Ontario will begin vaccinating education staff in high-priority neighbourhoods starting next week.
Premier Doug Ford revealed details about how the province will focus on vaccinating communities hardest hit by COVID-19 during the Stay-at-Home order.
Education staff who work with students with special needs and all school staff in neighbourhoods with high infection rates will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine next week.
As supply allows, Ontario will expand that eligibility to educators in other neighbourhoods.
“Our education workers are frontline champions,” Ford said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
The move comes after teaching unions pressured the province to vaccinate teachers or close schools.
Ontario officials announced the province’s second Stay-at-Home order would begin at 12:01 am Thursday to curb rising COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.
Schools will stay open during the Stay-at-Home order, except in areas where local health units have ordered them closed. Toronto and Peel already dismissed staff and students earlier this week to curb COVID-19 spread.
Ontario schools reported 719 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours. Of those, 571 are student cases.
Ontario reported 3,215 COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, meaning cases tied to schools account for more than one-fifth of all newly discovered infections.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce encouraged all students to get a COVID-19 test over the April spring break before returning to school. He announced pharmacies will now offer asymptomatic testing to facilitate this.
The province will not be implementing school-wide testing and instead urged families to seek testing on their own time.
Lecce also said COVID-19 symptom screening would be stronger when students return to school after the break.
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Ontario will also be conducting mobile vaccination clinics to reach residents in COVID-19 hotspots. These mobile immunization teams will visit shelters, residential buildings, high-risk workplaces, as well as churches, mosques, and synagogues, to deliver doses.
Ford hopes 40% of Ontarian adults will have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by the time the Stay-at-Home order ends in four weeks.