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Think tank calls for COVID-19 to be added to list of diseases students must be vaccinated against – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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The Ford government is being urged to add COVID-19 to the list of diseases that primary and secondary school students must be immunized against to attend classes in person.

The think tank People for Education has sent an open letter to Education Minister Stephen Lecce and Health Minister Christine Elliott asking them to “immediately” add COVID-19 to the least of diseases for which vaccination is already mandated under Ontario’s Immunization of School Pupils Act.

The plea comes in the wake of the Ford government announcing that it would enact a policy that would required educational workers to either get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or participate in a regular rapid testing program.

“This issue is particularly urgent because fewer than 70 per cent of eligible 12- to 17-year-olds in Ontario are fully vaccinated, and students will be returning to school in just over two weeks,” People for Education Executive Director Annie Kidder wrote in the letter to Elliott and Lecce. “Families and staff need greater assurance that everything possible is being done to ensure that their schools are safe.”

Ontario’s public schools have been shuttered for in-person learning since April but will reopen next month, amid a recent rise in cases.

While there are currently no COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in children under 12, Kidder said that her group is “strongly recommending” that the government mandate vaccination for those who are eligible as part of its return to school plan.

She said that the government should also “expedite the development of standardized proof of vaccination certificates” to help school administrators implement new policies that set different isolation requirements for close contacts on the basis of whether they have been vaccinated.

“I am hopeful that the premier is listening and that the ministers are listening,” she said during an interview with CP24 on Monday afternoon. “It is not that hard to change (the policy). We still have two weeks before school starts and there is time for parents to get their eligible children vaccinated especially if we make it as easy as possible by making schools vaccination centres.”

Kidder said that “if parents and families know every single person who can be vaccinated in schools,” is it will ultimately help them feel more secure about their children returning to the classroom amid the fourth wave of the pandemic.

That, she said, is important given research which suggests that the mental health of children suffered significantly due to the repeated closure of schools during earlier phases of the pandemic.

Her request to mandate vaccination for both eligible students and staff comes as concerns grow about a possible rise in COVID-19 transmission among school-aged children once classes resume.

In an interview with CTV News Channel on Monday morning, the scientific director of the science table Dr. Peter Juni conceded that reopening schools “will impact” the recent growth in cases and suggested that additional public health measures may be necessary to keep case counts down until such a time as children under 12 can be vaccinated.

“You have a risk even among children of perhaps one in 300 ending in hospital and one in 1,000 ending up in the ICU. It is not nothing,” he said. “You also have a three to five per cent (chance) if a kid gets infected of experiencing long COVID.”

There are currently nine diseases that students have to be vaccinated against to attend school, including measles, mumps and polio, among others. Children born in 2010 or later also have to be vaccinated against chickenpox.

 

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Coronavirus cases in Quebec rise by 821 with three new deaths and two more hospitalizations – CTV News Montreal

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MONTREAL —
Quebec reported Saturday that 821 more people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the province, bringing the overall number of infections to 402,283.

Of the new infections, 609 people were unvaccinated when they received their positive result, 49 received one dose of vaccine more than two weeks prior, and 163 were double-vaxxed more than a week before the test. 

Hospitalizations rose by two bringing the total number of people receiving care in the province’s hospitals to 264. The ministry reports that 36 people checked in for care, and 34 were discharged. Of the 36, 28 were unvaccinated, two received one vaccine dose more than 14 days prior and six got both jabs more than a week before entering the hospital. 

There are 89 people in intensive care wards, which is six fewer than on Friday.

Three more people have died due to COVID-19, bringing that total to 11,321 since March 2020.

There are 508 active outbreaks in the province.

Quebec’s vaccination rate remains at 88 per cent for one dose of the eligible population and 82 per cent for both doses. 

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Spike in COVID-19 cases is pushing New Brunswick's health-care system to the limit – CTV News Atlantic

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MONCTON, N.B. —
New Brunswick’s jump in COVID-19 cases has overloaded the health-care system this week.

The Horizon Health Network is now looking to hire more staff across the province to help with the growing demand for testing and vaccinations.

The health network has seen an increased demand in testing as COVID-19 cases have soared over the last month.

“Two weeks ago, if you wanted a test, you could walk in or call and get it at almost anytime you wanted,” said Dr. Jeff Steeves with New Brunswick’s Medical Society.

But now, assessment centres are seeing long line ups and delays in testing.

Steeves wants people to get the jab and practice caution during this time to prevent overloading the system even more.

“Remember, we were running short even before COVID, so we’re trying to maintain that,” Steeves said. “Therefore, we can’t divert the staff like we did before, hence the call for new staff.”

Horizon Health’s vice-president said in a statement Friday that they are currently looking to recruit staff at vaccination clinics, assessment centres and school clinics in Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton.

“Given the recent rise in COVID activity in New Brunswick, and the increased demand for these services, we are hoping to replenish our pool of available clinicians and administrative support staff as we ramp up activity at these locations,” said Jean Daigle.

Since the province announced proof of vaccination requirements this week, public health has reported a significant jump in vaccination appointments.

On Wednesday, 1,700 appointments were booked, while yesterday there were 1,929.

Health officials say prior to Wednesday’s number, the recent average for vaccinations was 600 bookings per day. On Thursday, 600 additional vaccines had to be delivered to a clinic in Moncton.

“Things have picked up dramatically,” said Fredericton pharmacist Alistair Bursary, who says they’ve been busy taking calls from people looking to get their first or second dose.

“So, whereas we were doing perhaps 10 patients a day on average now we are probably going to hit 40-50 just at our pharmacy alone,” Bursary said.

While the demand for services continue to climb, those working on the frontlines hope to get the help they need sooner rather than later.

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Quebec reports 821 COVID-19 cases, three deaths – Winnipeg Free Press

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People line up at a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

MONTREAL – Quebec reported 821 new COVID-19 cases and three further deaths in its latest data on Saturday, as authorities expanded plans to use rapid tests in elementary schools to more regions of the province.

Health officials said hospitalizations increased by two to 264, while the number of patients in intensive care dropped by six to 89.

The province said about 80 per cent of new infections involve people who were not adequately vaccinated.

Quebec administered 19,662 vaccine doses on Friday and officials said 88 per cent of Quebecers aged 12 and older have received a first dose while 82 per cent have gotten both shots.

Health Minister Christian Dubé said in a tweet more than 1,000 of those doses went to health-care workers, with the province remaining firm on a plan to have all sector employees adequately vaccinated Oct. 15 or face reassignment or suspension without pay.

“It’s never too late to get the vaccine, it’s the best way to protect yourself and others,” Dubé wrote on Saturday.

The province conducted more than 32,000 tests on Friday and the positivity rate is 2.4 per cent.

Late Friday, Quebec’s Health Department said rapid testing in elementary schools will now extend to several administrative regions of the province where masking in classrooms is already mandatory.

In a statement, officials said the deployment will take a few weeks and include nearly 1,600 schools.

The provincial government came under criticism from opposition parties and school administrators on the rollout of the testing program.

The province appointed Daniel Paré, head of the vaccination campaign, to co-ordinate the deployment.

The Health Department said schools will have the tests and PPE needed to use the tests, reserved for students who develop COVID-19 symptoms during the day and training and protocols are being set up.

“They are a complementary tool to quickly detect cases and further protect students and school staff and ensure that young people continue to receive their education at school,” the department said.

The tests, which provide a result in 15 minutes, have been used in four neighbourhoods in Montreal and Laval since Monday.

Schools are expected to begin using the tests widely by the end of the month, when training of staff to use the tests is complete.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 18, 2021.

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