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'Why isn't our government doing as much as possible?': Ontario reacts to Stephen Lecce's return to school plan with emphasis on COVID-19 rapid tests

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  • Stephen Lecce
    Canadian politician

Stephen Lecce, Ontario's education minister, provided additional details on the return to in-person learning at schools across the province on Jan. 17.

"We believe so strongly that children need to be in school, that they are essential to the mental and physical health of a child, and their academic success," Lecce said.

The Ontario government will provide rapid antigen tests for students and staff in public elementary and secondary schools, and children and staff in child care settings.

Two tests will be allocated to each child and staff member. Symptomatic individuals should take two rapid tests 24 hours apart, and can return to school if negative.

Limited time cohort protocols will also be in place for extra curricular sports and lunch periods.

Only when the absence level at a school reaches 30 per cent, parents will then be alerted through their local public health unit.

While parents will not get updates on COVID-19 cases in a school, until that 30 per cent threshold is reached, Ontario officials stressed that it should "empower" parents that they will be provided with rapid tests if they are questioning sending their child to school.

"The empowerment capacity is having the test in your home," Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario's chief medical officer of heath said on Wednesday. "You have an answer very quickly that empowers the parent to make the decision to keep their child home and to follow the guidelines of monitoring for five days."

"That is going to help empower parents with greater certainty to know if they have the virus," Lecce added.

When asked why Ontario has not mandated vaccination at school, Dr. Moore said this is a "new" vaccine and wants "more experience with it" before making it mandatory.

Ontarians, including infectious disease and health experts, took to social media to comment on the return to in-person school.

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