Unvaccinated Ontario teachers must submit to twice weekly COVID-19 testing
A COVID-19 testing sign is posted at the empty Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
TORONTO -- Ontario public school teachers who choose not to receive or are medically exempt from COVID-19 vaccination will have to submit to rapid testing at least twice per week, and will have to go to a nearby pharmacy to do so for the first two weeks of school.
“Individuals subject to testing requirements must provide verification of negative test results at least two times per week as an added measure to protect schools from the risk of COVID-19,” Deputy Education Minister Nancy Naylor wrote in a memo obtained by CTV News Toronto.
Details of the testing regime for teachers were first reported in the Toronto Star.
And for the first two weeks of school until about Sept. 20, most schools and board offices will not yet have access to the rapid antigen testing kits, so unvaccinated teachers are being directed to local pharmacies to complete the testing.
“The government is authorizing pharmacies to provide publicly funded COVID-19 rapid antigen testing services effective Tuesday, September 7, 2021 until Tuesday September 21,” the memo states.
“This will involve temporary free access to rapid antigen testing in the pharmacy setting for those individuals subject to the employer’s policy (i.e. those that are attesting to not being fully vaccinated). Individuals subject to the employer policy will need to show valid ID and a letter from employer."
Naylor’s memo said the province is also working on a smartphone app so teachers can quickly upload test results to school boards.
The province announced a vaccine disclosure policy on Aug. 17, where healthcare and education workers would at a minimum, submit to regular rapid testing for COVID-19 if they choose not to get a vaccine.
Some school boards, including the Toronto District School Board, are in the process of developing an even more stringent COVID-19 vaccination policy for staff.
The province also altered its COVID-19 outbreak management guidance to give vaccinated teachers and students the ability to remain at school in the event of an exposure if they do not develop any symptoms.
By Sept. 22, COVID-19 vaccination will be required to participate in indoor activities such as concerts, dining, fitness centre exercise and indoor sporting events.