Free rapid antigen tests coming to retailers

Free rapid antigen tests coming to retailers

During the Eastern Ontario Health Unit’s (EOHU) regular media brief on February 9, Dr. Paul Roumeliotis gave an overview of the current numbers regarding COVID-19 and an update on the free rapid antigen tests coming to retailers.

The region has 24 people hospitalized and five in the intensive care unit (ICU) for COVID-19. Roumeliotis said that these hospitalizations are due to the disease worsening in these patients, rather than just because of positive test results. Roumeliotis reported that the region is seeing a 17.9 percent positivity rate, which continues the downward trend the EOHU has been tracking, and that there are 29 outbreaks now in the region, down from the 50 range. The number of deaths has stabilized after a few weeks of going up.

Roumeliotis reported that 88 per cent of residents in the region have received their first vaccine dose, 82 per cent have received their second dose, and only 57 per cent have received their third dose so far. He said that about 44,000 more people need to receive their third dose to reach the EOHU’s target of 80 per cent.

The EOHU will be monitoring COVID-19 numbers as health measures continue to be removed and the province continues to open back up. As part of this, he said that free rapid antigen tests will be distributed through retailers across the province, a limit of one box of five tests per household per visit. He cautioned that the tests aren’t foolproof and are to be used to confirm cases in symptomatic people; a single positive test indicates COVID-19, but multiple tests taken over several days are necessary to confirm a negative result.

“Those rapid antigen tests are really to be used to diagnose’” he said. “If you’re symptomatic, if it’s positive, it’s reliable. If it’s negative, it’s not going to help unless it’s negative for a couple of days. It should be used for symptomatic confirmation, and that they help to decide if one should isolate or not. It should not be used for testing (to say) ‘I’m good, negative, I can go out and party.’”

He also mentioned that the recommended method of swabbing for home tests has changed and that details can be found on the Ministry of Health’s website.

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