Yesterday, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr Kieran Moore announced that the government was pausing the provinces exit from the Roadmap to Reopen. You will all remember that our exit from the roadmap was linked to vaccination rates in Ontario and prevailing trends. Those targets were 80% take up for one dose, 75% fully vaccinated and for every public health unit to have reached a minimum of 70% fully vaccinated.
Yesterday, Dr. Moore confirmed that despite Ontario being agonizingly close to reaching those thresholds, the province has indefinitely paused the planned exit of the roadmap, meaning that current restrictions and capacity limits will remain in place.
In addition, Dr. Moore announced that in order to protect vulnerable patients and staff in settings where the risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19 and the Delta variant is higher, he has issued a directive mandating hospitals and home and community care service providers to have a COVID-19 vaccination policy for employees, staff, contractors, students and volunteers; and ambulance services to have a COVID-19 vaccination policy for paramedics. The vaccination policy must be effective no later than September 7, 2021, and at a minimum will require these individuals to provide proof of one of three things:
- Full vaccination against COVID-19;
- A medical reason for not being vaccinated against COVID-19; or
- Completion of a COVID-19 vaccination educational session.
Individuals who do not provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 will be required to undertake regular antigen testing. These settings will be required to track and report on the implementation of their policies to the provincial government. This is similar to the vaccination policy requirements currently in place for long-term care homes.
To support the return to school plan, the Ministry of Education intends to introduce a vaccination disclosure policy for all publicly-funded school board employees, staff in private schools, as well as for all staff in licensed child care settings for the 2021-22 school year. Rapid antigen testing requirements for staff who are not immunized against COVID-19 will be implemented. The Ontario government is also working with public health units and publicly funded school boards to run voluntary vaccination clinics in or nearby schools to make vaccines even more convenient and accessible for eligible students, their families, educators and school staff returning to school this fall.
Vaccination policies will also be implemented in other higher-risk settings such as:
- Post-secondary institutions;
- Licensed retirement homes;
- Women’s shelters; and
- Congregate group homes and day programs for adults with developmental disabilities, children’s treatment centres and other services for children with special needs, and licensed children’s residential settings
You can read the full government press release here, including further information on additional measure to continue protecting Ontario’s most vulnerable
What happens now?
Since Ontario entered step of the roadmap to reopen, TIAO has been clear that limited reopening doesn’t mean recovery. After two lost tourism seasons, the limited opening we have been enjoying, should not be considered a recovery. Hence, our continued campaigning for long term economic support programs for the tourism industry. We need answers on what this pause means and what we need to do to exit it. TIAO will be writing to both the Premier and the CMOH to ascertain how long they expect the pause to last, and what needs to happen for us to exit. This is a bitter blow to our industry, as we thought with increasing vaccination rates, we would be entering a period of little or no restrictions on business activity. It’s important the provincial government provides answers quickly and uses all tools available to avert us falling backwards in the reopening of our economy and a return to pre-pandemic life.