New Provincial Regulations & Vaccination Policy Update (Our Advice Remains Unchanged)
People in Ontario infected with COVID will no longer have to self-isolate for 5-days and will instead only need to stay home for 24 hours after symptoms begin easing (which is standard advice for any other virus such as a cold or the flu, suggesting the province is moving towards treating COVID like any other respiratory illness). What is confusing for employers is that this comes at a time when many local health units are increasing their COVID-19 risk indexes from “moderate” to “high.”
Despite the province’s more permissive approach, local and regional health units continue to recommend several precautions which we expect will increase in the weeks ahead. Despite local health unit advisories, at the provincial-level, key takeaways from this week’s announcement include:
- If you have symptoms from any respiratory illness (including COVID) you can return to work after those symptoms have improved for at least 24 hours (5-days of isolation is no longer required).
- If you have a fever, stay home until it’s completely gone.
- If you have gastrointestinal symptoms, stay home until symptoms have improved for at least 48 hours.
- After isolating at home, wear a mask in public for 10 days from the onset of symptoms.
- If you’re in the same household as someone who is sick or who has tested positive for COVID, mask in public spaces and avoid vulnerable individuals and settings for 10 days after exposure. Seek testing if you develop symptoms.
Our advice remains the same and is very simple – maintain your Vaccination Policyuntil at least the end of this year. While you will continue to need to adjust your COVID safety precautions to take into account provincial and local health unit advisories, there is no need to make substantial changes and we strongly advise against dismantling the careful foundation that has been established with your existing policy framework (for those of you that have implemented policies).
There is no need to over-react to conflicting policy changes. You are free to match the loosening of provincial regulations in your workplace but ultimately it is at your discretion as an employer to determine your own COVID policy. If you have legitimate health and safety concerns in your workplace and wish to maintain a 5-day isolation period following a COVID infection, you can do so (do not read this to mean we are recommending you follow a longer isolation period than the province is requiring, however).
Expect more confusion (and speculation) in the weeks ahead as provincial rulings conflict with local public health advice (particularly as we enter the peak flu season, which we hope will be a safe and uneventful one).
Rest assured that we are carefully monitoring these changes to keep you informed and to provide as much clarity as possible. In the meantime, we remain available to help you to navigate and apply these changes in your workplace.