Good afternoon everyone,
The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is reporting 30 new cases of COVID-19 today, with three of those coming from the agri-food sector, 14 from community spread, and 13 still under investigation. The total number of confirmed cases for our region is 2,275. There was also one additional death reported today, bring the total number of deaths to 71. I would again like to remind everyone of the importance of following the advice of our medical professionals by continuing to practice social distancing, wearing a mask or face covering in public places, and washing your hands often.
As our region was held back from advancing to Stage 3 of the re-opening framework today, our caucus released a statement saying that the provincial government should have done more for contact tracing and providing isolation to agri-farm workers who were infected to help families and businesses in our region move forward to Stage 3 of the re-opening. Instead the government handed the contract for testing to a private company with connections to the government and all testing stopped earlier this month. You can read the full statement here.
The Town of Tecumseh has agreed to re-open one ice pad at its multi-surface arena beginning August 10. Under the rules outlined in Stage 2, there will be a limit of nine skaters on the ice and one coach or training staff member allowed. One parent will be allowed to watch from the outer glass of the rink if the player is under 18 years old. Change rooms will remain off limits and concession stands will also remain closed with outside food and drinks prohibited.
We are hearing from more and more constituents regarding their concerns over the limitations imposed on visitation of loved ones in long term care, retirement homes and other congregate living situations. COVID-19 has been particularly difficult on those who live and work in long-term care, as well as their loved ones. Originally, restrictions were put in place to protect some of our most vulnerable, but we know they have taken a toll. I can’t even begin to imagine the sense of isolation these seniors must feel after so many months of isolation. When dealing with issues of dementia, the effects of this imposed isolation only magnifies this sense of loss and the importance of interaction with family members.
Our caucus has always recognized the importance of families have played. We’ve been calling on successive governments to start a meaningful review of the Long-Term Care system. There's a lot of different roles that family caregivers play that we're just missing. The Premier has encouraged homes to establish scheduling practices that consider the staffing and space capacity available to the home to maintain the safety of residents, staff and visitors. This includes staff capacity to support the transfer of residents out of and into the home, but has not provided the additional funds or support to make this happen. We already know that the staff are over-worked and stretched to their limits in providing care, and they simply can’t make up the void created when family members are not providing the level of care they did in the past. We have to do more to assist families re-unite with their loved ones.
We need the government to do more. Over the decades, countless reports have documented the problems and deteriorating conditions. Changes made by the current government in 2018 implemented a risk-based inspection process, meaning complaints or previous risks were required before the Government would inspect the facilities. The result was a sharp drop in full inspections. More than two months after the devastating report by the armed forces who went into assist long-term care homes brought to light some horrific realities, the government has finally launched an independent commission into COVID-19 and long-term care. Many organizations, including our caucus, have raised concerns that:
- The scope is too narrow. The commission can only examine COVID-19 and not the many years of problems that came before it; and the commission isn’t mandated to examine the role of profit-making corporations running nursing facilities, as opposed to public and not-for-profit homes.
- The Premier is allowing commission meetings and hearings to be private, behind closed doors.
- The Premier is giving confidentiality rights to some documents that come before the commission.
- The commission’s terms of reference as established by the Premier don’t appear to give families standing — the right to stand up and to be heard. Instead, the commissioner will pick and choose who to hear from.
- The findings of the commission will be non-binding and Premier wouldn’t commit to implement any of its recommendations.
There are many things that can be implemented now, including a minimum level of care standard, an issue that has been championed by our Health Critic, Frances Gelinas in the Time to Care Act, which was written with a specific goal in mind, protecting the health and dignity of our seniors living in Ontario’s long-term care homes. If we want to protect our most vulnerable citizens, a minimum standard of daily care is a must.
I was pleased to meet with representatives of the Ontario Parent Action Network during their picket at my constituency office. Our caucus shares the concerns of many parents and has again called on the provincial government to finally produce a real and workable plan for the safe return to school. We had previously outlined a detailed emergency plan to get kids back to class including hiring more educators to allow for smaller class sizes, and funding for extra supports for students who are struggling or have special needs and for upgrades that will help with infection control.