Ottawa doctor suggests current COVID-19 isolation guidelines unsustainable
An Ottawa epidemiologist is pushing for a change of policy for isolation and testing requirements as public health struggles to keep up with demand for COVID-19 testing.
The surging Omicron variant is also pushing businesses to the brink over concerns of spread and access to testing.
"Out of serious concerns for not only our customers, but our staff, our family, we've made this decision to close that front door," said Nick Milito, owner of Bella's Boys Italian Kitchen.
The restaurant has decided to close its doors to indoor dining, offering only curbside pick up for now.
Milito says rising COVID-19 cases are causing concern about community spread, and lack of access to testing for staff and family.
"You know two, three, four get hit with this variant and it's going to have a serious impact," he said.
On Monday, the Chateau Lafayette also announced on social media it was closing indefinitely due to a shortage of staff.
"It finally happened: we have run out of staff," a post on the popular pub's Instagram account said. "We aren’t sure when we will reopen yet, but we will keep you posted. Stay healthy and safe out there!"
Ottawa epidemiologist, Dr. Raywat Deonandan says the current provincial guidelines requiring 10 days of isolation aren't sustainable.
"We will get to the point where exposures are happening so commonly that we can't keep people at home if they're asymptomatic," Deonandan said.
As Canada hits two million confirmed COVID-19 cases 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 blow the doors wide open. I'm not saying throw caution to the wind. I'm not saying keep everything open," he said. "I'm saying reassess isolation protocols to keep society running. So many people are going to have to be isolated we have to rethink this. It's probably not tenable."
He suggests greater use of rapid tests or a shorter isolation period for asymptomatic high-risk contacts.
His comments come as U.S. health officials cut isolation and quarantine timelines from 10 days to five. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that Americans who have no COVID-19 symptoms after five days of isolation should be able to leave their homes, so long as they wear a mask when around others.
The CDC said the guidance comes amid growing evidence that people with the virus are most infectious in the two days before and three days after symptoms develop.
Other doctors, such as infectious disease physician Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, also called for a shortening of isolation guidelines in Canada Monday.
"This needs to be done here pronto for essential workplaces," Chakrabarti said on Twitter. "Current quarantine duration is way too long and not supported by evidence (not to mention extremely impractical)."
In Ottawa, public health has warned access to PCR testing is limited.
Three pop-up testing sites will be handing out rapid test this week:
- Walter Baker Recreation Centre at 100 Malvern Drive – 7 a.m.
- St. Laurent Shopping Centre on St. Laurent Boulevard – 8 a.m. (new time)
- Walter Baker Recreation Centre at 100 Malvern Drive – 7 a.m.
"Vaccination has changed the conversation substantially," Deonandan said. "Because of the rates of vaccination, the assault on the healthcare system is not nearly as bad as it would've been."
In Ottawa, nearly 100,000 vaccine doses were administered locally last week. That brings the total of those with at least one dose to 85% and counting. More than 243,000 residents have had boosters.
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