The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is reporting 30 new cases of COVID-19 and two more deaths linked to the virus in our region, with one death coming from a long-term care home and the other from the community. Of the new cases announced, four are related to outbreaks, seven are from close contact with another confirmed case, five are considered community spread, and 14 are under investigation. Our region now has recorded 12,449 cases, with 274 cases considered active, 42 confirmed cases in the hospital with 11 in the ICU, 11,825 cases considered resolved, and 350 deaths. Across the province today there were 945 cases of COVID-19 reported, though a data problem with Toronto Public Health likely contributed to the lower number. On Wednesday there were 1,072 cases and on Tuesday there were 1,022 cases.
A COVID-19 variant has been detected in Windsor-Essex and tests are underway to determine if it is the South Africa variant, the UK variant, or any other variant. Dr. Ahmed, our local medical officer of health, said the testing could take up to two weeks and is reminding the public to follow all public health safety measures that are in place. Dr. Ahmed is also asking that anyone that visited the Tecumseh Zehrs location on February 2nd from 12-2pm monitor their symptoms. You can read more here.
Our caucus has said that new data modelling makes it extremely clear that relaxing public health protections to re-open Ontario now will cause the more infectious variants to explode in Ontario. We are at a crossroads, and we cannot afford to have the provincial government make the same mistakes again and again, allowing the cycle of sickness and lockdown to repeat. We need to invest in public health and prevent the third wave. You can read more about this data modelling here.
Ontario’s Education Minister announced today that March break will be postponed until April 12, citing the need to protect communities from the emerging variants of COVID-19. Our caucus recognizes that parents, kids, teachers and education workers are burnt out and desperately need a break and have called for the government to find a way to give kids a safe break, and not just delay it. The government should instead make it safe – and make schools safer than they are today for before and after the break. Our caucus continues to call for a comprehensive in-school COVID-19 testing program, class sizes capped at 15 students, paid sick days and family-care days so parents can afford to keep children at home if they may have the virus, and better ventilation and investments in things like touch-free faucets.
In light of inexcusable cases of vaccine queue-jumping across the province, we need clear rules and a plan for distributing leftover doses of the COVID-19 vaccines. A strategy should include mandating who can receive leftover doses, which would be updated regularly; a requirement that vaccine teams make a specific plan for leftover doses before each round of vaccinations; investigations, and consequences for people who knowingly and selfishly jump the queue; and a plan to divide boxes into smaller batches, as recommended by the Science Advisory Table after that method limited leftover doses and wastage in Israel.
The Windsor-Essex Small Business Centre is launching the Jumpstart Recovery Program which will offer $5,000 grants to help cover COVID-19 related expenses for small businesses. Applications for the program are open until the end of February. More information is available here.
A new survey suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the mental health of a majority of Canadians. 76 per cent of respondents to the survey conducted by Angus Reid on behalf of the United Way said that the pandemic has caused stress, anxiety or depression. If you or someone you know has had their mental health affected by COVID, local resources are available in our community that may help you. The Canadian Mental Health Association can be reached at 519-255-7440 Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm.
The Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board reported that a cohort of 24 children has already been dismissed from St. John the Baptist Catholic Elementary School in Belle River due to a single confirmed case of COVID-19. The health unit has contacted affected students and staff and parents are being asked to monitor their children for any symptoms each morning before going to school.
Major General Dany Fortin, who is tasked with leading Canada’s vaccine strategy said that Pfizer will significantly ramp up its delivery of the vaccine next month. It is expected that 444,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be delivered each week for the first two weeks of March. 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 and practicing physical distancing of 2 metres apart at all times when around others who live outside your household, and washing your hands frequently.