The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is reporting 49 new cases of COVID-19 today. Of the new cases announced, 33 are related to outbreaks, two are from close contact with another confirmed case, five are considered community spread and nine are under investigation. Our region now has 268 active cases, bringing the total number to 12,865, 42 confirmed cases in the hospital with five in the ICU, 12,221 listed as resolved, and 376 deaths. Across Ontario today, 1,054 new cases of COVID-19 were reported. On Tuesday there were 975 cases and on Monday there were 1,058 cases.
Today in the Legislature during Question Period, I urged the provincial government to listen to public health experts, including our local health unit in Windsor-Essex, and pass our legislation –Bill 239, the Stay Home If You Are Sick Act – to provide paid sick days for workers in Ontario. Our local health unit has joined 16 others already on record in support of paid sick leave during the COVID-19 pandemic. This bill would guarantee 10 personal emergency leave days per year for every worker, seven of which are paid, but the provincial government has blocked this legislation. 70 per cent of those earning less than $25,000 don’t have paid time off when they’re ill – and those earning less than $30,000 are twice as likely to contract COVID-19 – and nearly three times more likely to end up in the hospital with it. We all want an end to this pandemic – Bill 239 helps us to do that. We need this government to augment any federal contribution with a Made in Ontario solution for paid sick leave during this global pandemic.
The local health unit said they will be releasing more details tomorrow on its COVID-19 vaccine rollout, with the plan focusing on residents 80 years and older. CEO Theresa Marentette said the rollout will start at a specific site and will focus on this age group because of the limited vaccines they have at this time. She added that the health unit is working on other plans to support people that are in their homes or residences.
The provincial government announced that the online portal and telephone reservation system to book appointments for COVID-19 vaccines in Ontario will be launched on March 15. General Hillier, the head of the provincial taskforce, said that the delay in launching this reservation system in Ontario is because the focus remains on populations who don’t require an appointment, such as patient-facing health-care workers and essential caregivers for long-term care residents. People who are 80 years of age or older are expected to begin receiving their vaccines by the third week of March, while essential workers should begin getting their shots the first week in May, though a decision has not yet been made about who qualifies in this category. You can read more here.
The provincial government has reinstated standard tiered and time-of-use electricity pricing this week in all regions of the province. So many Ontario households and small businesses are doing their best to stay on top of their bills right now, as the pandemic continues to rage, and incomes continue to be impacted. They need things to get more affordable, not more expensive. To cancel this little bit of relief right now is callous and we need to finally fix the hydro system and bring down prices for families and businesses, for good.
Our caucus has again called for more Personal Support Workers to be trained and hired to help in long-term care. We have a bill that would require every long-term care home to have enough staff to offer every resident four hours per day of care and attention; however, the provincial government has voted against this bill again and again. Last week, we also sought all-party support to give PSWs a $4 per hour immediate and permanent raise, not only to recognize that they’re overworked and underpaid, but also to help recruit and retain staff. The provincial government again blocked this move. We can’t afford more cuts and half-measured attempts to control this virus. We need to create and staff 50,000 more beds in smaller, more home-like settings, and bring the entire system into public and non-profit hands so that for-profit corporations will no longer be able to cut corners to pocket more profits.
An isolation centre where migrant workers in Windsor-Essex can recover from COVID-19 could be closed next month because of a funding shortfall. Mayor Dilkens sent a letter to the federal Health Minister, saying that the decision by the federal government to shift responsibility for the centre’s funding from one government department to another resulted in $2 million in costs not being covered. The isolation centre has already been used by 490 farm workers who have contracted COVID-19. You can read the full story here.
The University of Windsor has announced that virtual learning will continue throughout the summer. President Robert Gordon added that if COVID-19 numbers continue to improve, he hopes that some students may be able to return to campus in some capacity in the fall. You can read more here.
LaSalle has made the decision to cancel this year’s Strawberry Festival and the Last Call Before Fall due to COVID-19. The decision was made at the Town Council meeting on Tuesday night. LaSalle Council is looking at possibly doing some virtual events and possibly a night market when the rules permit. 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.