COVID-19 Ottawa: Epidemiologist Says Current Isolation Guidelines Unsustainable

An Ottawa epidemiologist is pushing for a change in policy regarding isolation and testing requirements as public health struggles to meet demand for COVID-19 testing.

The burgeoning variant of Omicron is also pushing businesses to the brink of concerns about the spread and access to testing.

“Out of concern for seriousness not only for our customers, but also for our staff, our family, we have made the decision to close this front door,” said Nick Milito, owner of Bella’s Boys Italian Kitchen.

The restaurant has decided to close its doors to indoor dining, so far only offering curbside pick-up.

Milito says the increase in COVID-19 cases is raising concerns about the spread in the community and the lack of access to testing for staff and family.

“You know two, three, four are affected by this variant and it’s going to have a serious impact,” he said.

On Monday, Château Lafayette also announced on social networks its indefinite closure due to a lack of staff.

“It has finally happened: we are out of staff,” said a post on the popular pub’s Instagram account. “We don’t know yet when we’ll reopen, but we’ll keep you posted. Stay healthy and safe there!”

Ottawa epidemiologist Dr Raywat Deonandan says current provincial guidelines requiring 10 days of isolation are not sustainable.

“We will get to the point where the exposures occur so frequently that we cannot keep people at home if they are asymptomatic,” Deonandan said.

As Canada hits two million confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic and Omicron rages on, Deonandan says it’s time to reassess policies around testing and isolation.

“I’m not saying open the doors wide. I’m not saying be careful. I’m not saying keep everything open,” he said. “I say reassess the isolation protocols to keep society running. So many people are going to have to be isolated, we have to rethink that. It’s probably not sustainable.”

He suggests greater use of rapid tests or a shorter isolation period for high-risk asymptomatic contacts.

His comments come as US health officials cut isolation and quarantine times from 10 to five days. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Monday that Americans who show no symptoms of COVID-19 after five days of isolation should be able to leave their homes, as long as they wear a mask when around others.

The CDC said the guidelines come amid growing evidence that people with the virus are most contagious in the two days before and three days after symptoms appear.

Other doctors, such as infectious disease physician Dr Sumon Chakrabarti, also called for a shortening of isolation guidelines in Canada on Monday.

“It must be done here immediately for essential workplaces”, Chakrabarti said on twitter. “The current quarantine period is far too long and is not supported by evidence (not to say extremely impractical).”

In Ottawa, public health has warned that access to PCR tests is limited.

Three pop-up test sites will distribute a quick test this week:

Thusday

  • Walter Baker Recreation Center at 100 Malvern Drive – 7 a.m.

  • St-Laurent Shopping Center on St-Laurent Boulevard – 10 a.m.

Friday

  • Walter Baker Recreation Center at 100 Malvern Drive – 7 a.m.

“Vaccination has changed the conversation dramatically,” Deonandan said. “Due to vaccination rates, the assault on the health care system is not as severe as it would have been.”

In Ottawa, nearly 100,000 doses of the vaccine were administered locally last week. This brings the total of those with at least one dose to 85% and counts. More than 243,000 residents have had recalls.

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