COVID-19 isolation period reduced to 5 days for fully vaccinated Albertans

Alberta is reducing the mandatory isolation period for fully vaccinated people who contract COVID-19 to five days from the current 10, Health Minister Jason Copping announced Friday.

The change becomes effective Monday, Copping told a news conference.

People whose symptoms are resolving after five days of isolation will need to wear a mask when around others outside of home for another five days, Copping said.

Those who still have symptoms will have to remain in isolation.

Fully vaccinated means two doses of vaccine, or one dose of the Janssen vaccine, according to the province’s COVID-19 website.

Unvaccinated people who contract COVID-19 will still be required to isolate for 10 days, Copping said.

“We are making these changes to help prevent disruptions in the Alberta workforce, especially for those who deliver services that Albertans count on,” he said.

“We feel this step will help balance the need for continuity in the workforce, the well-being of Albertans, and our need to continue to reduce the spread of the Omicron variant.”

Copping said Alberta’s approach is in line with new direction taken in Ontario, and by the U.S. national Centers for Disease Control.

Exemptions in ‘exceptional circumstances’

Some workers will be exempt from the isolation period in “exceptional circumstances,” Copping said.

“We’re providing an exception for workplaces where disruption of service for 24 hours or more would be harmful to the public and where there is no other way to continue the service, except by bringing workers back before their isolation period has ended. 

“In these exceptional circumstances, additional health public health measures will be required. For example, returning workers would not be allowed to remove their masks when in the same room as anyone else at any time, even if they’re distanced.”

The new, highly contagious Omicron variant is spreading at unprecedented rates across the country, pushing Alberta to record-setting case counts and transmission rates. 

On Thursday, for the second day in a row, the province broke its single-day record for COVID-19 cases.

Preliminary data released by the Alberta government shows 4,000 new infections were recorded Thursday, eclipsing the previous high set the day before when 2,775 COVID-19 cases were reported.

The confirmed cases do not include results from at-home rapid antigen tests, the recommended testing method for most Albertans, outside of those in high-risk settings or who have high risk of severe outcome.

Hinshaw warned Tuesday that she expects the active case counts from government PCR tests to be “just the tip of the iceberg” of all active cases. 

Across the province, the positivity rate now hovers around 30 per cent, also a record high for the province.

As of Thursday, 371 people were in hospital with COVID-19 including 48 in intensive care.

Omicron has put a return to the classroom for Alberta students in limbo. 

At a news conference Thursday evening, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange announced that the winter break for kindergarten to Grade 12 will be extended to Jan. 10.

January diploma exams have also been cancelled.

Classes will resume Jan. 10, LaGrange said, but decisions on whether students will learn in class or at home have not been made yet.

“More information on next steps related to whether students will learn in class or at home beginning Jan. 10 will be communicated late next week,” the government said in a news release.

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