Toronto Public Health expands programs to support a safe return to school

In-person learning is essential for the mental and physical wellbeing of children and their families, and Toronto Public Health (TPH) is supporting all Toronto school boards and the Government of Ontario in this transition with the recommended public health measures and protective layers in place.

TPH has provided guidance to Toronto schools and school boards to support a safe return to school for all children. While the Ontario Ministry of Education sets out health and safety measures in schools, TPH guidance supports these requirements and supports boards in creating as safe an environment as possible. In addition to masking, handwashing, cleaning protocols and COVID-19 screening for staff, students and visitors, Toronto Public Health has recommended additional measures to further reduce the spread of COVID-19. These additional measures include recommending junior and senior kindergarten students wear masks indoors, and masking and practicing physical distancing in music classes, where the virus could spread more easily. More information is available at: www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/covid-19-reopening-recovery-rebuild/covid-19-reopening-guidelines-for-businesses-organizations/covid-19-guidance-elementary-secondary-schools/.

TPH continues to carefully monitor COVID-19 activity. In the fall, this monitoring will include assessing the daily situation in relation to schools and taking the necessary precautions to keep our school communities as safe as possible. TPH has a team of 102 Public Health Nurses including some experienced nurses and some newly recruited nurses to provide strong support to schools as they reopen. If a case of COVID-19 is confirmed at a school, principals will dismiss impacted cohorts and TPH will conduct an investigation to determine the potential risk to other individuals in that location.

Another layer of protection is regular COVID-19 testing. TPH has partnered with Ontario Health, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and local hospital partners including Women's College Hospital and Michael Garron Hospital to provide school testing support, including an expanded take-home test program. This program will provide a non-invasive option with easier access to testing if someone has symptoms, and promote early identification of COVID-19 cases, which will help decrease COVID-19 transmission in schools. TPH will continue to recommend testing to cohorts when they are exposed to someone who was contagious with COVID-19.

TPH also continues to work closely with local schools, school boards and healthcare partners to achieve the highest possible vaccination rates as possible. This work includes operationalizing mobile vaccination clinics in schools for youth 12 years of age and older, and those born in 2009 who are turning 12 by the end of the year, and their families, in communities that have been identified to have low vaccination coverage and are at higher risk of COVID-19. As of August 26, 81 per cent of residents between the ages of 12 to 17 years old have initiated their vaccination, with 70 per cent having received both doses.

Vaccination is a key public health measure to reduce community spread of COVID-19. As COVID-19 continues to circulate in Toronto, receiving two doses of the vaccine provides residents with optimal protection against the Delta variant. TPH continues to urge parents, caregivers and others who closely interact with children under the age of 12 who are not eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, to get vaccinated. Getting vaccinated will help protect residents from severe illness and outcomes, and protect our young children, friends, families and other loved ones.

In addition, TPH is launching #VaxTOClass campaign to restart our publically funded school vaccination program and protect students in grades 7 and up from hepatitis B, human papilloma virus and meningococcal disease. As part of this campaign, TPH will leverage existing city-run immunization sites beginning September 14 to provide these routine vaccinations to students. Appointments will open on Monday, August 31 at the TPH booking site. Please visit: www.tphbookings.ca/Default.aspx?PageID=11032

Quote(s)

"We are doing everything we can as a municipal government to support the school boards and the province as the safe return to in-class learning begins this September. I want to thank Toronto Public Health and its team of 102 public health nurses focused on providing to support to schools. I continue to urge all eligible Toronto residents to get vaccinated – the more people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in our city, the safer it will be for kids going back to school."

  • Mayor John Tory

"As schools open up again for students this September, it's critical that we do everything in our power to keep our children, their families, and school staff safe. Toronto Public Health is working to support schools through preventative measures, like the expanded take-home test program, as well as hosting pop-up vaccination clinics for youth age 12 - 17 in schools and communities with low vaccination rates. By directly supporting schools with Public Health staff and continuing to bring vaccines directly into communities, we're committed to ensuring that the return to the classroom for kids across our city is as safe as possible."

  • Councillor Joe Cressy (Spadina-Fort York), Chair of the Toronto Board of Health

" Our goal is to minimize the disruptions for this upcoming school year as in-person learning is vital to youth's development. If you have not gotten vaccinated yet, please go get your vaccine. Getting vaccinated is the best way to ensure our community stays safe and students are able to remain in school for in-person learning."

  • Eileen de Villa, Medical Officer of Health
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