Finding Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) will soon become much easier.
Ontario is expecting to receive up to 119 million RATs this month as residents have been scrambling to find free tests amid record-breaking coronavirus infections in the province.
Ontario has distributed 55 million rapid tests from a supply procured by both the federal (34 million tests) and provincial governments (20 million tests).
Of those, two million were handed out during the holiday pop-up blitz, 5.7 million to essential industries, 7.3 million through chambers of commerce for businesses remaining open during the pandemic, 17.5 million to the education and child care sector, and 22.6 million to health and congregate care settings.
RATs will be prioritized for "test-to-work'' purposes in high-risk settings with critical work shortages, such as long-term care homes and hospitals, where staff can return to work after a negative test even after exposure to the virus.
Priority will also be given to educational settings for symptomatic and screen testing and for screen testing in sectors with unvaccinated employees.
So, what if you test positive?
According to Jeff Moco, Chronic Disease and Well Being Team for Chatham-Kent, it is important to isolate if you test positive on a RAT.
"If you test positive from a PCR test, rapid molecular test, or a rapid antigen test, you must isolate,'' said Moco. "If you tested positive on a rapid antigen test, you no longer need to book a PCR test to confirm your results.''
He added if you are fully vaccinated, and otherwise healthy or are under 12 years old, you must isolate for five days from when your symptoms began or from the date of your test, whichever came first. Moco said you could end isolation after five days if your symptoms are improved for at least 24 hours, and all public health and safety measures, such as masking and physical distancing, are followed.
Those who are not fully vaccinated or are immunocompromised must isolate for 10 days after their symptoms began or their positive test result, whichever came first.
Moco clarified the people you live with must also isolate at the same time, whether they are fully vaccinated or not.
Furthermore, those who work or live in a high risk-health care setting, including hospitals, long-term care, retirement homes, congregate living settings, must notify their employer and isolate for 10 days from their exposure or symptom onset or their date of diagnosis.
Moco said to ensure sufficient staffing levels, workers in these settings will have the opportunity to return to work early on day seven of their isolation, with a negative PCR test or two negative rapid antigen tests on days six and seven.
"Due to the limits placed on who can get a PCR test at the moment, employers should be accepting an employee's rapid result when providing the details to them,'' said Moco.
Instructions for individuals who have been exposed to COVID-19 or test positive with a PCR or rapid antigen, detailed instructions can be found by visiting ckphu.com/prevent-the-spread.
There is, however, financial assistance to those who cannot work due to a COVID-19 lockdown.
Administered by the Canada Revenue Agency, the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit (CWLB) gives temporary income support to employed and self-employed people who cannot work due to a COVID-19 lockdown.
The CWLB is only available when a COVID-19 lockdown order is designated for your region. Ontario is currently under lockdown.
If you are eligible for the CWLB, you can receive $300 ($270 after taxes withheld) for each 1-week period. You may apply for any weeks your region is eligible between October 24, 2021, and May 7, 2022.
Additionally, jobless Canadians who refuse to get vaccinated for COVID-19 could be shut out of unemployment benefits.
According to Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough, as long as there's a public health emergency, unvaccinated workers who lose hours or their job may not be eligible for employment insurance benefits.
"As long as the collective public health of Canadians is jeopardized, and our economy is thereby threatened, we're going to have to keep public health policy top of mind in our employment and labour and economic decision making,'' said Qualtrough.