While a summer lull in COVID-19 infections is welcome, experts stress that doesn’t mean you should completely lower your guard.
Here are some answers to pressing pandemic questions as we navigate our fourth pandemic summer.
Should I stay home when I have cold and flu symptoms?
Yes, staying home when you have viral symptoms or signs of a respiratory infection is recommended — whether or not you test positive for COVID, says Dr. Fahad Razak, an internist at St. Michael’s Hospital, a part of Unity Health Toronto.
“It’s good public health hygiene. Viral infections are transmissible; no one likes to get sick and miss school, miss work, miss family events. And you don’t want to expose someone who is higher-risk, like an elderly family member or someone who has an underlying illness.”
Razak says the pandemic has shown the effectiveness of public health measures, including staying home when sick.
“We know now that you can do a lot to protect yourself and those around you by keeping basic protective measures in place.”
Should I still take a rapid test?
Though COVID levels are dipping, taking a rapid test when you have a fever and other flu-like symptoms is still important, says Sarah Otto, a professor at the University of British Columbia and researcher with Canada’s Coronavirus Rapid Response Network, known as CoVaRR-Net.
She notes that during the summer months a viral infection is unlikely to be influenza.
“It’s much more likely now that it’s COVID because we just don’t have flu circulating at the moment,” she says, adding those who are COVID-positive should stay home and isolate as best they can until they test negative on a rapid test.
“It is still a very lethal disease, especially for the elderly. If you are infected, you want to keep your contacts clear of the virus.”
Where can I get rapid tests in Ontario?
The province is “winding down broad access to free rapid antigen tests” and suggests individuals call ahead to participating retailers and pharmacies, who will continue to provide tests as supplies last.
Those at high risk of severe disease from COVID and those who live and work in high-risk settings will continue to have access to rapid tests, according to the province. Participating pharmacies will provide PCR testing to at-risk individuals.
When should I get another COVID vaccine?
The National Advisory Committee on Immunizations (NACI) is recommending a COVID booster this fall for people whose last dose — or last known infection — was recorded more than six months ago.
The new guidance, released this week, states an updated vaccine formulation targeting more transmissible variants is expected in the autumn.
NACI stresses COVID vaccines are important for vulnerable groups, including: adults 65 and older; residents of long-term-care homes and other congregate living settings; those with underlying health conditions; pregnant people; individuals in or from First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities; members of racialized and other equity-deserving communities; and people who provide essential community services.
What is Ontario recommending?
Ontario’s Ministry of Health is asking people to consider delaying their booster until the fall and the start of respiratory infection season “to maximize protection against COVID-19 outcomes when peak circulation of the virus is expected.”
The province stated that getting a booster dose sooner “may be appropriate for certain individuals based on their unique health status and personal situation.”
The province said more information on the fall booster campaign will be available in the coming weeks.