Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday January 14, 2022
Ontario students to receive 2 rapid tests as school begins, top doctor’s comments draw fire
Ontario students are slated to get two rapid antigen tests when they return to school on Monday, but apart from that, the province is relying mostly on previously announced measures to keep schools safe amid the Omicron wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The province also revealed Wednesday that school officials will monitor absenteeism in classrooms as opposed to reporting individual positive tests.
Officials said parents would be notified when combined student and staff absences hit around 30 per cent, prompting concerns that parents would be left in the dark about their child’s school’s status until it reached that threshold.
By Wednesday evening, the province appeared to say it would provide parents with more specific data about absenteeism.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the province has “strong protections in place” that are “fully supported” by Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore.
“We believe so strongly that children need to be in school,” Lecce said.
Moore was asked at a news conference about low uptake levels of vaccinations for children. The province’s immunization rate for the five- to 11-year olds has stalled at 45 per cent.
He said despite that, the province is not planning to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory at schools.
“It is a new vaccine, and as a result of that we want greater experience with it before we mandate it,” he said.
Moore followed up with a statement Wednesday evening stressing the vaccines are safe.
“I want to be clear that the pediatric Pfizer vaccine for children five to 11 is safe, effective and provides strong protection against COVID-19 and variants,” he said.
The province also announced Wednesday it will launch school-based vaccine clinics during instructional hours to encourage voluntary vaccination for children ages five to 11.
Horwath also said she was troubled to hear Moore talking about wanting more experience with the vaccine before mandating it for children.
“We know all along that this government has coddled anti-vaxxers,” she said.
The NDP has been calling for COVID-19 vaccines to be added to the list of mandatory vaccines for school-age children for some time.
Liberal Leader Steven del Duca had a similar message, saying Moore’s statement fed “vaccine hesitancy.”
“As the province’s top doctor, he should be fighting that, not feeding it. If he doesn’t clarify his comments, he should go.”
The Liberals are also calling for a number of immediate steps, including: adding COVID-19 vaccinations to the list of universal immunizations for students, resuming exposure notifications and case reporting in schools, a vaccine mandate for all education and child-care workers, and passing a bill to give workers 10 paid sick days so that parents can isolate if their children are exposed to the coronavirus.
With the Ontario Legislature not set to resume for another 41 days, Del Duca is also pushing the government for an early recall. (CBC)
LETTERS to the EDITOR, Hamilton Spectator, Tuesday January 18, 2022
Misses the mark
MacKay’s Jan. 14 cartoon misses the mark. He shows Ford being pelted with tomatoes for closing schools, and then the same scene when schools reopen. Opposition leaders, as well as many Ontarians, share dismay with the provincial policies for education in general and certainly in regards to COVID. Had the Ford government properly responded throughout the pandemic, closures may have been avoided. Then to reopen schools with the same inadequate measures in place, inadequate testing at the height of a 5th wave of the most transmissible variant is beyond belief.
Kathy Bresnahan, Hamilton
Hitting the mark
Mackay’s cartoon in Friday’s Spectator was right on target with Horvath and Del Duca throwing tomatoes at Ford for closing schools and then again for opening schools. I am by no means a staunch Conservative and I have never been a fan of Ford, but being in the opposition should be more than simply criticizing the party in power. If your party has a good idea, bring it forward; if you are right, you can be proud of the outcome and brag about it prior to the next election. If I was Ford, I would be tempted to ask Horvath and Del Duca their opinions on a decision before announcing his, in order to force them to take a stand as personally I am tired of their criticism after the fact.
Wes Connor, Stoney Creek