COVID-19 Delta pauses Ontario reopening: 'It's going to be a difficult fall and winter,' officials say

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The Ontario government is pausing any additional reopening progress and has called for new COVID-19 vaccine policies in certain settings, as Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, expresses concerns about the virus spreading in the fall and winter.

"We are preparing aggressively for the fall," Dr. Moore said. "I am sorry to say, I think it’s going to be a difficult fall and winter."

"Hence the reason we’re putting these policies in play to best protect our communities, protect those under 12 years of age who can’t get immunized and to protect those settings."

Ontario is mandating that hospitals, home and community care service have a COVID-19 vaccination policy for employees, staff, contractors, students, volunteers and paramedics. The policy must come into effect on Sept. 7.

Individuals will need to require proof of full vaccination, a medical reason for not being vaccinated or completion of a COVID-19 vaccination educational session.

Anyone in these settings who does not provide proof of full vaccination must get regular antigen testing.

Ontario's Ministry of Education will also introduce a "vaccination disclosure policy" for all publicly-funded school board employees, staff in private schools and staff in licensed child care settings for the upcoming school year. There will also be mandated rapid antigen testing for staff who are not fully vaccinated.

COVID-19 vaccination policies will also be introduced in: post-secondary institutions, licensed retirement homes, women’s shelters, congregate group homes, day programs for adults with developmental disabilities, children’s treatment centres and other services for children with special needs, and licensed children’s residential settings.

"We had a sudden drop off over the last several weeks and quite honestly, we have to bolster our effort to immunize Ontarians," Dr. Moore said. "It was unexpected to have such a sudden drop off and we’ve learned more about the threat of Delta, it is now over 90 per cent of the detected samples."

Third doses of COVID-19 vaccine

The provincial government also announced that a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine will be offered to highest-risk populations in Ontario.

This includes:

  • Transplant recipients (including solid organ transplant and hematopoietic stem cell transplants)

  • Patients with hematological cancers (examples include lymphoma, myeloma, leukemia) on active treatment (chemotherapy, targeted therapies, immunotherapy)

  • Recipients of an anti-CD20 agent (e.g. rituximab, ocrelizumab, ofatumumab)

  • Residents of high-risk congregate settings including long-term care homes, higher-risk licensed retirement homes and First Nations elder care lodges

This will begin as early as this week, but locations and timings will differ by public health unit.

More children can receive a COVID-19 vaccine

In anticipation of the return to in-person learning in schools, children turning 12 before the end of 2021 will be eligible to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

Appointments can be scheduled through the provincial booking system beginning on Wednesday, Aug. 18, through their location public health unit, pharmacies or walk-in clinics.

With all these changes announced by the provincial government, several people in Ontario, including medical experts, took to social media to comment on the announcement.