Covid-19 Updates

COVID-19 Vaccine Bookings to Open For All Children Aged Five to 11

Families can book appointments through a variety of channels starting November 23rd

Following Health Canada’s approval of the paediatric Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, children aged five to 11 will be eligible to book their appointment to receive the vaccine beginning Tuesday, November 23, 2021. Approximately one million children aged five to 11 are eligible to receive the vaccine which will help protect Ontario’s progress in the fight against COVID-19 and keep the province’s schools safer and open for in-person learning as more people move indoors and attend family gatherings during the colder months this winter.

As of 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday, November 23, 2021, children aged five to 11 across Ontario will be eligible to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment through a variety of channels including the COVID-19 vaccination portal and contact centre, directly through public health units using their own booking system, participating pharmacies which individuals can find on Ontario’s website using the pharmacy locator, and select primary care providers.

To book an appointment online, children must be turning five years old by the end of 2021 (born in 2016).

Ontario is expected to receive 1,076,000 doses of the paediatric Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine from the federal government, which will then be immediately distributed to public health units, pharmacies, and primary care settings across the province. Appointments across the province are expected to begin as early as November 25 when the federal supply arrives at vaccine clinics across the province.

In addition, the province, in conjunction with Health Canada’s First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, has launched Operation Remote Immunity 3.0 (ORI 3.0) to support the administration of COVID-19 vaccines for children aged five to 11 in Northern and Remote First Nation communities, as well as booster doses to eligible populations. ORI 3.0 will run until March 2022.

Achieving the highest vaccination rates possible is key to limiting the risk of transmission and protecting our hard-fought progress against COVID-19. Together with its partners the government continues its Last Mile Strategy to administer thousands of first and second doses to adults and youth already eligible for their shot as we also continue to provide booster doses to nearly three million eligible Ontarians.

Ontario Pausing the Lifting of Capacity Limits in Remaining Settings Where Proof of Vaccination is Required

Province’s Cautious Approach Key to Protecting Our Progress

The Ontario government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, is pausing the lifting of capacity limits in remaining higher-risk settings as outlined in A Plan to Safely Reopen Ontario and Manage COVID-19 for the Long-Term. This is being done out of an abundance of caution as the province monitors public health trends.

The phased and cautious approach to Ontario’s safe reopening includes ongoing monitoring and assessment of key public health and health care indicators. While Ontario’s hospital and intensive care capacity remains stable and the province continues to report one of the lowest rates of active cases in the country, certain public health trends, including the effective reproduction number and percent positivity have increased slightly over the past week.

An increase in cases was always expected as more people move indoors due to the colder weather and as the province eased measures. However, out of an abundance of caution, existing capacity limits and physical distancing requirements for higher-risk settings where proof of vaccination is required will remain in place to ensure the province has the required time to better understand any potential impact on hospitalizations and ICU admissions. These higher-risk settings include:

  • food or drink establishments with dance facilities such as night clubs and wedding receptions in meeting/event spaces where there is dancing;
  • strip clubs; and
  • sex clubs and bathhouses.

The government and the Chief Medical Officer of Health will continue to monitor the data for the next 28 days to determine when it is safe to lift capacity limits in these settings.

Ontario’s cautious approach is working, with weekly cases incidence rates still well below the national average and the province tracking below the lower range scenario for ICU projections outlined by the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table on October 22, 2021. However, the province has continued to be guided by the evidence, ensuring that key indicators continue to be assessed through each milestone of its plan to gradually lift public health and workplace safety measures.

Ontarians are urged to remain vigilant and continue following public health and workplace safety measures in place and to get vaccinated if they have not done so already. Achieving the highest vaccination rates possible is key to reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission and significant surges in cases. Responses will continue to be tailored to local context, with the ultimate goal of limiting disruption to people and businesses across the province.

Public Service Occupational Health Program COVID-19 Guidance

This guidance applies following the full implementation of the Policy on COVID-19 Vaccination for the Core Public Administration Including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on November 15, 2021, when there is regular rapid testing of employees who are unable to be fully vaccinated and are required to be on-site.

COVID-19 vaccination, when combined with public health measures and preventive practices, lowers the risk of transmission and of serious illness for the vaccinated.

Health Canada’s Public Service Occupational Health Program (PSOHP) has developed this guidance to provide an occupational health framework to support Departments and Agencies in increasing occupancy and planning for re-entry into their workplaces.

This guidance is not prescriptive; federal departments and agencies will have unique approaches to implementing preventive practices, tailored to their work settings and employee functions, and taking into account local COVID-19 considerations and public health advice.

Deputy Heads are ultimately responsible for the health and safety of their employees. Departments and Agencies should continue to work with their Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) resources and committees.

The guidance in this document is grounded in the latest science and has been informed by the most recent advice from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), and will continue to be updated as the COVID-19 situation in Canada evolves.

Health Canada’s PSOHP is responsible for providing occupational health guidance to federal departments and agencies in the core public administration (operationalized as Schedule I and IV of the Financial Administration Act). It may also be appropriate for other federal departments and agencies outside of Schedule I and IV (i.e., separate employers) to consider these recommendations for their federally-regulated workplace.

Ontario Expanding Booster Eligibility to More Ontarians

Eligibility Will Expand Gradually Based on Age and Risk to Provide Extra Layer of Protection Against the Delta Variant

The Ontario government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, is expanding eligibility for booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to additional groups of high-risk individuals starting November 6, 2021, providing them with an extra layer of protection against the Delta variant. Over the coming months, Ontario is also prepared to gradually roll out booster doses to all Ontarians aged 12 and over.

While the province continues to report one of the lowest rates of active cases in the country and continues to make steady progress in vaccinating more individuals, offering the extra layer of protection provided by a booster dose will contribute to the fight against COVID-19.

Based on the recommendation of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and in alignment with the National Advisory Committee on Immunization’s (NACI) recent recommendation, the province will begin offering booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to the following vulnerable populations if at least six months have passed since their last dose:

  • Individuals aged 70 and over (born in 1951 or earlier);
  • Health care workers and designated essential caregivers in congregate settings (including long-term care home and retirement home staff and designated caregivers);
  • Individuals who received a complete series of a viral vector vaccine (two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine or one dose of the Janssen vaccine); and
  • First Nation, Inuit and Métis adults and their non-Indigenous household members.

Booster doses are being offered to these groups based on evidence of gradual waning immunity six months after receiving their second dose and a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Starting on Saturday, November 6 at 8:00 a.m., eligible individuals will be able to book their booster dose appointment through the COVID-19 vaccination portal or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre, directly through public health units that use their own booking systems, through Indigenous-led vaccination clinics, select pharmacies, and primary care settings. Hospital-based health care workers are encouraged to reach out to their hospital employer to get vaccinated directly through their hospital’s vaccination program.

Locations and timing for booster doses may vary by public health unit based on local planning and considerations.

In addition, Ontario is once again supporting northern and remote fly in First Nation communities by launching Operation Remote Immunity 3.0, this time through the co-development of plans with Health Canada’s First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, to support Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority and Weeneebayko Area Health Authority, First Nation health organizations, to administer booster doses in their communities with transportation and vaccine supply assistance from Ornge and local public health units.

While the COVID-19 vaccine is highly effective, the province is prepared to expand eligibility for a booster dose to all Ontarians over time. Based on Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout for first and second doses, expansion of eligibility for booster doses will be based on age and risk, with an interval of six to eight months from the second dose.

During the height of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, a large population of Ontarians received their first and second doses at a longer interval than indicated on the product monograph. This longer interval has now been shown to improve duration of protection, and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization now recommends an optimal interval of eight weeks between first and second doses.

COVID-19 vaccine eligibility for children aged five to 11 is subject to Health Canada approval. Ontario is working with public health units across the province to prepare to vaccinate children aged five to 11. The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11 is a distinct formulation at a lower dose and supply of vaccine that will be rolled out in parallel to booster doses.

Ontario to Raise Minimum Wage to $15 an Hour

Government working for workers by enhancing wages and take-home pay

As part of the 2021 Fall Economic Statement, the Ontario government will introduce legislation that, if passed, would raise the general minimum wage from $14.35 to $15.00 per hour effective January 1, 2022. Under the proposed changes, the special minimum wage rate for liquor servers would be eliminated and they would be entitled to the general minimum wage. Students under 18, homeworkers and hunting, fishing and wilderness guides would also see an increase in their special minimum wage rates.

Details were shared today by Premier Doug Ford, Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development and Peter Bethlenfalvy, Minister of Finance.

Liquor servers have previously received below the general minimum wage, based on the belief customer tipping can make up the difference. However, many of these workers have increasingly seen their tips pooled and redistributed among many staff, making it harder for them to make ends meet. If the legislation is passed, liquor servers would be treated more fairly and see an unprecedented 19.5 per cent increase in their minimum hourly wage, as it changes from $12.55 per hour to the harmonized $15 per hour minimum wage.

The Ontario government is introducing legislation to increase minimum wages as the cost of living has increased considerably over the past several months, but wages for many have not kept pace.

Special minimum wage rates are also proposed to increase:

  • Students under the age of 18 who work 28 hours a week or less when school is in session, or work during a school break or summer holidays would see an increase from $13.50 to $14.10 an hour.
  • Homeworkers (those who do paid work out of their own homes for employers) would see an increase from $15.80 an hour to $16.50 an hour.
  • Hunting and fishing guides currently have a minimum rate of $71.75 for working less than five consecutive hours in a day, and $143.55 for working five or more hours in a day. Their new proposed rate would be $75.00 for working less than five consecutive hours in a day, and $150.05 for working five or more hours in a day.
  • These proposed changes are part of the government’s broader effort to support, protect and attract workers, and make Ontario the top place to live, work and raise a family. The government will release its plan to protect Ontario’s progress against COVID-19 and for building the foundation for the province’s recovery and prosperity in the 2021 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review on November 4.

These proposed changes are part of the government’s broader effort to support, protect and attract workers, and make Ontario the top place to live, work and raise a family. The government will release its plan to protect Ontario’s progress against COVID-19 and for building the foundation for the province’s recovery and prosperity in the 2021 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review on November 4.

Ontario Extending Temporary Wage Enhancement for Personal Support Workers

Protecting our Progress by Supporting Frontline Health Care Workers in Fight Against COVID-19

The Ontario government is investing an additional $373 million to extend the temporary wage enhancement for personal support workers and direct support workers. This increase will continue until March 31, 2022 and will help attract and retain workers in these critical sectors to protect Ontario’s progress while continuing to take a cautious and careful approach to reopening.

The government is extending the wage enhancement for over 158,000 personal support workers and direct support workers who deliver publicly funded personal support services or direct support services in home and community care, long-term care, public hospitals, and social services. This temporary wage enhancement includes:

  • $3 per hour for approximately 38,000 eligible workers in home and community care;
  • $3 per hour for approximately 50,000 eligible workers in long-term care;
  • $2 per hour for approximately 10,000 eligible workers in public hospitals; and
  • $3 per hour for approximately 60,000 eligible workers in children, community and social services providing personal direct support services to those who need assistance with the activities of daily living.

Since October 1, 2020, Ontario has invested over $1.3 billion to temporarily enhance wages for personal support workers and direct support workers to help stabilize, attract and retain the workforce needed to provide a high level of care during the COVID-19 pandemic. This latest temporary wage increase builds on the government’s previous wage enhancement extension on August 23, 2021, which was set to expire on October 31, 2021. The government continues to explore a permanent solution to address a range of longstanding recruitment and retention issues among personal support workers and direct support workers.

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