Fully vaccinated close contacts of COVID-19 cases should self-isolate but province will need ‘backup’ strategy for health-care workers: Moore

Ontario health-care workers who are deemed close contacts of people who contract COVID-19 could be allowed to remain on the job so long as they test negative before each shift, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore says.

Public health officials were initially instructing anyone who was a close contact of a COVID-19 case involving the Omicron variant to self-isolate, even if they were fully vaccinated.

But during a briefing on Tuesday, Moore said that we should really be “treating every new case going forward as Omicron” and that means that the isolation of all high risk contacts will likely be necessary, with an exception made for health-care workers.

His comments come in the wake of Ontario Hospital Association CEO Anthony Dale warning that there will be a “major impact” on some clinical services as already short-staffed hospitals work to “urgently re-activate mass vaccination programs” in the coming days and weeks.

“We are very concerned about a shortage in health human resources in the setting of Omicron given its potential for rapid spread, so we have a strategy to bring workers back that have had been high risk contacts,” Moore said on Tuesday. “One of the strategies would be to have daily rapid antigen testing for those workers. Clearly if they get symptoms, if they get a PCR test that’s positive they would be off but we may need to have a strategy of daily rapid antigen testing for high risk healthcare worker contacts to keep the workforce in place that we need to best serve Ontarians.”

Moore said that the Ontario government is working to increase its stockpile of rapid tests as it plans for what could be a challenging winter.

He said that rapid testing could also serve as a “backup strategy” for other essential workers, who might also be impacted by self-isolation requirements in the coming months.

“We’re preparing to make sure that our essential workers are maintaining presenteeism through number one getting their third doses if eligible and secondly, having a backup testing strategy for them as well,” he said.

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