The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is reporting 49 new cases of COVID-19 today. Yesterday there were 47 cases and on Monday there were 54 cases. Of the new cases announced today, two are outbreak related, 23 are from close contact with another confirmed cases, six are considered community spread, and 18 are under investigation. Our region has recorded 15,341 cases since the beginning of the pandemic along with 414 deaths. There are currently 453 active cases in the community, with 132 being variants of concern, 18 confirmed cases in the hospital with five of those in the ICU, 14,475 cases listed as resolved, and 158,442 doses of the vaccine have been administered. Across the province today there were 3,480 new cases reported. Yesterday there were 3,265 cases, and on Monday there were 3,510 cases.
ON THIS DAY OF MOURNING WE CONTINUE TO FIGHT FOR YOU
I was pleased when my Private Members Bill was passed in 2016 that ensured schools, universities, provincial and municipal buildings lowered their flags on April 28 each year, the day set aside to mourn those who lost their lives on the job or injured. This past year has been particularly tragic, as workers continue to be exposed and lose their lives to COVID-19. Every workplace illness, injury and death is preventable. Nearly 8,000 Ontarians have lost their lives to COVID-19. We are filled with sorrow for those who have been infected at work. We mourn the loss of workers who have died from this brutal virus. And we renew our pledge to fight for every worker in Ontario — for the protection they need to stay safe until we have conquered COVID-19. Today our caucus introduced a motion calling on the government to protect essential workers by legislating paid sick days, ensuring access to high quality PPE, developing an effective essential worker vaccination strategy with paid time off for vaccination and extending full WSIB protections to all Ontario workers. This will be the 26th motion on paid sick days, 20 of which have been on motions or bills by our caucus. The Government has repeatedly refused to take action to protect Ontario’s workers and ignores the advice of its own experts calling for paid sick days, paid time off for vaccinations, and the closure of non-essential workplaces while offering supports for the workers and businesses affected. This motion will also be one more step as our caucus fights for adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), and to end the government forcing workers in jobs with high risk of COVID exposure to prove they contracted the disease on the job in order to receive WSIB supports.
Please visit the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions to pay respect to those in the health care field who have lost their lives to COVID. As we collectively mourn their loss, let us recommit to fighting for all frontline workers to have the protections they need to remain safe and healthy. If you know of a health care professional who has lost their lives to COVID, please add their names so their sacrifice is recognized.
The Windsor District Labour Council is also commemorating the Day of Mourning through their virtual event at their website: www.wdlc.ca. Please take the time to honour the workers who have lost their lives or have been injured on the job.
In the year it took the government to capitulate on paid sick days, 455,000 people were infected and nearly 8,000 died of COVID-19. For weeks, the Government said that they were going to take action and promised "one of the best" sick day programs in North America. Today, the provincial government announced their plans to introduce legislation which would provide only three paid sick days through a temporary program ending in September. The proposed program will pay up to $200 per day for workers who are sick, have symptoms, have a mental health issue or need to be vaccinated. This announcement is extremely disappointing and coming far too late. Too late to stop COVID-19 from getting out of control. Too late for workers who have already gotten sick. And it’s still too little. COVID-19 takes a couple weeks to get over. Even getting a test and waiting for results can take several days. Three sick days is not enough. To all those people who have fought for over a year, thank you. We share your disappointment and we’re going to keep fighting with you. We will keep pushing the government to pass Bill 239, the Stay Home If You Are Sick Act, which establishes permanent paid sick days plus 14 government-funded paid sick days during a pandemic or infectious disease emergency.
We have also continued to fight for migrant farm workers who come to Ontario from other countries and are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and other infectious diseases due to their communal living and working conditions, according to a coroner’s report released on April 27, 2021. To protect their health, the report recommends putting isolation centres in place, setting up an anonymous phone line for reporting concerns, and conducting random tests for COVID-19. Workers without permanent status in Canada are allowed to do temporary agricultural work in this country through the federal program. The report was based on an investigation into the COVID-19 deaths in southwestern Ontario of three Mexican farm workers. Bonifacio Romero, Rogelio Santos and Juan Chaparro passed away in May and June last year. Where exactly they contracted the infection well after arrival in Canada — in the community or at their residences or workplaces — is unknown. The report notes that originally a coroner initially decided against investigating one of the three deaths on the basis that COVID-19 was a natural disease. The decision was later reversed in light of the “importance of understanding the risks” to the workers from a public health and societal point of view. You can read the full report here.
LONG-TERM CARE HOMES
The provincial government has announced a new emergency order to allow for hospitals to transfer patients waiting for a long-term care bed to any nursing home without their consent. The Health Minister says that this temporary emergency order will provide hospitals with the flexibility to transfer patients whose doctors have determined that they no longer require hospital care to long-term care or retirement homes without obtaining the consent of the patient or, where the patient is incapable, their substitute decision maker. You can read more here.
Last year, residents in long-term care homes were devastated by COVID-19. 3,917 LTC residents in Ontario have succumbed to the pandemic to date and many continue to be denied access to loved ones. Many of you have spoken to my office, expressing concerns over loved ones in long term care. It’s heartbreaking to think of seniors being sent far from their families, to live in LTC homes they didn’t choose, without their consent. People could be torn away from their loved ones, sent to a place they or their family objects to. The Premier can take action to prevent this from happening — but the Premier’s still choosing not to
This announcement is particularly concerning as it follows a new report from Ontario’s Auditor General that shows the inhumane suffering of seniors in long-term care during COVID-19 started with decades of neglect and cuts by the Liberal and Conservative governments, followed by dangerous choices by the current government during the pandemic. The report released by the Auditor General today describes dangerously low staffing levels, crowding and viral infections running rampant – all during years of Liberal government neglect and privatization. Then it points to the Premier's 2018 elimination of annual comprehensive inspections — leaving serious problems, including infection prevention and control problems, to grow and fester. And when COVID struck, the Premier chose to allow long-term care companies to decide for themselves what to do. The report shows that 43 per cent of all homes have infection outbreaks every year and 28 per cent of homes report 10 or more outbreaks per year. The problems are worse in for-profit homes. Of the 15 long-term care homes with the highest number of resident deaths during the pandemic, 13 are operated by for-profit entities. Those 15 homes have just 4.4 per cent of all long-term-care home beds, but accounted for nearly one in three resident deaths. You can read the full report here.
Our caucus has already released a plan for a complete overhaul of home care and long-term care in a model built on small, family-like homes rather than institution-like facilities. It’s a detailed blueprint for a transition to a well-regulated and well-staffed public and not-for-profit system with 50,000 new beds added. Our loved ones that live in long-term care facilities deserve to age comfortably and with dignity. We continue to call on the government to pass our Time To Care act which would legislate a minimum standard of care for long-term care residents, our More Than A Visitor Act which would enshrine caregiver rights, and our Seniors’ Advocate Act which would implement an office dedicated to the care and protection of seniors. We also continue to call on the government to implement robust surveillance testing regimes, ensure staff and essential caregivers have unfettered access to PPE, re-establish annual Resident Quality Inspections, and more. This pandemic has highlighted what we always knew about the long-term care system – it is broken. We must do better.
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.