Omicron — What should I know about TESTING and RISK
What is the difference between a PCR Test and a Rapid Test?
For the PCR you'll need to go to a testing centre, and with this test it will take several days before you get the result. The PCR has been the standard test used in testing centers and has been used at international borders crossings. In a newly infected person, the PCR test is likely to become positive almost immediately.
You should now be able to obtain rapid tests (Rapid Antigen Test) throughout Dufferin County. at pharmacies and grocery stores. You perform the test yourself and it gives you a result in matter of minutes.
If you become infected with COVID-19 your rapid test will be negative on the day of infection. It will take a few days until you will test positive. If you get symptoms — usually a runny nose or sore throat or unusual fatigue — the test will usually be negative on the first day of your symptoms. You should test yourself on the third day of illness and if negative retest 48 hours later. If still negative, it's highly unlikely you have COVID. However, if the test is positive, it's usually very accurate. You have COVID.
The most recent recommendations for accurate results when doing the rapid test are to swab both cheeks, followed by the back of the throat or tongue, and then both your nostrils. Place this swab in each cheek and roll it gently, swab the back of the throat or tongue, and then place it into each nostril straight back until it gets to the tickle point and roll it again. Directions are with the test kit and must be followed carefully. It has been found that the Omicron virus seems to start in the mouth and then move over time to the nose, a fact that has resulted in the advice to test in both mouth and nose.
About the risk: It is well known that Omicron is the latest COVID-19 variant and that it passes from one person to another very easily. Fortunately, in Ontario and in Dufferin County this wave peeked around mid January and we have been on the down slope since then.
For assessing previous waves, we have relied on new case numbers as indicated by COVID testing of symptomatic and asymptomatic persons. Unfortunately, with this wave, we were not able to continue with community testing — largely because the testing capabilities were swamped by the massive size of the omicron wave. Wastewater testing has now become the standard means of assessing community infection. Wastewater testing evaluates the amount of active virus in the community and relates directly to the number of people that are infected and provides a number known as a signal. The size of the signal is directly proportional to the number of active cases in the community. Province wide we currently test wastewater from 101 treatment plants and pumping stations in all 34 of our Ontario Public Health Units. This covers almost all persons in urban areas. The signal has been decreasing since mid-January. Currently its strength decreases by 50% every 10 days. Clearly, we are currently on the downslope of the Omicron wave. The signal is still significantly higher than it was prior to the Omicron wave, which indicates that there are more people currently infected with COVID than there were prior to Omicron’s arrival in Ontario
Well, what then is my personal risk?
We know that the Omicron virus passes from one individual to another more easily than previous variants. We also know that with this variant the standard 2 jab vaccination is not nearly as protective as with previous variants. With three jabs (including a booster) you are much less likely to get the disease. If you have not been able to or have chosen not to get vaccinated you have a 10 to 12 times greater risk of being admitted to an ICU and potentially requiring a ventilator than if you have had 2 or 3 vaccinations. As it has been with all other variants the risk of death is higher for persons over 70 years of age and higher still for persons over 80 years of age. Risk is again increased if you have other health conditions such as diabetes, cancer or are immunocompromised.
The virus usually/almost always is passed on in an indoor setting. Although initially in the pandemic it was thought that the virus was passed from one person to another when they were within six feet or closer by coughing or sneezing or otherwise expelling large respiratory droplets this is no longer thought to be the dominant method of spread. It is now clear that most infections are transmitted through fine droplets that float about in the air for minutes to hours. These droplets — sometimes called aerosols — are produced by normal breathing and talking and in larger quantities by shouting, coughing and singing. The best way to prevent transmission from an infected person is to not be in an indoor place especially if poorly ventilated where aerosols can accumulate, be fully vaccinated and be well masked. A good mask should be held to your face without air leaks. N95 or KN 95 masks are now more available especially online. Their ability to prevent you from receiving these fine droplets is extremely good and is many times better than the standard blue surgical mask or triple layered cloth mask.
Can I repeatedly use my mask?
Yes, just keep it clean and store it in your car or at home in a clean container or plastic bag. It is estimated that you can use an N95 or KN95 mask for about 40 hours before disposing of it. This depends on you keeping it clean and it being intact. Virus particles do not accumulate on it from day to day. The virus “dies” when outside the human body. An N95 or KN95 will not be as effective if it is washed. It will lose some of its superior efficiency due to loss of its electrical charge — an important function that is there to attract small particles. Blue — looking like paper — surgical masks cannot be washed and should be disposed of — probably after a day of use, while three-layer cloth masks can be repeatedly washed and reused.