Ontario shortens COVID-19 isolation period down to 5 days for the benefit of employers
What is the self-isolation time period for COVID in Ontario right now?
It's a question many people in Canada's most-populous province are asking today as conflicting information circulates from the federal government, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and, now, the Doug Ford administration.
The short answer (as of just today) is "five days after the onset of symptoms," but only for people who are double vaccinated and kids under the age of 12 whose symptoms have been "improving" for at least 24 hours.
Individuals who are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or immunocompromised must still undergo the full 10 day isolation period experts have been recommending since last week, itself down from the previous 14-day-long mandatory quarantine timeline.
The long answer includes all of the above, plus a whole bunch of context surrounding why many are leery about Ontario cutting its quar-time back to five days, like the United States has done, despite the Government of Canada confirming earlier this week that it would continue to recommend 10 days for everyone in every province.
Where is Doug Ford? A happy, upbeat Ontario Chief of Public Health just told us the government has given up testing, tracking, notifying close intacts, counting cases, if sick - self-isolate 5 days then go back to work and your hopefully your mask will catch it. #Ontario— anne boleyn (@Coolermama) December 30, 2021
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore announced a host of new public health measures and restrictions on Thursday afternoon meant to mitigate against the spread of Omicron, a highly contagious but (hopefully) less-severe form of the coronavirus.
With reports of new COVID-19 cases getting higher each day (we hit a record 13,807 Thursday morning), some say the moves announced Thursday couldn't come fast enough, particularly the lowering of capacity limits at large venues and the requirement of enhanced safety measures at schools.
Other measures, however, are giving Ontarians pause — particularly the aforementioned changes to isolation as well as testing guidelines (only high-risk individuals can get PCR tests to confirm their COVID positivity from here on out. Everyone else with symptoms should just "assume" they have the virus and isolate.)
"Ontario is doing the same thing the CDC recommended doing and cutting quarantine from COVID down to 5 days," wrote one Twitter user of the move. "As someone who is just getting out from under this thing, I think this is a mistake. This is no simple flu that you get over in a few days. This thing lingers."
"Ontario has slashed the mandatory quarantine for the fully vaccinated from 10 to 5 days while also doubling the duration that Ford must spend hiding at his mom's house to avoid taking questions," joked another.
Rising tide lifts all boats into a raging storm in which all of us die except owners of capital who stay on land. https://t.co/WPFdIdq1aK— Vincent Wong (@initialvw) December 30, 2021
Reaction is similar to that seen in the U.S. and abroad after the CDC shortened its self-isolation period guidelines to only five days south of the border.
Many worry that economic factors are weighing more heavily on the minds of officials than public health — a hunch validated by Moore's own words during his press conference on Thursday: "It's less burdensome for an employer if you return to work after that five day period."
That's not a joke, he really did say that around the 29-minute mark.
"The Ontario government's announcement today to shorten the COVID-19 isolation time to 5 days is a reminder that our current economic system values frontline workers only for their labour, not their health," wrote one Toronto doctor on Twitter.
"When [Ford] wanted to change Ontario's slogan to 'open for business' he really wasn't kidding," commented another person.
"Forcing symptomatic individuals back to work after 5 days, allowing private companies charge $200-400 per PCR, and forcing kids back into the classroom at 13,000 new cases/day."
Wherever you stand ideologically, here's what you need to know about our provincial government's new timeline for COVID-19 quarantines:
"As cases continue to rise at a rapid rate and evidence on the Omicron variant evolves, our response needs to evolve alongside other jurisdictions to ensure those living and working in our highest-risk settings are protected," said Moore on Thursday.
"Anyone who is sick should protect their community by staying home."
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