We asked 31 major Ontario school boards for their staff COVID-19 vaccination rates. Here’s what we found

Over a month into the school year, the province’s largest school boards are reporting staff vaccination rates ranging from a high of 94.8 per cent to a low of 76 per cent.But a Star analysis of 31 major boards has found inconsistencies in the way they report and present this information that make it difficult to compare rates between boards, and in most cases impossible for parents to know the rate of vaccination of teachers at their boards.Despite provincial direction that public school board employees disclose their vaccination status, the Star found that over 15,000 staff have not done so, and, because boards don’t break down the data by job category, it’s not clear what these people do.Overall rates of COVID-19 immunization among all staff at these boards are, for the most part, in line with or above the overall vaccination rate in the province. But boards say job breakdowns are private, or that they are not required to provide vaccination rates of teachers, who spend hours with unvaccinated children in elementary schools.The rate of overall vaccination is a key metric to evaluate risk in the absence of a provincial mandate requiring all education workers who interact with children to be immunized. A few boards have brought in their own policies and said they will suspend staff who do not comply. While parents aren’t able to know if their child’s individual teacher is vaccinated, lumping together all staff is also not that useful for them.“It doesn’t make sense for boards to tell us what percentage of overall staff are vaccinated because we still don’t know whether they are teachers who interact with our kids, or admin staff,” said Claudia Wilson, who has two children enrolled at St. Benedict Catholic Elementary School in Ottawa, which recently declared an end to an outbreak that resulted in 37 student cases. “In my mind, it’s either you tell us everything or you tell us nothing.”The 15,000 staff who have not provided their vaccination status works out to about seven per cent of the total number of people to whom these policies apply among the boards the Star surveyed. (Boards stress that many of these individuals are casual staff or those who have not worked this year.) The board with the highest staff vaccination rate was the Ottawa Catholic School Board at 94.84 per cent (updated Wednesday).The lowest was Toronto Catholic District School Board at 76 per cent (last updated Sept. 30). But these numbers include all staff and trustees and don’t specify vaccination rates for job titles, such as teacher, that require close interaction with students.None of the boards surveyed by the Star provide a public breakdown of vaccination rates for teachers, specifically. Boards say they are simply following the province’s directions, which require only “aggregated, depersonalized board-level data” to be reported publicly on a monthly basis or that privacy concerns prevent them from reporting teacher vaccination rates.Only four of the 31 boards the Star contacted would provide any details on breakdown of teachers’ vaccination status when asked: Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Board (93 per cent), Upper Grand District School Board (97.8 per cent of permanent teaching staff), Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board (92 per cent), and Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board (“just over 4,000” of 4,513 permanent teaching staff, according to spokesperson Bruce Campbell).In an email to the Star, the Ministry of Health said data on staff vaccination rates is to be provided in aggregate form only without any identifying information, including job titles. Ministry spokesperson Bill Campbell said parents are free to ask if their child’s teacher is fully vaccinated, “and the teacher may voluntarily disclose this information.”Compounding the lack of transparency, of the boards the Star surveyed, many report staff vaccination levels in different, often confusing ways that make comparison difficult. Some keep rolling tallies of staff vaccination rates, while others make updates once a month. For example, the first percentage displayed to parents visiting the York Region District School Board website is “92.8%” in large font with the words “staff who submitted are fully vaccinated.” But that figure is the percentage of staff who say they are fully vaccinated only out of those who have completed an attestation form. The true staff vaccination rate, 81.2 per cent, is published lower down in a chart along with other figures. In contrast, the Toronto Catholic District School Board reports both the percentage of fully vaccinated individuals out of those who have submitted an attestation form, 90 per cent, as well as the actual percentage of total staff who are vaccinated, 76 per cent, as of Sept. 30.Other school boards, such as the Halton District School Board and the Peel District School Board, don’t publish any percentages. Instead, these boards publish just raw figures, suc

We asked 31 major Ontario school boards for their staff COVID-19 vaccination rates. Here’s what we found

Over a month into the school year, the province’s largest school boards are reporting staff vaccination rates ranging from a high of 94.8 per cent to a low of 76 per cent.

But a Star analysis of 31 major boards has found inconsistencies in the way they report and present this information that make it difficult to compare rates between boards, and in most cases impossible for parents to know the rate of vaccination of teachers at their boards.

Despite provincial direction that public school board employees disclose their vaccination status, the Star found that over 15,000 staff have not done so, and, because boards don’t break down the data by job category, it’s not clear what these people do.

Overall rates of COVID-19 immunization among all staff at these boards are, for the most part, in line with or above the overall vaccination rate in the province. But boards say job breakdowns are private, or that they are not required to provide vaccination rates of teachers, who spend hours with unvaccinated children in elementary schools.

The rate of overall vaccination is a key metric to evaluate risk in the absence of a provincial mandate requiring all education workers who interact with children to be immunized. A few boards have brought in their own policies and said they will suspend staff who do not comply.

While parents aren’t able to know if their child’s individual teacher is vaccinated, lumping together all staff is also not that useful for them.

“It doesn’t make sense for boards to tell us what percentage of overall staff are vaccinated because we still don’t know whether they are teachers who interact with our kids, or admin staff,” said Claudia Wilson, who has two children enrolled at St. Benedict Catholic Elementary School in Ottawa, which recently declared an end to an outbreak that resulted in 37 student cases.

“In my mind, it’s either you tell us everything or you tell us nothing.”

The 15,000 staff who have not provided their vaccination status works out to about seven per cent of the total number of people to whom these policies apply among the boards the Star surveyed. (Boards stress that many of these individuals are casual staff or those who have not worked this year.)

The board with the highest staff vaccination rate was the Ottawa Catholic School Board at 94.84 per cent (updated Wednesday).

The lowest was Toronto Catholic District School Board at 76 per cent (last updated Sept. 30). But these numbers include all staff and trustees and don’t specify vaccination rates for job titles, such as teacher, that require close interaction with students.

None of the boards surveyed by the Star provide a public breakdown of vaccination rates for teachers, specifically. Boards say they are simply following the province’s directions, which require only “aggregated, depersonalized board-level data” to be reported publicly on a monthly basis or that privacy concerns prevent them from reporting teacher vaccination rates.

Only four of the 31 boards the Star contacted would provide any details on breakdown of teachers’ vaccination status when asked: Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Board (93 per cent), Upper Grand District School Board (97.8 per cent of permanent teaching staff), Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board (92 per cent), and Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board (“just over 4,000” of 4,513 permanent teaching staff, according to spokesperson Bruce Campbell).

In an email to the Star, the Ministry of Health said data on staff vaccination rates is to be provided in aggregate form only without any identifying information, including job titles. Ministry spokesperson Bill Campbell said parents are free to ask if their child’s teacher is fully vaccinated, “and the teacher may voluntarily disclose this information.”

Compounding the lack of transparency, of the boards the Star surveyed, many report staff vaccination levels in different, often confusing ways that make comparison difficult. Some keep rolling tallies of staff vaccination rates, while others make updates once a month.

For example, the first percentage displayed to parents visiting the York Region District School Board website is “92.8%” in large font with the words “staff who submitted are fully vaccinated.” But that figure is the percentage of staff who say they are fully vaccinated only out of those who have completed an attestation form. The true staff vaccination rate, 81.2 per cent, is published lower down in a chart along with other figures.

In contrast, the Toronto Catholic District School Board reports both the percentage of fully vaccinated individuals out of those who have submitted an attestation form, 90 per cent, as well as the actual percentage of total staff who are vaccinated, 76 per cent, as of Sept. 30.

Other school boards, such as the Halton District School Board and the Peel District School Board, don’t publish any percentages. Instead, these boards publish just raw figures, such as total number of individuals to whom vaccination disclosure applies and the number who have attested to being fully vaccinated, leaving parents to do their own math.

The Star also found that some boards, including the Ottawa Catholic School Board and the Toronto Catholic District School Board, lump together the number of staff who have attested to being fully vaccinated with or without supporting documentation, further muddying the waters.

Conversely, other boards, such as the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board and the Durham District School Board, more transparently break down the numbers showing how many staff have attested to being fully vaccinated with and without supporting documentation.

In the case of the TCDSB, spokesperson Shazia Vlahos told the Star the board has set up a team to follow up with individuals who have not submitted supporting documentation, as well as those who have not yet completed attestation forms.

In August, Ontario’s chief medical officer, Dr. Kieran Moore, announced a COVID-19 vaccination disclosure requirement for all publicly funded school board staff for this school year. The policy says they must do one of the following three things: provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19; produce a documented medical reason for not receiving the vaccine; or complete a COVID-19 vaccination educational program on the benefits of the vaccine. Staff who are not fully vaccinated are required to complete rapid antigen tests twice a week.

Already one board, the Toronto Catholic District School Board, has issued stern warnings to unvaccinated staff that they risk suspension without pay if they do not comply with twice-weekly rapid-test requirements.

The Toronto District School Board has gone a step further with its own vaccine mandate, requiring all staff, trustees and other individuals who have contact with staff or students to be vaccinated by Nov. 1 or face home assignment without pay.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board is requiring all staff to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 15. Employees that have refused to disclose their vaccination status, who responded that they are unvaccinated or have not completed the vaccine attestation are not working directly with students, according to spokesperson Darcy Knoll.

“Some staff” who did not provide proof of vaccination by Sept. 30 were placed on administrative leave without pay, Knoll added, but the exact number is “not available at this time.”

There is no privacy legislation that prevents school boards from disclosing vaccination rates by job category, says Avner Levin, a privacy law expert and a professor at Ryerson University’s Lincoln Alexander School of Law.

“I can’t accept that there’s a privacy reason for any of this,” he said. “The key element of withholding information is if it can identify an individual. Statistical aggregate information cannot identify an individual.”

In fact, there is a provision in provincial privacy legislation that allows for an organization to provide information if there is a compelling health and safety purpose, Levin noted.

“There’s this misconception that COVID is harmless to children, but we know there is long COVID and PIMS (Pediatric Inflammatory Multisystem Syndrome) that causes massive inflammation all over the body,” he said. “So there’s a very compelling reason both for the kids and for their parents who might catch it from kids to know specifically who at their school” is putting them at risk.

Dr. Nili Kaplan-Myrth, a family physician based in Ottawa who has organized mass vaccination clinics, said parents deserve to know if their kids are going to school with staff who may not be fully vaccinated.

“There’s a total lack of transparency,” she said. “And it shouldn’t be left up to the parents to then scramble and try to figure out, well, what’s safest for my child right now?”

This problem stems from the province “not wanting to be proactive” on vaccine mandates and leaving it up to individual boards to decide if the vaccine will be required for staff, she added. Schools have been open now for weeks and without a consistent set of rules for boards on vaccines, “it puts the whole thing at risk, it’s like a house of cards that’s waiting to fall.”

In New York City, meanwhile, all staff in public schools needed to get a first dose of the vaccine by Sep. 27 or they would be placed on unpaid leave, which has prompted thousands to get the shot.

Parent Nora Fayed said a lack of transparency, clarity and standardization in tracking vaccinations at school boards means there is no good evidence base for making high-stakes policies and decisions.

“That’s a really big problem,” said Fayed, who along with other concerned parents last spring formed the Coalition for Kids, a group that advocates for child-centred, data-driven pandemic responses in Ontario. “For some reason, it seems to be acceptable to have a lack of standardized data when it comes to our kids in schools.”

Fayed, who is also a professor at Queen’s University and an occupational therapist who specializes in child well-being research, added that policy makers need to make decisions about what is in the best interests of children.

“And the only way to do that very well and in an ethical way is to have good data, and we don’t have it.”

Kenyon Wallace is a Toronto-based investigative reporter for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @KenyonWallace or reach him via email: kwallace@thestar.ca

May Warren is a Toronto-based breaking news reporter for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @maywarren11

Source : Toronto Star More   

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Today’s coronavirus news: India hits 1 billion vaccine doses; Canada Recovery Benefit is set to expire

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Thursday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.5:45 a.m.: Over a month into the school year, the province’s largest school boards are reporting staff vaccination rates ranging from a high of 94.8 per cent to a low of 76 per cent.But a Star analysis of 31 major boards has found inconsistencies in the way they report and present this information that make it difficult to compare rates between boards, and in most cases impossible for parents to know the rate of vaccination of teachers at their boards.Despite provincial direction that public school board employees disclose their vaccination status, the Star found that over 15,000 staff have not done so, and, because boards don’t break down the data by job category, it’s not clear what these people do.Read more from the Star’s Kenyon Wallace and May Warren.5:30 a.m.: Russia on Thursday registered the highest daily numbers of new coronavirus infections and deaths since the start of the pandemic as the authorities hoped to slow the spread by introducing a nonworking week.The government coronavirus task force reported 36,339 new confirmed infections and 1,036 deaths in the past 24 hours that brought Russia’s death toll to 227,389 — by far the highest in Europe.Russia’s daily infections have been surging for weeks and coronavirus mortality numbers topped 1,000 for the first time over the weekend amid low vaccination rates, lax public attitudes toward taking precautions and the government’s reluctance to tighten restrictions. Only about 45 million Russians — roughly a third of its nearly 146 million people — are fully vaccinated.President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday responded to rising contagion and deaths by ordering Russians to stay off work for a period starting Oct. 30 and extending through the following week, when four of seven days are already non-working, including a two-day state holiday. In some regions where the situation is the most threatening, he said the nonworking period could start as early as Saturday and be extended past Nov. 7.5:15 a.m.: The Canada Recovery Benefit is on the way out, the Star learned late Wednesday.Two sources told the Star that the benefit, which replaced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) last year, will be gone sooner rather than later. But some support will still be available for those who are not able to go to work temporarily because of strict lockdowns.The fate of the federal government’s soon-to-expire pandemic support measures could be revealed as early as Thursday.Supports for struggling businesses will remain in some form but be streamlined and made far more stringent in terms of applicants demonstrating losses.Read more from the Star’s Raisi Patel.5 a.m.: India has administered 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine, officials said Thursday, passing a milestone for the South Asian country where the delta variant fueled its first crushing surge earlier this year. About 75% of India’s total eligible adult population have received at least one dose, while around 30% are fully immunized. The country of nearly 1.4 billion people is the second to exceed a billion cumulative doses after the most populous country China did so in June. Coronavirus cases have fallen sharply in India since the devastating months at the start of the year when the highly transmissible delta variant, first detected in the country a year ago, was infecting hundreds of thousands daily, sending COVID-19 patients into overwhelmed hospitals and filling cremation grounds. Officials have bolstered the vaccination campaign in recent months, which experts say have helped control the outbreak since. The country began its drive in January. Still, there remains a worrying gap between those who have received one shot and those fully immunized. Ramping up the second dose is “an important priority,” V K Paul, the head of the country’s COVID-19 taskforce, said at a briefing last week. 4:50 a.m.: Toronto expects the COVID-19 vaccine to be approved and offered to children aged 5 to 11 within weeks, says public health chief Dr. Eileen de Villa.De Villa told reporters Wednesday her department is launching a multi-pronged campaign to get as many kids immunized as quickly as possible, including an online “tool kit” with vaccine information for parents, guardians and caregivers.The kit includes information about the benefits and risks of children getting the jab, she said, adding that in general the vaccine’s protection for kids and adults around them against COVID-19 far outweigh any risk of side-effects.Read more from the Star’s David Rider.4:45 a.m.: Saskatchewan’s chief medical officer of health broke into tears in the midst of a COVID-19 modelling presentation over teleconference Wednesday.Dr. Saqib Shahab teared up while reflecting on the province’s overloaded hospitals and intensive care units.“It’s distressing to see what is happening in our ICUs an

Today’s coronavirus news: India hits 1 billion vaccine doses; Canada Recovery Benefit is set to expire

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Thursday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

5:45 a.m.: Over a month into the school year, the province’s largest school boards are reporting staff vaccination rates ranging from a high of 94.8 per cent to a low of 76 per cent.

But a Star analysis of 31 major boards has found inconsistencies in the way they report and present this information that make it difficult to compare rates between boards, and in most cases impossible for parents to know the rate of vaccination of teachers at their boards.

Despite provincial direction that public school board employees disclose their vaccination status, the Star found that over 15,000 staff have not done so, and, because boards don’t break down the data by job category, it’s not clear what these people do.

Read more from the Star’s Kenyon Wallace and May Warren.

5:30 a.m.: Russia on Thursday registered the highest daily numbers of new coronavirus infections and deaths since the start of the pandemic as the authorities hoped to slow the spread by introducing a nonworking week.

The government coronavirus task force reported 36,339 new confirmed infections and 1,036 deaths in the past 24 hours that brought Russia’s death toll to 227,389 — by far the highest in Europe.

Russia’s daily infections have been surging for weeks and coronavirus mortality numbers topped 1,000 for the first time over the weekend amid low vaccination rates, lax public attitudes toward taking precautions and the government’s reluctance to tighten restrictions. Only about 45 million Russians — roughly a third of its nearly 146 million people — are fully vaccinated.

President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday responded to rising contagion and deaths by ordering Russians to stay off work for a period starting Oct. 30 and extending through the following week, when four of seven days are already non-working, including a two-day state holiday. In some regions where the situation is the most threatening, he said the nonworking period could start as early as Saturday and be extended past Nov. 7.

5:15 a.m.: The Canada Recovery Benefit is on the way out, the Star learned late Wednesday.

Two sources told the Star that the benefit, which replaced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) last year, will be gone sooner rather than later. But some support will still be available for those who are not able to go to work temporarily because of strict lockdowns.

The fate of the federal government’s soon-to-expire pandemic support measures could be revealed as early as Thursday.

Supports for struggling businesses will remain in some form but be streamlined and made far more stringent in terms of applicants demonstrating losses.

Read more from the Star’s Raisi Patel.

5 a.m.: India has administered 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine, officials said Thursday, passing a milestone for the South Asian country where the delta variant fueled its first crushing surge earlier this year.

About 75% of India’s total eligible adult population have received at least one dose, while around 30% are fully immunized. The country of nearly 1.4 billion people is the second to exceed a billion cumulative doses after the most populous country China did so in June.

Coronavirus cases have fallen sharply in India since the devastating months at the start of the year when the highly transmissible delta variant, first detected in the country a year ago, was infecting hundreds of thousands daily, sending COVID-19 patients into overwhelmed hospitals and filling cremation grounds.

Officials have bolstered the vaccination campaign in recent months, which experts say have helped control the outbreak since. The country began its drive in January.

Still, there remains a worrying gap between those who have received one shot and those fully immunized. Ramping up the second dose is “an important priority,” V K Paul, the head of the country’s COVID-19 taskforce, said at a briefing last week.

4:50 a.m.: Toronto expects the COVID-19 vaccine to be approved and offered to children aged 5 to 11 within weeks, says public health chief Dr. Eileen de Villa.

De Villa told reporters Wednesday her department is launching a multi-pronged campaign to get as many kids immunized as quickly as possible, including an online “tool kit” with vaccine information for parents, guardians and caregivers.

The kit includes information about the benefits and risks of children getting the jab, she said, adding that in general the vaccine’s protection for kids and adults around them against COVID-19 far outweigh any risk of side-effects.

Read more from the Star’s David Rider.

4:45 a.m.: Saskatchewan’s chief medical officer of health broke into tears in the midst of a COVID-19 modelling presentation over teleconference Wednesday.

Dr. Saqib Shahab teared up while reflecting on the province’s overloaded hospitals and intensive care units.

“It’s distressing to see what is happening in our ICUs and hospitals and I’m sorry,” he said in a press conference over the phone. “It’s a very challenging time.”

Read the full story from the Star’s Kevin Jiang.

4:30 a.m.: Belgium's government warned Thursday that the country could well be on the cusp of another major surge in COVID-19 cases despite its high vaccination rate.

Though the government recently relaxed the mandatory use of facemasks, it is again starting to encourage the population to use them to counter a rise in cases reminiscent of the first three surges of the past one and a half years.

“We are clearly in a fourth wave,” Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke told the VRT network. “We will see a major increase in infections and, unfortunately, hospital admissions.”

The government has this month loosened some restrictions, including allowing for more indoor events and dropping requirements for customers to wear masks in bars.

4:20 a.m.: Geoff Waszek was wary of another pandemic-related lockdown this fall just in time for Halloween, so the owner of Candy's Costume Shop in Toronto decided to take a cautious approach to ordering this year.

But with COVID-19 cases having stabilized, Waszek was left scrambling to stock his shelves in time.

"We had to do a lot of scrounging this year, going through companies and finding what’s available," he said.

Waszek is one of many Halloween store owners who say supply chain issues, shuttered suppliers and uncertainty have hampered their recovery from a dismal 2020.

In the end, Candy's Costume Shop was able to stock about 90 per cent of its shelves, but without certain items. Licensed products like superhero and movie costumes were nearly impossible to find, so his shop has more generic items like capes and masks this year.

U.S.-based HalloweenCostumes.com, which ships directly to Canadian consumers, said many retailers are struggling as they see a roughly 50 per cent increase in year-over-year demand compared with last year, when many didn't celebrate Halloween. Spokeswoman Ashley Theis said much of the stock the company ordered won't arrive until after Halloween.

Source : Toronto Star More   

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