Ontario pushes back school reopening to Jan. 5, restricts PCR testing to high-risk individuals – CBC.ca

Ontario is delaying the start of school by two days to Wednesday, Jan. 5, as well as tightening access to PCR and rapid testing amid expected widespread community transmission of the Omicron variant.

In a news release issued Thursday, the province says it will provide N95 masks for staff in schools and licensed child care settings and deploy an additional 3,000 standalone HEPA filter units to school boards. The masks are not being provided for students, however.

Classes had been set to resume as early as Monday in much of the province, but critics called for clarity on the back-to-school plan in light of the spike in COVID-19 cases.

There will be several short-term measures implemented at schools, such as virtual-only school-wide assemblies and more cohorting at lunch and recess for elementary students, The Canadian Press reports. Only low-contact indoor sports and safe extra-curricular activities will be permitted starting in January.

The province also said in the release that it will further restrict capacity for large indoor venues starting at 12:01 a.m. Friday.

Province tightens access to PCR, rapid tests

Meanwhile, starting Friday, publicly funded PCR testing will be available only for symptomatic people in the following groups:

  • Hospitalized patients
  • Patients in Emergency Departments
  • Patient-facing health-care workers
  • Staff, residents, care providers and visitors in hospitals and congregate living settings
  • Outpatients for whom COVID-19 treatment is being considered
  • Underhoused or people experiencing homelessness

Additionally, publicly funded PCR testing is available for Indigenous communities, symptomatic school staff and students, individuals transferring hospitals, and other high-risk contacts in the context of confirmed suspected outbreaks in high-risk settings like hospitals and congregrate living spaces.

Elementary and secondary students and staff who are symptomatic are still eligible for a PCR self-collection kit and can receive them through their schools, the province says.

You can read more about the province’s new testing rules here.

The changes to testing eligibility also means the province will likely have to adjust how it measures new COVID-19 case counts going forward.

Infectious disease experts have said for several days that the actual number of new cases is likely far higher than those reported each day because many public health units in Ontario have reached their testing capacity.

Limiting tests to only higher-risk individuals means the gap between confirmed and actual cases will now grow even wider.

WATCH | Ontario will push back the return to school to Wednesday, Jan. 5:

Ontario will push back the return to school to Wednesday, Jan. 5

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore announced during a press conference Thursday that Ontario will push back the return to school to Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022. 0:43

Rapid tests being prioritized for high-risk settings

Rapid antigen tests are now also being prioritized for high-risk settings, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said at Thursday’s news conference. 

The province is hitting the 100,000 testing capacity, and given the high positivity rates, he says the virus is widespread in the community.

“We cannot at present test everyone who wants one. I’m sorry we don’t have that capacity, we never actually did, nor does any country,” Moore said.

“We must preserve these resources for those who need them the …….

Source: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/covid-19-ontario-dec-30-2021-testing-guidelines-cases-1.6300425

Ontario is delaying the start of school by two days to Wednesday, Jan. 5, as well as tightening access to PCR and rapid testing amid expected widespread community transmission of the Omicron variant.

In a news release issued Thursday, the province says it will provide N95 masks for staff in schools and licensed child care settings and deploy an additional 3,000 standalone HEPA filter units to school boards. The masks are not being provided for students, however.

Classes had been set to resume as early as Monday in much of the province, but critics called for clarity on the back-to-school plan in light of the spike in COVID-19 cases.

There will be several short-term …….

Ontario is delaying the start of school by two days to Wednesday, Jan. 5, as well as tightening access to PCR and rapid testing amid expected widespread community transmission of the Omicron variant.

In a news release issued Thursday, the province says it will provide N95 masks for staff in schools and licensed child care settings and deploy an additional 3,000 standalone HEPA filter units to school boards. The masks are not being provided for students, however.

Classes had been set to resume as early as Monday in much of the province, but critics called for clarity on the back-to-school plan in light of the spike in COVID-19 cases.

There will be several short-term …….

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