Ontario will have different rules for vaccinated students and staff in the event of school outbreaks: official
Published Tuesday, July 27, 2021 4:02PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, July 27, 2021 8:16PM EDT
Ontario’s top public health official says that there will be different rules for students and staff who have been fully vaccinated once schools reopen in the fall.
The Ford government is still preparing its back-to-school plan with the intention of releasing it to the public within the next “few weeks.”
While officials have so far insisted that there are no plans to make vaccines mandatory for students and education workers, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore told reporters on Tuesday that there will be a “different approach” taken for vaccinated and unvaccinated students and staff when it comes to outbreak management.
Moore said that unlike last year when entire classes were required to isolate at home due to positive cases in the school environment, students and staff can look forward to a new model in the fall which will in effect accelerate the return to classes for those who have been fully vaccinated.
“If you are two-dose vaccinated plus 14 days we will offer you a test if you've been a contact of a high-risk person. So someone that's had ongoing fever and cough or increasing shortness of breath and if you test negative you can go right back to school, you can go right back to work, so there is a terrific advantage of being two-dose immunized by being able to stay in school and attend sports and participate fully in all the social activities of the school setting,” he said. “If you are not immunized and you've been in contact with the high risk contact, you'll be off for a minimum of 10 days and you will have to get two tests, one initially and then another around day seven. If that test day seven is positive, you're off for another 10 days so you can see that there's a potential for up to 20 days off from school because you weren't immunized.”
Moore’s comments regarding different rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated students and staff come as the window to get both doses of the vaccine prior to the resumption of classes in September starts to close.
Today in fact is the last day that someone could get their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and still receive their second dose 14 days prior to the first day of classes on Sept. 9.
Speaking with reporters, Moore said that Ontario is continuing to make “good headway” among youth ages 12 to 17 when it comes to vaccination but he said that about 35 per cent of that group, adding up to roughly 300,000 students, still haven’t received their first dose.
Provincial data also indicates that demand for first doses is slowing among Ontario youth. In July there was a 500 per cent increase in second doses administered to the 12 to 17 demographic but first doses only rose by 13 per cent, despite a significant increase in supply that made vaccines widely available.
“While the last thing that students want to think about on a summer vacation, it is in fact back to school time today. So this is a call to arms for all those students who haven't yet received their first doses to start thinking about it this week, today,” Moore said. “School starts 42 days from now. It is time to act so Ontario’s youth can begin the school year as safely and normally as possible.”
Last week a SickKids-led group of experts released their recommendations for the return to classes in the fall.
Their paper argued that schools in communities with a low number of COVID-19 hospitalizations should be able to forgo physical distancing and cohorting while adopting a more relaxed approach when it comes to masking and screening students for symptoms.
With files from CTV News Toronto's Colin D'Mello.