The province is no longer requiring daycares and early learning centres to notify close contacts of COVID-19 cases.
The announcement was made during the weekly COVID-19 press conference on Wednesday. Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, said the decision puts these facilities in line with schools in the province.
"Right now, we’re dealing with omicron and the nature of this virus is not conducive to widespread contact tracing," he said. "If we see a change in the virus again, then perhaps, there may be a need for it."
The new measure will come into effect Friday. He explained staff of these facilities, as well as family and home daycare providers, should continue to monitor for symptoms daily. With omicron spreading so quickly and having a shorter incubation period compared to the delta variant, the current standard of contact tracing is not effective.
The province made similar changes to close contact notification at schools earlier this month, he explained, pointing out the province needs to shift its strategy to find ways to mitigate the risk of COVID-19, instead of containing it.
Roussin said overall, COVID-19 has been less severe in younger ages and they haven’t seen many extreme outcomes in children. Removing children from schools and daycares has taken a great toll on parents and the children themselves, so the province is trying to ease some of that burden with this shift in contact tracing, he added.
The province said public health officials will continue to monitor overall cases in the centres and may contact a facility if increased COVID-19 activity is detected.
Home-based centres should follow the same guidance that applies to other child-care centres, Roussin said.
There is some hope the latest wave is about to peak, though. Roussin said analysis of the virus in wastewater from Winnipeg is showing the virus may have peaked at the beginning of the month. There has been some movement downwards, but he pointed out the numbers have spiked and dropped a number of times over the past few weeks.
"It’s a good indicator, but it is also early and we haven’t seen a dramatic decrease. I would like to say we have hit a peak, or about to, but we are continuing to monitor for changes in the presence of the virus," he said. The province is not sharing the wastewater data with the public yet as it is still under analysis.
The government and advisors look at a number of variables, such as hospitalization and intensive care admissions, to determine if a wave has peaked, Roussin said. He said both appear to have stabilized over the past week, but they will continue to monitor for changes.
Whether or not this will have any effect on current restrictions set to expire Feb. 1 is still unknown. Roussin said there would be an announcement in the coming days, but would not elaborate or say if measures would be eased, tightened or maintained.
Vaccines, masking, maintaining proper hygiene and staying home if feeling ill remain the best ways to combat the spread of the virus.
The province is moving toward getting more children vaccinated, said Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead for the province’s vaccine implementation task force. She implored parents that have children under 12 to get their vaccines as soon as possible.
For youth 12 to 17 years, she said, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is still going over data for booster shots for this age group. She said people should not be surprised if no booster shot is recommended, though, as data is showing it may not be justified as they are less likely to become severely ill from COVID infections and they are also well-protected by the two-dose vaccine regimen.
"But to be clear, I haven’t seen the data. But NACI’s job is to evaluate the data to make the best possible recommendation," she said. "I have no opinion on it, but I am looking forward to what they recommend."
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