A reminder that my office will be closed on Monday February 21, 2022 in observance of Family Day, and will reopen on Tuesday February 22, 2022.
The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is reporting 73 new high risk cases, along with the passing of a member of our community today. Due to the changes in eligibility for testing and limited testing capacity, the rise of Omicron cases, and the shifted focus of case, contact, and outbreak management to high-risk settings, these case counts are an underestimate of the true numbers of individuals who have COVID-19 within Windsor-Essex County. The health unit defines high-risk cases as those coming from individuals who are eligible for PCR testing in accordance with Ontario's current testing guidance. Yesterday, there were 117 cases, and on Tuesday there were 72 cases.
There are now 481 active high risk cases in our area, with 37 confirmed cases in the hospital, and eight in the ICU. There are three workplace outbreaks, 11 community outbreaks, two hospital outbreaks, and 10 outbreaks in long-term care/retirement homes. Locally, 86 per cent of individuals over five have receive one dose of the vaccine, 82.2 per cent are fully vaccinated, and 52.8 per cent of residents over 18 have received their booster.
Today, Toronto reported 312 cases, Peel reported 134 cases, and Ottawa reported 182 cases. Across the province today there were 2,327 new cases, but health officials have warned that this number is an underestimate due to testing restrictions. Yesterday there were 2,532 cases, and on Tuesday there were 1,593 cases. There has been a total of 1,080,937 cases confirmed in the province since the pandemic began, and there are currently 1,342 people hospitalized with COVID-19, with 356 of those in the ICU.
SURGERY BACKLOGS IN HOSPITALS
Windsor Regional Hospital says they have lifted Directive 2, allowing elective and non-urgent surgeries to slowly resume. The hospital says that patients will be notified by their physician regarding any newly scheduled dates for surgeries and are asking everyone to be patient as they work through the backlog of over 4,000 surgeries. You can read more here.
My caucus colleagues and I continue to call on the provincial government to provide the necessary funding to help clear the massive backlog of surgeries across the province. In 2021, The Financial Accountability Office (FAO) calculated that the province needed to invest $1.3 billion to clear the backlog of surgeries created by earlier slow-downs and halts during the pandemic, but the government was willing to spend just a fraction of that, $324 million. As a result, the number of people waiting only grew. The Ontario Medical Association says there are 20 million backlogged health services, and the wait for heart surgery is 14 months long. The government should be doing all they can to help those waiting in pain who have had surgeries cancelled or postponed throughout the pandemic.
ADVOCATING FOR EDUCATION
The Minister of Education detailed the government’s 2022-23 school-year budget and “Learning Recovery Action Plan” today. The announcement includes a Grants for Students Needs allocation that’s far below inflation and doesn’t replace what the government has already taken away from our kids with their education cuts. This year’s budget cut another half a billion dollars from schools despite the very real need for more teachers, more education workers, and more mental health supports. For two years, I have heard from parents, teachers, and education workers about how Ontario students have suffered disruption and loss. Many have experienced setback academically, socially, and emotionally. Teachers and education workers have been stretched to their limits and need support to help students get back on track. Instead, today’s announcement includes a plan to leave much of the $16.8 billion worth of backlogged school repairs unaddressed for up to 10 years, so students continue to sit in classrooms that are leaking, moldy, or poorly ventilated. The government also confirmed they are sticking with their plan to force kids to take at least two courses through online learning. Kids deserve better. Teachers and education workers deserve better. The provincial government should be restoring the funding it cut from schools over the past four years and then some, reducing class sizes to give kids more one-on-one help when they need it, adding more educational assistants, an investing in badly need mental health supports. You can read the government’s announcement here.
EASING COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS TODAY
Today, COVID-19 restrictions across the province eased. The new measures now include, but are not limited to:
- Increasing social gathering limits to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors
- Increasing organized public event limits to 50 people indoors, with no limit outdoors
- Removing capacity limits in the following indoor public settings where proof of vaccination is required, including but not limited to:
- Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments without dance facilities
- Non-spectator areas of sports and recreational fitness facilities, including gyms
- Meeting and event spaces, including conference centres or convention centres
- Casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments
- Indoor areas of settings that choose to opt-in to proof of vaccination requirements.
- Allowing 50 per cent of the usual seating capacity at sports arenas
- Allowing 50 percent of the usual seating capacity for concert venues and theatres
- Increasing indoor capacity limits to 25 per cent in the remaining higher-risk settings where proof of vaccination is required, including nightclubs, restaurants where there is dancing, as well as bathhouses and sex clubs
- Increasing capacity limits for indoor weddings, funerals or religious services, rites, or ceremonies to the number of people who can maintain two metres physical distance. Capacity limits are removed if the location opts-in to use proof of vaccination or if the service, rite, or ceremony is occurring outdoors.
Effective March 1, 2022, Ontario intends to ease further restrictions as long as public health and health system indicators continue to improve. This step includes lifting capacity limits in all remaining indoor public settings, and well as ending the proof of vaccination requirement for all settings. You can read more here.
My caucus colleagues and I have raised concerns over the plan to end vaccine certificate requirements early. We all want Ontario, including restaurants and gyms, and especially schools, to be fully open when it is safe, and to stay that way. Vaccine certificates are helping to keep everything open and protecting us all. Ending vaccine certificate requirements is risky, especially for seniors, parents whose little ones are too young to get the shot, and everyday folks who want to know that they are safe in public settings.
RAPID ANTIGEN TESTS
The provincial government announced that 5.5 million rapid antigen tests will be available across the province each week. You can find participating grocery stores and pharmacies here.
Health Canada has approved Nuvaxovid, Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine, for use in Canadians age 18 and older. Health Canada is recommending the interval for the two-dose vaccine to be at least 21 days, based on evidence from clinical trials. Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer said the first delivery is expected in March, though federal officials said they couldn’t provide clarity on the size or schedule of the deliveries. You can read more here.
First, second, and third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are available at one of the three mass vaccination sites, located in the former Sears store at Devonshire Mall, at Hotel-Dieu Grace HealthCare, and at the Grovedale House Community Hall in Kingsville. All mass vaccination sites are now accepting walk-ins. Moreover, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is now available for individuals aged 30 years and older at any vaccination site. Grovedale House is open from 9am to 3:45pm Tuesday to Saturday for pre-booked or walk-in appointments. Hotel Dieu's clinic will be available from 2:30pm to 6:30pm on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. To book an appointment, please visit www.wevax.ca.
Pop-up vaccination clinics will be available at the following locations this week:
- Friday February 18 – Forest Glade Arena – 3205 Forest Glade Dr, Windsor – 9am to 4pm
- Friday February 18 – Adie Knox – 1551 Wyandotte St W, Windsor – 9am to 4pm
- Friday February 18 – St. Anne’s High School – 1200 Oakwood Blvd, Belle River – 11am to 6pm
Please continue to stay safe and follow public health guidelines.