The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is reporting 40 new COVID-19 cases in our region today, along with the loss of two lives of members of our community. There are now 409 deaths related to COVID-19 in our region since the beginning of the pandemic. Yesterday there were 53 new cases reported, and on Sunday there were 36. Of the new cases reported today, two are outbreak related, eight are from close contact with another confirmed case, nine are considered community spread, and 21 are under investigation. Our region now has a total of 14,478 cases, with 398 considered active, and 114 are variants of concern, and 13,671 cases listed as resolved. There are 18 confirmed cases in the hospital, with five in the ICU. There have been 119,024 doses of the vaccine administered in our region. Across the province today there were 3,670 cases. Yesterday there were 4,401 cases, and on Sunday there were 4,456 cases.
Representatives from the local Ontario English Catholic Teacher’s Association, local Elementary Teacher’s Federation of Ontario, and Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation District 9 have spoken out in frustration regarding the news that students will not be returning to in-class learning next week after the spring break. I have heard from parents and teachers throughout this pandemic about how remote learning doesn’t work for everyone. We know students learn better in the classroom, and the provincial government should have been taking the steps that our caucus has been calling for since last year to ensure that classrooms were safe for in-person learning. We need a cap on class sizes of 15 students, better ventilation, and school upgrades for things like touchless faucets, we need teachers and education workers prioritized for vaccines, we need paid time off for them to get vaccines, and we need paid sick days so that parents can stay home with their kids if they are sick. We need to invest in these resources and supports so that our kids can safely stay in school to learn. You can read the comments from the teacher union representatives here.
A COVID-19 case has been reported at Jack Miner Public School. The Greater Essex County District School Board has said they have reached out to close contacts to notify them and they are following the direction of the local health unit.
FIGHTING FOR YOU IN THE LEGISLATURE
As ICUs struggle to provide care for a rising number of people in critical condition, the provincial government must hold open consultations on the triage protocol and remove disability discrimination from it. The Government must stop ignoring human rights leaders and over 200 community organizations that wrote to them over a year ago exposing and denouncing its directions to Ontario hospitals on life-saving critical care that discriminates against people with disabilities. According to the Toronto Star, the government is considering indemnifying critical care physicians from lawsuits — which means the government is planning for doctors to have to make life-and-death decisions about allocating care but is doing so behind closed doors. People with disabilities face a higher risk of getting and being severely impacted by COVID-19. The government must immediately remove disability discrimination from its clinical triage protocol and respect the human rights of patients with disabilities.
The provincial government voted down the Access to Mental Health Support for Essential Workers Act today which would have provided the essential workers identified in government emergency orders presumptive coverage for mental health benefits through the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). Essential workers across the province have been on the frontlines. They continue to work to provide health care, groceries, education, emergency services and long-term care to help others make it through this pandemic. These workers supported us all throughout the pandemic, and it is shameful that this government has refused to support them back by providing mental health supports they may need as a result of their work on the frontlines.
Today in the Legislature our caucus tabled a bill, titled The Supply Chain Management Amendment Act (Provisional Diverse Vendor Strategy), that seeks to diversify government procurement and ensure that the province’s economic recovery from COVID-19 is more equitable and inclusive. Government procurement can be used as a tool to support better economic and social outcomes. The public sector has tremendous buying power, and it is long overdue for the province to leverage that buying power to support the province’s diverse small and medium businesses. This bill will support business owners who haven’t always had a seat at the table, such as women, BIPOC and LGBTQ2S+ folks, those with disabilities, new immigrants, and veterans.
The Ontario Energy Board has announced that they are prohibiting electricity distributors from issuing disconnection notices to residential customers for the duration of the province-wide stay-at home order. This means customers cannot be disconnected for non-payment before May 21, 2021. These measures apply only to Electricity Distribution Companies, but not Unit Sub-Meter Providers (USMPs). You can read more here.
Windsor Police have said they will continue to monitor COVID-19 compliance with the province’s Stay-At-Home Order and will undertake enforcement actions as necessary, Officers are will not be entering dwellings, stopping vehicles or stopping anyone who happens to be outside, but instead will focus on individuals and businesses not complying with closure orders or customer limits, as well as responding to complaints about large gatherings of people. You can read more here.
The United States announced today that they are pausing their use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine following reports of a very rare blood clotting in six patients. There have been 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine administered in the U.S. and the vast majority have had very mild or no side effects at all. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have recommended the pause out of caution until the FDA’s immunization advisory committee could meet to review the data. The Prime Minister has said that Canada is closely monitoring these developments, as Canada has 10 million J&J vaccines on order. He has assured Canadians that the health of Canadians will be first and foremost around any decision made regarding distribution of the vaccine. You can read more here.
Please stay diligent and continue following public health advice by staying at home, only going out for essential trips, wearing a mask, practicing physical distancing of 2 metres apart at all times when around others who live outside your household, and washing your hands frequently.