Ontario Premier Doug Ford said residents can expect an announcement on the province’s back-to-school plan early next week.
The premier said the comprehensive back-to-school plan will act upon the recommendations of science experts, which includes proper ventilation for schools. They have called for schools to remain open in all instances except the "most catastrophic scenarios," according to Global News. However, the province had the longest online schooling mandate across Canada.
Ontario’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore added on to the premier’s remarks, stating the public health measures outlined in the plan have yet to be finalized.
Moore said ultimately he wants a safe reopening of schools that factor in a significant amount of prevention. Among these include stricter isolation rules for unvaccinated 12 to 17-year-olds this fall. Moore said fully vaccinated students only need to take a COVID-19 test if in contact with a person deemed high-risk.
Fully vaccinated students who receive a negative COVID test can return to school, but those without immunization will be excluded from in-person schooling for at least 10 days. Moore said unvaccinated students could be out of class for up to 20 days depending on the test result, as they need to take a second COVID test after a week following the first test.
According to government data, 64 percent of youth aged 12 to 17 have one dose of a federal government-approved COVID vaccine. 42 percent are fully vaccinated.
Moore added that Ontario’s government is also devising a vaccination plan for children aged five to 12 as the province waits for approval to vaccinate that age group. He expects that to happen by late fall or early winter, reported Global News.
Moore is pressuring parents to get their children vaccinated, citing time is running out for full immunization to kick in before school starts in September. "There is an advantage, just alone … to being present in school, full participation in all sports and activities, by being immunized," he said Tuesday. "I hope that parents and students see that advantage."
However, he did not openly state whether he supported a vaccine mandate for students and school administration, adding "I don’t think it’s a necessary tool in our tool kit just yet," he said. Ford has said he doesn’t support the government mandating vaccines for workers and leaving it up to employers to develop their own vaccination policies.
Professional groups and opposing politicians continue to advocate mandatory vaccinations among essential workers, including healthcare workers and teachers. They cite the severity of a fourth wave as the primary factor.
Currently, 79 percent of eligible residents have received at least one dose.