Amid the controversy surrounding mandatory vaccinations for all workers, the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) cuts, and vaccine passports, October 22 saw the Ontario Government release a reopening plan that will set the scene from now until March 2022.
With the province recently dissolving high capacity and social distancing limits on October 25, Ontario’s New Years resolution will see a gradual lift of proof of vaccination requirements in certain settings starting as early as January 2022, with hopes of the requirements being completely eradicated come February 2022. The plan also states all public health safety measures, including masks, will be lifted for all settings by March.
As of October 31st, 22,514,717 doses have been administered in Ontario. Provided the reopening plan is carried out fluidly, this will mean the proof of vaccination mandate will have lasted only seven months. With that being said, is Ontario ready to reopen or is the government jumping the gun?
According to Ivana Yelich, the executive director of media relations to Premier Ford, “The province has made tremendous progress fighting the spread of COVID-19 and Ontario is now in a position where we can see the proposed plan for gradually lifting the remaining public health and workplace safety measures. Per the Science Table’s latest modelling, COVID-19 cases are declining in most Public Health Units and hospitalizations and intensive Care Unit (ICU) occupancy are stable.”
“As a result of Ontario’s cautious approach, the province continues to report one of the lowest rates of active cases in the country, well below the national average. Ontario has trended towards the best-case scenario projected by the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table,” Yelich continues.
Yelich continues on to say: “Our cautious and incremental approach will continue to be guided by the ongoing assessment and monitoring of key public health and health care indicators, such as the identification of any new COVID-19 variants, increases in hospitalizations and ICU occupancy, and rapid increases in transmission to ensure that public health and workplace safety measures are lifted safely.”
Meanwhile, the York community further echoes optimism with Deputy Spokesperson Yanni Dagonas noting that: “Using YU Screen, over 43,000 individuals have uploaded their vaccination status, of which 98 per cent of faculty, 97 per cent of students attending in-person classes, and 96 per cent of staff have been fully vaccinated. We look forward to fully opening our campuses in the winter term. Our efforts to date have resulted in almost 35,000 students attending our campuses in the fall, supported by over 5,000 staff and faculty out of a total of more than 58,000 students and 6,600 employees.”
For York students, it is important to consider that there are many who have not been able to experience a normal university setting whatsoever. Second-year music student Ethan Flynn believes that York “needs to open as soon as possible.”
A third-year film major, who wishes to remain anonymous, concurred, adding that “if York puts the same rules currently in place at restaurants, movie theatres, and other businesses, we will be ready to open at full capacity next semester.”
With vaccine passports being phased out so quickly, it begs the question whether it is a wise decision for Ontario to begin phasing them out just months after being mandated. While Yelich did not comment on the future of vaccine passports, Flynn says phasing them out “won’t change much outside of letting more people do more things.”
The anonymous film major was less optimistic, and believes proof of vaccinations are being “phased out way too soon. Vaccine passports are helping to slow down infection rates; they’ll just go back up once passports are phased out.”
The next step on the agenda comes November 15, where, according to the Ontario Safety Reopening Plan capacity limits will be lifted in the remaining higher-risk settings where proof of vaccination is required, including food or drink establishments with dance facilities, strip clubs, bathhouses, and sex clubs.