Niagara Region Public Health (NRPH) will be implementing changes to case and contact management in the coming days as Public Health continues to shift resources to expansive vaccination efforts.
Following-up with every COVID-19 case and their contacts to isolate them has been a cornerstone of controlling the pandemic for the past 21 months. By breaking chains of transmission, cases have been kept low, severe illness and death has been prevented, and society has been able to reopen for sustained periods after lockdowns.
The Omicron variant poses a new and very different threat. With growing case numbers, testing capacity is being stretched and people are now waiting longer to get tested, delaying the identification of cases for follow-up. Meanwhile, the time between exposure to an infected person and then becoming contagious has shortened greatly with the Omicron variant. The effect of delayed testing, a faster-moving virus, and more cases and contacts stretching capacity is that Public Health is much less likely to be able to intervene early enough to break chains of transmission. The utility of following up with cases and contacts has diminished, and will become increasingly less valuable as testing delays increase and case numbers overwhelm Public Health’s capacity.
Public Health is beginning to shift resources instead to deliver booster doses which can better blunt the severity of the Omicron wave. Case management and contact tracing will increasingly be handed over to artificial intelligence tools and outsourced support.
NRPH will use a combination of communication methods, including provincial resources to notify individuals they have tested positive for COVID-19. This call may come from an unrecognized number or a text message; this text message will include a trusted and secure link. Anyone who has recently been tested is encouraged to answer all calls, respond to text messages concerning their diagnosis, and notify their close contacts.
If you test positive for COVID-19 by a PCR test or a rapid antigen test, follow these self-isolation guidelines:
As a person testing positive for COVID-19, one’s household members are required to self-isolate for 10 days from their last exposure to the person testing positive, regardless of vaccination or previous infection.
Individuals who have had a close personal interaction with a positive case for 15 minutes or longer are typically high-risk contacts. This time can be cumulative across multiple encounters during their infectious period.
All high-risk contacts associated (work, live, attend or volunteer) with a high-risk setting must self-isolate regardless of vaccination status or previous infection.
High-risk settings include
For high- risk contacts in settings other than high-risk settings
Regardless of vaccination status, or whether they work in a high-risk setting, NRPH recommends all high-risk contacts seek testing seven days after their last exposure, or sooner if they become symptomatic.
High-risk contacts can book an appointment for free testing at The Niagara Health System or the provincial website COVID-19 testing locations (ontario.ca). It is important to note that COVID-19 test sites are experiencing an unprecedented surge, so persons should book a test as soon as they can.
For more information on self-isolation guidelines visit niagararegion.ca/COVID19 or call the Call the COVID-19 Info-Line at 905-688-8248 or 1-888-505-6074 (press 7). The info-line is open Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.