Unvaccinated students won't face any different rules within class setting, Ontario confirms

Unvaccinated children will not face different rules than their vaccinated peers within the school setting this September, the Ontario government says.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce and Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore took questions together for the first time on Wednesday since the back-to-school plan was released yesterday.

Lecce and Moore said COVID-19 vaccines will not be mandatory for students and school staff who are eligible, despite saying they are the province’s best chance at avoiding a fourth wave.

"I do not anticipate a different approach, whether a child is vaccinated or unvaccinated on any activities within the school setting," Moore said Wednesday.

Moore said school staff will also not be told which students are vaccinated or unvaccinated.

"We would not be knowledgeable of their immune status and there shouldn’t be any barriers or stigmatization of children who have not received a vaccine in any way."

Moore, who said the government is still working to finalize their COVID-19 outbreak management plan, previously hinted that unvaccinated students could face a longer isolation period if they are exposed to the disease. 

It's unclear if that will still be part of the plan. The government said it is "forthcoming."

Lecce said Wednesday the government is not mandating vaccines because they want to "respect the choices individuals will make."

However, Lecce added he would do whatever he can to advocate for people to get the shot.

But neither he nor the Medical Officer of Health has explained WHY. Vaccination for multiple diseases is already mandatory for children in Ontario publicly funded schools. https://t.co/thcZg3F9xP

— Kathleen Wynne (@Kathleen_Wynne) August 4, 2021

Lecce and Moore also announced an additional $25 million in funding, which they say will go towards improving air quality within schools when students return to class.

Instructional spaces without mechanical ventilation will be given HEPA filter units, including in kindergarten classes where masks are not mandatory.

Lecce also announced on Wednesday an additional update to the back-to-school guidance, saying that high-contact sports will now be allowed indoors.

The guidance released on Tuesday did not allow for that.

Moore said Wednesday he expects COVID-19 cases to rise in late September and through October and wants everyone to be vaccinated to avoid a large surge in cases.

"Our numbers are slowly going up," Moore said. "Immunization is the answer."