Rapid antigen test (RAT) kits for COVID-19 are available to the public for free from the health unit. Test kits can be picked up at all health unit offices (excluding the 80 Bradford St. clinic in Barrie) during regular business hours while supplies last.
Although anyone can access a RAT kit, they are especially recommended for individuals who are at higher risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19, such as those over age 60 and those who have medical conditions or are immuno-compromised. This is because there is an effective oral anti-viral treatment against COVID-19 for those higher risk groups. To find out in advance or when you fall ill if you would be eligible and recommended for this treatment if you test positive for COVID-19, go to the provincial anti-viral screener.
Over the past several months, Simcoe Muskoka has experienced an increase in COVID-19 related hospitalizations and deaths and the COVID-19 Community Risk Level continues to remain at the ‘High’ level. The health unit recommends that individuals be aware of the local risk of respiratory virus through the COVID-19 Community Risk Level and Weekly Respiratory Virus Update. This information will allow individuals to assess their own personal circumstances that could put them at higher risk, and they can then take necessary precautions to protect themselves and others against transmission of respiratory viruses and severe illness.
The health unit recommends getting the current COVID-19 and influenza vaccines as soon as you are eligible to reduce the risk of becoming severely ill and to protect those closest to you. Individuals aged six months and older are able to receive the COVID-19 XBB vaccine formulation free of charge at participating local pharmacies and some health care providers.
The influenza vaccine is available free of charge to individuals aged five years and older at participating local pharmacies, health care providers and health unit clinics. Children aged six months to two years may receive the influenza vaccine from a doctor, nurse, or health unit clinic by appointment.
In addition to getting vaccinated, it is important to layer protective measures to prevent illness by staying home when you are sick with any symptoms of respiratory illness and keeping children home from school or child care if they are ill, cleaning hands and disinfecting high-touch surfaces frequently, and wearing a mask in indoor public settings, especially if you are at higher risk of severe infection.
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