The Omicron variant is proving to be incredibly transmissible and earlier this week the Province announced a return to Stage Two of Reopening Ontario. These changes include limiting indoor gatherings to five or fewer, and outdoor gatherings limited to 10 people. Outdoor public events have no limit on attendees; however, everyone must be wearing masks when physical distancing cannot be maintained. 

Other Provincial changes include limiting retail businesses to 50% capacity and safety measures for shopping malls, including capacity limits, distancing in line-ups, and food courts closed. Indoor service in restaurants is closed again but take-out and delivery options remain available as well as outdoor dining with no more than 10 people per table. All fitness centres are closed unless athletes are training for the Olympics or Paralympics, and select professional and elite amateur sports leagues who will operate via an approved Provincial framework from the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

On December 31, 2021, the Province of Ontario also announced changes to eligibility for PCR testing, which will now be strictly limited to symptomatic individuals who work at, live in, or visit high-risk settings such as hospitals, long-term care facilities, shelters (and more) along with any high-risk contacts to the aforementioned groups during confirmed or suspected outbreaks. Members of the public outside of the previous groups are not eligible for publicly-funded PCR testing and are asked to instead isolate themselves. With the elimination of PCR tests, the Province wants you to assume you have COVID-19 and are contagious. If you are vaccinated and have symptoms of COVID-19, then you are now only required to isolate for five days after your symptoms start. If you are unvaccinated or immunocompromised, you must continue to isolate for 10 days. 

The Province states that these public health restrictions are necessary. But this development has resulted in an undue strain on our health system including delaying surgeries in order to accommodate increased patients as well as medical staff shortages due to contagion. While Omicron symptoms are less severe, the onslaught of new cases could very easily overwhelm our hospitals. The seven-day rolling average of patients in ICU stands at 221 and there are at least 1,290 people with the virus in Ontario hospitals, compared to 1,232 a day ago.

Lastly, the transmission of COVID-19 is airborne. Please, if you are able, wear a mask that is tight-fitting and high quality such as N95 KN95, stay home, and if you are able to get vaccinated as that is your greatest protection. Everyone 18 years or older is eligible for both vaccine doses, and their booster shot. Please go as soon as you’re able. You can book your appointment through the Provincial Booking Portal or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900 to book over the phone. This line is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., 7 days a week.

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Parents, guardians and caregivers can book a first dose appointment for a child aged 5 to 11 through one of the following methods:

  • Book an appointment at our Thorncliffe Park Community Hub clinic using the Michael Garron Hospital booking system online or by calling 437-537-5131. This clinic will be open on select dates during the holidays.
  • Walk in to a mobile school clinic in East Toronto. Some of these clinics will be open during the holidays.
  • Book an appointment at another clinic using the provincial booking system online or by calling 1-833-943-3900.
  • Book an appointment at a local pharmacy offering the vaccine for children aged 5 to 11.
  • Contact your primary care provider or paediatrician to confirm if they are offering the vaccine for children aged 5 to 11.

COVID-19 Resources for Children Aged 5 to 11:

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Accessing PCR tests in Don Valley East

East Toronto Health Network and Michael Garron Hospital are working together to provide PCR testing and at-home rapid tests for those who need them.

Effective this week, some of their COVID-19 Outreach Centres will offer PCR testing to eligible individuals. See if you are eligible to receive a PCR test, according to guidance from the Ontario government.

See updated information for each COVID-19 Outreach Centre: tehn.ca/CovidOutreachCentres

As per provincial guidance, take-home COVID-19 PCR test kits provided by Michael Garron Hospital are now for symptomatic students and education staff who meet testing eligibility. Eligible individuals can pick up and drop off test kits at the MGH COVID-19 Assessment Centre or our COVID-19 Outreach Centres.

You do not need an appointment to pick up or drop off a take-home test kit. Due to increased testing volumes and limited supply, availability of take-home test kits varies at the sites. It is recommended that eligible individuals pick up one take-home test kit at a time. Additional kits may be provided on a case-by-case basis. (For example, if a family has multiple children who need a test.)

FAQ about MGH’s take-home PCR test kits.

Take-home PCR test kit instructions in Amharic, Arabic, Bengali, French, Pashto, Slovak, Tigrinya and Urdu.

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The following reliable resources are available so you can stay up-to-date with the latest information regarding COVID-19 at each of the municipal, provincial and federal levels.

• City of Toronto: https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/
• Public Health Ontario: https://www.ontario.ca/page/2019-novel-coronavirus
• Public Health Canada: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html
• World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

On Social Media, there are a number of accounts you can follow to get reliable and trustworthy information: 

• City of Toronto: https://twitter.com/cityoftoronto
• Toronto Public Health: https://twitter.com/TOPublicHealth
• Dr. de Villa: https://twitter.com/epdevilla
• TFS Chief Pegg: https://twitter.com/ChiefPeggTFS
• Mayor John Tory: https://twitter.com/JohnTory
• Brad Ross: https://twitter.com/bradrossTO
• Government of Ontario: https://twitter.com/ONgov
• Public Health Ontario: https://twitter.com/ONThealth
• Premier Ford: https://twitter.com/fordnation
• Minister of Health Christine Elliot: https://twitter.com/celliottability
• Ontario Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management: https://twitter.com/OntarioWarnings
• Prime Minister Trudeau: https://twitter.com/JustinTrudeau
• Dr. Theresa Tam: https://twitter.com/CPHO_Canada
• Minister of Health Canada Patty Hajdu: https://twitter.com/PattyHajdu
• Federal Public Service: https://twitter.com/pspc_spac
• Health Canada and Public Health Agency of Canada: https://twitter.com/GovCanHealth
• Global Affairs Canada: https://twitter.com/GAC_Corporate