The province is putting another $25 million towards ventilation funding for Ontario schools. This brings the total amount Queen’s Park has committed to bettering ventilation in schools before kids go back in the fall.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced the additional funds on Wednesday, saying the money would be used to provide some 70,000 ventilation devices across the province, along with 20,000 standalone HEPA filters. The latter will be used in any area of a school lacking a mechanical air ventilation system.
The announcement of additional ventilation funding comes a day following the release of back-to-school guidelines that were criticized for being too vague and leaving many questions unanswered. One of those being why students are not required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 when they must be vaccinated against a number of other communicable diseases. “The premier has been clear we will not mandate a vaccine requirement for schools and for staff at this point, that’s not a decision point we’re going to proceed with. Our aim is to encourage vaccination of voluntary level,” said Lecce.
“The most important message I would have for our communities is that we achieve the highest community immunization rate we can achieve. I’m so happy to announce today that first doses are 80.5% in Ontario. And our second doses now are 70.5%. So, we’ve done remarkably well through a non-mandatory means of providing immunization to the population in Ontario,” added Ontario chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore.
Moore pointed out the province elected not to mandate mandatory rapid testing for education staff, as it would be more of a detriment. “When our community rates are very low like they are now, there is a significant risk of rapid testing being a false positive,” said Moore. “Rapid testing for asymptomatic individuals in low community rate of infection is too burdensome and will have too many false positives and be cumbersome to implement.”
On Wednesday, Public Health Ontario reported 139 new cases of COVID-19, along with 155 more recoveries and 11 additional deaths. There were 60,094 vaccines administered across the province yesterday, and 17,115 tests were processed.
The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit reported 4 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. There were also 15 additional recoveries and no new deaths. To date, 69.3% of Simcoe-Muskoka residents 18+ have gotten their first shot, 58.3% their second.