Isolation and school dismissal rules in Mississauga and Ontario now depend on vaccination status

Published August 11, 2021 at 8:23 pm

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Isolation rules for Ontarians considered close contacts of someone who has COVID-19 now vary depending on vaccination status, including in school settings where cases are expected to pop up this fall. 

New guidance from the province issued Wednesday said fully vaccinated people in contact with positive cases don’t have to isolate unless they develop symptoms or are directed to do so by public health.

That guidance also applies to those who tested positive for the virus within the last 90 days. 

In its school-specific guidance, the province said fully immunized, high-risk contacts of positive or likely COVID-19 cases don’t have to isolate or be dismissed from classes unless they have symptoms.

Symptomatic people are directed to isolate and get tested, but their return-to-school date depends on their vaccination status.

Vaccinated individuals with symptoms who receive a negative COVID-19 test result can return to school if their symptoms improve over 24 hours, or after 48 hours if they had gastrointestinal symptoms. 

Unvaccinated, high-risk contacts of positive or likely cases need to isolate for 10 days and it’s recommended that they take a COVID-19 test seven days into their isolation. In school settings, the isolation period is counted from the last known date of exposure to the case, or last date of exposure to the cohort if the exact date isn’t known.

There are some exceptional situations in which asymptomatic, vaccinated contacts of positive or likely cases may be dismissed from school. 

For example, if a cohort is largely not immunized or their vaccination status isn’t known, the province said dismissing the whole group can be considered. Otherwise, it might be sufficient to dismiss unvaccinated people only, the province said. 

A health unit might dismiss of an entire school if there’s evidence of widespread transmission, more than one cohort is affected, epidemiological links aren’t identified or if a “vaccine escape variant” is among the cases. 

School-wide testing is recommended if several cohorts are infected, if five to 10 per cent of staff and students have COVID-19 over two weeks, or as part of investigations to assess risk, among other possible scenarios.

Household members of those who are close contacts of positive cases have to abide by similar rules, dependent on vaccination status and symptoms. 

If the high-risk contact is vaccinated with no symptoms, their unvaccinated household members should stay home except for essential reasons like school or work while the high-risk contact is isolating. 

If high-risk contact has symptoms, unvaccinated household members should isolate until that person gets a negative test result. Vaccinated, asymptomatic household members of high-risk contacts don’t have to isolate.

Public health units are directed to investigate possible sources of infection when cases are detected in school settings. 

If the person didn’t attend school when considered “communicable,” or if it’s determined they were infected outside of school, their cohort shouldn’t be required to isolate or get tested, the province said.

Children under 12 aren’t currently eligible to receive any of the COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada. 

The latest provincial guidance comes as cases in Ontario have been on the rise — 324 new infections were reported Thursday. 

The province said 234 of the new cases are in unvaccinated people, 32 are in people with one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 58 are in fully vaccinated people.

Ontario’s top doctor has predicted cases will keep rising, particularly as fall approaches, but says that shouldn’t be a cause for panic. He’s also noted that breakthrough infections in fully vaccinated people tend to be milder, but also happen more frequently in older people.

There were 108 people in intensive care with COVID-related critical illness and 70 people on ventilators.

Eighty-two per cent of adults in Ontario have one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 73 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press

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