‘Jabapalooza’ doctor has to cancel vaccinations, appointments after testing positive for COVID-19

Dr. Nili Kaplan-Myrth cautioned that individuals with any symptoms should not rely on rapid tests to rule out COVID-19 due to the risk that people may not be doing them correctly or are getting false negatives.

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COVID-19 has hit home for Dr. Nili Kaplan-Myrth, known for the “Jabapalooza” events that have vaccinated thousands of people in Ottawa.

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The Glebe family doctor and activist had to cancel plans to give fourth doses to 85 high-risk people Sunday and for in-person visits with patients after testing positive for the virus.

Kaplan-Myrth is feeling “just furious,” along with a sore throat, headache and other aches. She’s previously spoken out against Ontario’s move to lift most mask mandates last month — after limiting access to lab testing for COVID-19 — as indicators of transmission rise.

Kaplan-Myrth said she’s seen patients in person throughout the pandemic — and given 14,500 vaccine doses — while avoiding getting infected thanks to mask-wearing by staff and patients and running a high-efficiency particulate air filter in her office.

But after the mask mandate was lifted, unmasked customers started shopping at the store where her teen son works, she said. He was infected first. The family strictly limits activities beyond work and grocery shopping, she said.

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And Kaplan-Myrth said she won’t be heading back into work after the minimum isolation period.

“I will wait 10 days and I will make sure that I’m not symptomatic, that I don’t have a positive test anymore and the very first baby that I hold in my arms is going to be safe,” she said Monday.

In Ontario, people who have symptoms of the virus, or have tested positive, must isolate for at least five days if they are fully vaccinated or under age 12. They must isolate for at least 10 days if they are over age 12 and not fully vaccinated, immunocompromised or live in a high-risk setting.

The doctor cautioned that individuals with any symptoms should not rely on rapid tests to rule out COVID-19 due to the risk that people may not be doing them correctly or are getting false negatives.

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Physicians, and their families, are among the limited number of Ontarians eligible for polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests and Kaplan-Myrth said she tested positive on a more-sensitive PCR test within hours of a negative rapid test.

“If people are relying on the rapid tests and then they’re going about their activities as though they’re fine, and they’re not, because they have rapid tests, we’re spreading it more,” Kaplan-Myrth said.

“And unfortunately, for some kids, they’re still going to be asymptomatic.”

Kaplan-Myrth echoed the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, which said in February that rapid antigen tests are less sensitive for the Omicron variant in nasal samples, particularly soon after infection. People should first swab both cheeks, followed by the back of the tongue or throat, and then both nostrils.

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And given high transmission rates, “a single negative test result is not conclusive and should not be used as a green light for abandoning or reducing precautions,” the science table said Feb. 10.

Kaplan-Myrth also encouraged people to get vaccinated and boosted, if eligible, noting that she’s not worried about suffering the most serious outcomes of being infected because she has three doses. She is seeing patients with long-COVID symptoms.

“People need to know: Keeping up to date with boosters for COVID vaccine is important,” she said, adding adults need three doses and some seniors and immunocompromised people need a fourth.

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