COVID-19: Mandatory staff vaccines set for Toronto school board; 678 new cases in Ontario; Ottawa adds 17 cases

Article content

Ontario’s largest school board will require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.


Article content

The Toronto District School Board voted unanimously Wednesday night to develop a mandatory vaccination policy for staff, trustees and visitors to schools. The policy would be in place, if possible, before schools reopen there on Sept. 9.

Several trustees said the move will increase safety during the pandemic and they hope other school boards will follow suit.

“I think this is one of those very critical and important moments when trustees are leading in an essential way that quite literally in this case can have the impact of saving lives,” said trustee Jennifer Story.

“We are the first school board to grapple with this. That is daunting, and that is scary to contemplate that we are out there on the ledge, but I also think it’s something that when we get to the other side of this, we’ll all be very proud that we took this leadership…”

A spokesperson for the board said he was not aware of any other Ontario school board that has adopted a mandatory vaccination policy.


Article content

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board is set to consider the issue of mandatory vaccinations for staff, students and volunteers. Debate on several motions from trustee Lyra Evans was scheduled for Tuesday, but trustees ran out of time and the meeting is rescheduled for Aug. 31.

Some Ontario colleges and universities have adopted mandatory vaccination policies, and there has been pressure for school boards to do the same. Groups representing doctors, nurses, education unions and the association of English public school boards have called for mandatory vaccinations for education employees.

The provincial government has directed school boards to offer regular rapid testing for employees who are not immunized.


Article content

Toronto board trustee Anu Sriskandarajah, at Wednesday’s meeting, acknowledged that the mandatory vaccination policy will be complicated to enforce and might disrupt school organization just as classes resume this fall, with teachers possibly reassigned. “I think parents will be OK with that, knowing that it is for the greater good, and making sure that everybody is safe.”

The board’s motion said employees who don’t provide proof of vaccination will attend a mandatory education session on the benefits of vaccines. The  board will accommodate employees who are legally entitled to them under human rights legislation.

Ontario reported 678 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday but no new deaths.

Across the province, 302 people are in hospital with the disease, including 165 in intensive care.


Article content

The province reported 15 new cases in Ottawa, although local public health data often varies slightly and will be released later Thursday.

The Eastern Ontario health unit reported 10 new cases of COVID-19. There was one case reported in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark and none in both the Renfrew County and Kingston area health units.

On the vaccination front, the province said 82.5 per cent of eligible Ontarians (over age 12) have received a first dose, and 75.5 per cent have a second dose.

Of the 302 people in hospital, 271 are not fully vaccinated or their vaccination status is not known.

Across the province, 302 people are in hospital with the disease, including 165 in intensive care.

The number of people in ICU, a critical indicator of the health system’s ability to cope, is rising but remains well below the peak in April during the third wave of the pandemic.


Article content

The number of COVID-19 patients in ICU rose by 34 in the last week, according to the province’s science advisory table.

On Thursday, Anthony Dale, the president of the Ontario Hospital Association, said that 16 people had been admitted to the ICU in one day.

“If you are eligible but not yet vaccinated please do so immediately,” he posted.

The hospital association released a statement Wednesday warning that uptake of vaccines has slowed considerably and unless it picks up the fourth wave of the pandemic will accelerate this fall and winter.

“After a taste of normalcy this summer, no one wants to go backwards,” said the statement. “But that is a possibility if a significant number of Ontarians choose to remain unvaccinated.”


Article content

Latest COVID-19 news from Ottawa

Ottawa Public Health reported 17 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday and no additional deaths.

Three people are in hospital with the virus, none of them in intensive care.

The city has 158 active cases of people with the disease.

Since the pandemic began, there have been 28,192 laboratory confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa and 593 deaths.

There are two ongoing outbreaks, one in a sports and recreation facility and one in a retail setting.

No new outbreaks were reported Thursday in health care institutions, schools, child care or the community.

Ottawa Public Health has expanded its data dashboard to illustrate the COVID-19 rate of infection among vaccinated and unvaccinated residents.


Article content

The graphic states that the risk of COVID-19 infection among the unvaccinated population is 22 times higher than for fully vaccinated people.

Specifically, it noted the infection rate per 100,000 vaccinated residents is 2.4, while the rate for unvaccinated people is 51.9. OPH says the rate for residents waiting for a second shot is 26.

The dashboard can be viewed here.

A community centre in Ottawa South is joining the ranks of institutions adopting a mandatory vaccination policy.

Staff, program participants and volunteers at the Firehall community centre on Sunnyside Avenue will have to be fully vaccinated, the Old Ottawa South Community Association said in a message to community members Thursday.

The centre offers a wide variety of programs, from yoga to children’s dance classes, and has a small gym and pottery studio.


Article content

Details of the policy are still being developed.

From the things returning to ‘normal’ department, tour operator Sunwings announced the resumption of tropic flights and tours from Ottawa International beginning in November.

The airline announced 11 weekly trips from @FlyYow to destinations including Cuba, Jamaica and several Mexican destinations.

Go to Sunwing.ca for more information.

Latest COVID-19 news in Quebec

Quebec reported 603 new cases of COVID-19 and one new death Thursday.

Hospitalizations rose for the fifth straight day and are now at their highest level since June.

There are 119 people in hospital, an increase of nine. Three more people are in ICU for a total of 36.

Meanwhile, Quebec’s office of criminal prosecutions has announced it will not be laying criminal charges in connection with the deaths at Dorval’s CHSLD Herron, where at least 40 residents died during the pandemic’s first wave.


Article content

In a statement issued Thursday, the DPCP said it concluded what happened was not a criminal matter after a “rigorous analysis of the available evidence.”

“This decision in no way trivializes the tragic events that occurred at CHLSD Herron, nor does it mean that there was no civil fault or ethical misconduct that occurred,” the statement says.

“The DPCP sympathizes with the families of the deceased residents, who must not only mourn the loss of their loved ones but also live with the regret that they were unable to be by their sides because of the pandemic.” the agency said.

A legislative committee has begun debate on the government’s plan to make vaccines mandatory for health-care workers in the public and private sector who are in regular contact with patients.


Article content

Health Minister Christian Dubé said health-care workers who refuse to show proof of vaccination would be reassigned, if possible, or suspended without pay.

Committee members at the two-day hearings will also discuss whether the vaccine mandate should be extended to workers such as teachers and early childhood educators.

National COVID-19 news

A coalition of for-profit long-term care and retirement homes is making COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for all staff across Canada.

Chartwell Retirement Residences, Extendicare, Responsive Group Inc., Revera Inc. and Sienna Senior Living said Thursday that as of Oct. 12 staff who are not fully vaccinated will be placed on an unpaid leave of absence.

“As rates of infection once again increase in communities across the country, unvaccinated staff are more likely to bring the virus to work. The safety of our residents in long-term care and retirement homes, who trust us to provide the care and services they need, is paramount,” company representatives wrote in a joint statement.


Article content

The vaccination requirement also covers all new hires, students and agency personnel.

“This policy will increase their level of safety and improve quality of life for residents by reducing the need for isolation and disruption of daily activities that result from outbreak restrictions,” the statement says.

“It also protects ongoing access to visits from family members, which are critical to the well-being of all those in our care for whom outbreak restrictions have been difficult.”

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom is moving Canada to its “green” list for travel beginning next Monday.

That means Canadians travelling to the U.K. will not have to quarantine upon arrival, even if they have not been fully vaccinated.


Article content

The British Department for Transport says those travellers will still need to take COVID-19 tests within three days before leaving for the U.K. and another one two days after arriving.

The change will take effect Aug. 30 at 4 a.m.
The UK has also added Denmark, Finland, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Switzerland and the Azores to its green list.

-With files from Postmedia and The Canadian Press

  1. The rapid rise of Delta variant has put in danger the province's plans for herd immunity. File photo

    Spread of COVID-19 Delta variant threatens Ontario’s ‘herd immunity’ plans

  2. A test scan of a vaccine passport is shown at an Econofitness gym in Laval, Quebec, Canada August 17, 2021.

    Quebec’s vaccine passport starts Sept. 1, here’s what out-of-province visitors must show to gain access to non-essential businesses





    Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.