Students and staff at Ontario schools will each eventually find two rapid tests to use if they develop COVID-19 symptoms, but will not know that until a third of the school is absent from their peers and colleagues. sick or not.
The province is anticipating that many staff will have to isolate at different times after returning in person to school on Monday due to the highly permeable Omicron version, and is planning for some remote days, of classes. Combination and teacher is using candidates.
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Critics have raised safety concerns about school return plans as the government has blocked access to PCR tests and stopped reporting data on cases in schools, as the Omron version spikes infections to record levels .
Education Minister Stephen Lecce said on Wednesday that access to rapid tests would “empower” families given the situation.
“That’s going to be the layer of protection that we didn’t have,” he told reporters. “It’s going to help empower parents to know with greater certainty whether they have had the virus.”
People with symptoms have to use two tests spaced 24 to 48 hours apart and can return to school after negative results when their symptoms improve.
The province’s top physician, Dr. Kieran Moore, also said the plan was “empowering”, adding that it would help people go back to school sooner if the tests come back negative and cause less disruption.
Lecce said the first round of 3.9 million tests is currently being shipped out. They will go first to the staff, then to the children in daycare and the students of public primary schools.
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He said high school students would get tests “based on need” to begin with, and students in those schools would ideally get two tests, once the province gets more than its expected supply from the federal government.
On Wednesday, the province also shared a plan to deal with anticipated staff absenteeism from Omicron-type cases – one of the factors, along with hospitalizations, Premier Doug Ford cited when he called for the January 3 shutdown. declare.
Ontario school boards can rotate between individual and remote days or combine classes if necessary, to ease virus-related staff absence-driven school closures when schools reopen next Monday.
As an option to help deal with staffing challenges, the government said it is changing the requirements for provisional teaching certificates so that more teacher candidates can work in schools. The province is also allowing retired teachers to work for 95 days, up from the previous limit of 50, until the end of June.
Schools will now have to report daily data on staff absenteeism to local public health units to monitor disruptions in schools, as the province has limited access to tests in high-risk settings. Students and staff can use the PCR test only if symptoms develop in the school.
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Officials say public health will notify families if 30 percent of the school – including staff and students – are absent, although they noted it would not confirm whether all absences are due to COVID-19 .
Also, Lecce said the province plans to run more school-based vaccination clinics to increase vaccination rates for students between the ages of five and 11. As of Wednesday, four percent of children in that age range had received two vaccine doses and 47 percent. There was at least one shot.
NDP leader Andrea Horvath said the government’s announcement was not detailed enough to inspire confidence for the families.
She also said that the rapid test plan will not help prevent infection.
“I don’t know if these two tests are really going to be helpful in any way except to confirm that their child has picked up COVID-19,” she said.
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