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Ontario premier says ‘very comprehensive’ back-to-school plan will be revealed next week

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TORONTO —
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has confirmed a back-to-school plan will be released early next week, saying he has “every confidence in the world” the province will be ready for September.

Ford made the comments on Wednesday at a press conference in Thunder Bay. 

“It’s a very comprehensive plan,” Ford said. “The minister is going to be coming out early next week and rolling out that plan.”

Ford said he thinks students in Ontario need to get back to school and want to get back to school. 

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“The two million kids that are going back to school are going to be safe, as well as the teachers.”

The government originally promised the plan would be released in July. Students in Ontario have not been allowed to attend in-person learning since April, when the third wave was spiralling out of control. 

Ford said Wednesday the plan will include increased safety protocols for students and teachers, but did not say what they might be. 

Ontario got its first hint on Tuesday at what restrictions could be in place this September for unvaccinated students. 

The province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore told reporters the COVID-19 outbreak management plan for the new school year applies separate sets of rules based on vaccination status.

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Fully immunized students and staff would face minimal interruption from work or school if they come in contact with a “high-risk” carrier of the virus and test negative for COVID-19, Moore said.

Unvaccinated students and staff, Moore added, would immediately have to isolate for a minimum of 10 days and require at least two negative COVID-19 tests, seven days apart, before returning to school.

“If that test on day seven is positive, you’re off for another 10 days,” Moore cautioned. “That is a potential of 20 days from schools directly because you weren’t immunized and because you’re infectious to others and putting others at risk.”

The warning comes as the province struggles to convince more then 300,000 eligible Ontario students to get their initial vaccine, despite accelerating the timeline between doses to 28 days after the first shot.

In order to be fully immunized before the start of the school year, families will have to pay close attention to the calendar.

For example, a student who received partial immunity on July 28, will be eligible for a second dose on Aug. 23, giving them the complete benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine just days before schools reopen.

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