The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit announced 23 new cases of COVID-19 today along with four additional deaths linked to the virus – three from a long-term care home and one from the community. Of the new cases announced today, two are related to outbreaks, eight are from close contact with another confirmed case, two are considered community spread, and 11 are under investigation. Our region now has 301 active cases, bringing our total to 12,719 cases, 36 people in the hospital with confirmed cases, six of which are in the ICU, 12,050 cases listed as resolved, and 368 deaths. Across the province today there were 1,150 cases of COVID reported. On Thursday there were 1,038 cases and on Wednesday there were 847 cases.
New federal modelling projects that COVID-19 variants could fuel a surge of 20,000 new cases per day by mid-March if public health restrictions are relaxed further. Dr. Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, said that we may not be able to avoid a rapid acceleration of the epidemic without continued vigilance, and even with current restrictions, we could see more than 10,000 new cases per day, according to the projections. Our caucus has called on the provincial government to hear the experts’ warnings and increase public health protections to put the pandemic’s end in sight, rather than cutting protections and opening too fast. We also need to provide paid sick days, a safe school strategy with a cap on class sizes at 15 students, a massive in-workplace testing program, a hiring blitz for Personal Support Workers in long-term care homes, and direct funding for small businesses coping with income loss.
The provincial government has extended all emergency orders under the Reopening Ontario Act until at least March 21. Orders under this Act include the province’s ability to implement rules on public gatherings, business closures and managing outbreaks in hospitals and long-term care homes. You can read more here.
Yesterday it was announced that asymptomatic testing would be coming to staff and students in schools, and testing will hopefully start next week. The superintendent of the Greater Essex County District School Board said they are still working with the health unit and Ministry of Education to identify which schools should be offered testing first, and they still need to meet with a third-party vendor to finalize details of the program. School boards must offer voluntary asymptomatic testing to staff and students in five per cent of their schools, which in our public-school board equates to three schools per week and two school per week for the Catholic school board.
The Prime Minister announced that the federal government is extending the Canada Recovery Benefit and the Canada Recovery Care Giving Benefit by 12 weeks. The benefit is designed to support individuals while looking for a job, or who are taking care of family members while looking for a job. The federal government also announced the extension of the $500-per-week Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, from the current two weeks to a new total of four weeks, and an increase in Employment Insurance benefits as well. Individuals can now claim regular EI for a maximum of 50 weeks, which is 24 mor than the existing limit. You can read more here.
The University of Windsor is hosting a virtual public event tonight at 6PM to address hesitancy of receiving COVID-19 vaccines. The panel discussion is being done in partnership with WE-SPARK Health Institute and will feature experts in the field from the University, Windsor Regional Hospital, as well as Dr. Ahmed, our local medical officer of health. The event will be live streamed on WE-SPARK Health Institute’s Facebook page here.
The provincial government said they are launching new health and safety education campaigns with a focus on helping small businesses to reopen safely. This campaign includes resources that business owners can access at no cost to ensure they are compliant with the reopening guidelines and helping to prevent the spread of the virus. You can read more here.
The Prime Minister announced that 400,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine arrived this week and next week another shipment of nearly half a million doses is expected. The Prime Minister said that we are in the “ramp up” phase of the vaccination plan now and hundreds of thousands of doses will begin arriving each week.
The federal government has pledged another $75 million to the COVAX international vaccine-sharing program which will help lower-income countries. 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.