The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is reporting 202 new COVID-19 cases today, along with the loss of nine members of the community. There are now 4,083 active cases in our community, bringing the total to 31,948 cases and 519 deaths related to COVID-19, and 140 confirmed cases in the hospital, with 20 of those in the ICU. Over the weekend, our region had 1,108 reported cases. Of the new cases announced today two are from close contact with another confirmed case, 15 are considered community spread, three are outbreak related, two are travel related, and 180 are under investigation. There are currently 10 workplace outbreaks, 32 community outbreaks, six hospital outbreaks, and 26 outbreaks in long-term care/retirement homes. Locally, 84.9 per cent of individuals over the age of five have received one dose of the vaccine, and 79.6 per cent are fully vaccinated.
Today, Toronto reported 1,628 cases, Peel reported 1,106 cases, and Hamilton reported 327 cases. Across the province today there were 7,086 cases reported, but health officials have warned that case counts are likely an underestimate of the true number of infections due to testing limitations and backlogs. Yesterday there were 8,521 cases reported, and on Sunday there were 10,450 cases reported. There are now a total of 963,693 confirmed cases in Ontario since the start of the pandemic, with 4,183 people in the hospital, and 580 in the ICU.
SMALL BUSINESS SUPPORTS
The Ontario Business Costs Rebate Program opened today. Eligible businesses required to close or reduce capacity due to current restrictions can receive a rebate payment of up to 100 per cent for property tax and energy costs they incur while subject to the restrictions. Businesses will be required to submit proof of costs associated with property tax and energy bills as part of the application process. All eligible businesses must submit an application to be considered, including those that received previous COVID-19 support payments. To learn more, including to find a full list of eligible businesses, visit the online application portal here.
The province is also introducing a new Ontario COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grant that will give businesses subject to closure under the modified Step Two of the Roadmap to Reopen a $10,000 grant. According to the Government press release, "eligible businesses that qualified for the Ontario Small Business Support Grant and that are subject to closure under modified Step Two of the Roadmap to Reopen will be pre-screened to verify eligibility and may need to provide some additional information but will not need to apply to the new program. Newly established and newly eligible small businesses will need to apply once the application portal opens in the coming weeks. Small businesses that qualify can expect to receive their payment beginning in February." For more details, click here.
Windsor City Council has approved some supports for local small businesses impacted by the latest COVID-19 restrictions. The supports include waiving fees for outdoor patios, increasing parking limits and deferring the collection of business licence fees and property taxes. You can read more here.
COVID-19 IN SCHOOLS
My caucus colleagues and I are calling on the government to do everything in their power to keep schools open through to June. We know that the mental, emotional, and academic well-being of kids depends on schools being open, and safe. We also understand that parents are worried about the safety of their kids. The worst-case scenario is another shut-down and more online learning. The provincial government needs to invest in safety measures to avoid that. To make sure kids are protected from COVID and that schools stay open right through to the end of the school year, we are calling for the following:
- For students and staff to have access to PCR testing again
- For investment to ensure we have the capacity to contact trace COVID cases in schools, and report every classroom COVID case back to parents.
- A vaccine blitz for students with in-school vaccine clinics with permission from parents, and an outreach campaign including culturally-relevant outreach
- Mandatory vaccination for all teachers and education workers
- Putting the COVID vaccine on the student immunization list
- Free rapid tests for all students, teachers and education staff
- Reduced class sizes and school busloads
- Improved ventilation in all schools and regular on-site air quality testing
- Free N95 masks for all teachers and education workers
- Support for teachers and staff to help address critical learning gaps caused by previous shutdowns
STAFF SHORTAGES IN LONG-TERM CARE
Unifor Local 2458, which represents the workers at several long-term care homes in our region, has said they are concerned that due to COVID-19 numbers in the LTCs, there may not be enough staff to take care of residents. My caucus colleagues and I continue to call for the provincial government to provide more supports for frontline workers in long-term care facilities, including appointing a new Minister of Long-Term Care to address the urgent crisis that is unfolding. Ontario needs an urgent staffing plan to deal with this crisis including an immediate raise for personal support workers (PSWs), hazard pay, N95 masks, and a real program for paid sick days. You can read more here.
The University of Windsor will resume on-campus learning and work on January 31. Those classes and labs designated as online will remain online, and staff who have been working remotely will start a gradual return, with the goal of up to 50 per cent capacity by the end of February. You can read more here.
St. Clair College has extended their virtual learning for the week of January 24 for most students, after consultation with the local health unit. Students are asked to visit their program web page to see how this change will affect them, and the college will continue to monitor the situation. 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 Nature Fresh Farms Recreation Centre in Leamington. Appointments are needed, with no walk-ins being accepted at this time. Nature Fresh will have appointments for Tuesday to Saturday between 9 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. Hotel Dieu's clinic will be available Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. and Tuesday and Friday from noon to 4 p.m. To book an appointment, please visit www.wevax.ca.
Pop-up vaccination clinics will be available at the following locations this week:
- Wednesday January 19 – University of Windsor St. Denis Centre – 2555 College Ave, Windsor – 9am to 4pm
- Wednesday January 19 – Essex Centre Sports Complex – 60 Fairview Ave W, Essex – 10am to 3pm
- Thursday January 20 – Kingsville Vaccine Clinic (Grovedale Arts and Culture Centre) – 103 Park St, Kingsville – 9am to 3pm
- Friday January 21 – Libro Arena – 3295 Meloche Rd, Amherstburg – 10am to 3pm
Please continue to stay safe and follow public health guidelines.