Confusion over isolation requirements leaves some parents frustrated

·3 min read
Two under-19 ringette teams are in isolation, along with coaches and officials, after a potential COVID-19 exposure at a game in Charlottetown last week.   (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC - image credit)
Two under-19 ringette teams are in isolation, along with coaches and officials, after a potential COVID-19 exposure at a game in Charlottetown last week. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC - image credit)

Close contacts of certain COVID-19 exposures on P.E.I. are questioning why they have to isolate while others do not.

About 200 contacts of the Three Oaks High School case are not required to isolate right now. Most of them can keep going to school as long as they're fully vaccinated, do a rapid test each morning and test negative.

But ringette players who were exposed to a case of COVID-19 during a game last week in Charlottetown were told to isolate by the Chief Public Health Office.

"I find that a little unfair," said Kim Hardy, who has a daughter on the team.

"I don't know where you draw the line with making one person isolate due to a potential exposure, and another person — same type of exposure — being able to do the testing and carry on."

Hardy's daughter is fully vaccinated and has been in isolation since but hasn't been given the option to do daily rapid tests and to go back to school.

Kim Hardy
Kim Hardy

The isolation requirement has been a challenge for her daughter and the rest of her family, Hardy said.

"She can't go to school, and she's a child that loves school. And I have two other kids. I have to make sure they don't go near her, and that she has her own washroom to use.... It's been a little disruptive."

Dr. Heather Morrison, the province's chief public health officer, said whether close contacts need to isolate, and for how long, depends on the circumstances and level of risk.

In the case of the exposure at Three Oaks, the public health office determined the risk of transmission was low, and even lower for those who just travelled on the same buses as the positive case.

Shane Hennessy/CBC
Shane Hennessy/CBC

"It'd be similar in workplaces or sports teams. Where we think there's been a higher risk of transmission, they're being treated almost as if their household or higher-risk close contacts," Morrison said.

The public health office decided those bus contacts are safe to return to school and to do the daily rapid tests, regardless of vaccination status.

Other close contacts can go back to school, too, as long as they're fully vaccinated.

Sports teams treated differently

The public health office performs a risk assessment to determine whether an isolation requirement is necessary, Morrison said.

"When we find enough information where we can proceed with a testing option, I think in these cases, at the school or on the buses, we're able to do that."

She said sports teams are treated differently from other close contact situations.

"They're being treated almost as if their household or higher risk close contacts. For instance, if someone drives with someone [in] a car for eight hours for their work, they'd be similar to a household contact in terms of exposure."

Morrison said that in the future there may be cases outside of the school setting where the public health office allows close contacts to take a daily rapid test and avoid isolation.

But that would only be done if it's decided they can do that without putting others at risk, she said.

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