease (aged 50 years and above) to get vaccinated with a third dose as soon as possible. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has released updated guidance on booster doses of COVID-19 vaccine. Although evidence is still rapidly emerging, preliminary data shows that vaccine effectiveness against Omicron infection is significantly stronger with 3 doses of mRNA vaccine.

OPH is collaborating with healthcare partners to stand-up as many vaccinations clinics as possible, as quickly as possible. Please see our website for further information.

Thank you for your ongoing support to protect the health of our community.

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