The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is reporting 77 new high risk cases 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 37 cases, and on Monday there were 58 cases.
There are now 255 active high risk cases in our region, with 22 confirmed cases in the hospital, and five in the ICU. There are currently six community outbreaks, and six outbreaks in long-term care/retirement homes. Locally, 86.2 per cent of individuals five and over have received at least one dose of the vaccine, 82.9 per cent have received two doses, and 53.7 per cent of residents over 18 have received their booster.
Today, Toronto reported 295 cases, Peel reported 158 cases, and Ottawa is reporting 169 cases. Across the province today there were 1,947 cases, but health officials warn this number is an underestimate due to testing restrictions. Yesterday there were 1,208 cases, and on Monday there were 1,074 cases. There has now been a total of 1,117,439 cases of COVI-19 in Ontario since the pandemic began, and there are currently 751 patients in the hospital, with 241 of those in the ICU.
Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health announced today that the province will lift the COVID-19 mask mandate for most indoor settings on March 21, 2022, including schools, restaurants and bars, gyms, and movie theatres. Masks or face coverings will still be required in places like public transit, long-term care homes, health-care settings, and shelters until April 27 – when the requirement is scheduled to end in those settings as well. You can read more here.
Today during Question Period, our caucus also raised our concerns over the timeline to remove the mask mandate. Many experts, including the members of the Ontario Science Table, have said that we don’t have the data to make this decision, that we shouldn’t rush it, and that they weren’t consulted about this announcement. Mario Spagnuolo, President of the local Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario said that he has already started receiving feedback that the removal of the mask mandate in schools immediately following March break is too soon, and this decision could risk further disruption and jeopardize our kids’ safety. We are all ready for this pandemic to be over, and for public health measures to no longer be needed. But we are concerned that removing mask requirements is premature, especially in schools where vaccination rates among students are not where they should be. After struggling through some of the longest school closures of any jurisdiction, we need to be diligent about maintaining measures we know protect people.
ADDRESSING HEALTH CARE STAFFING SHORTAGES
Today, my caucus colleagues and I introduced a new plan to address barriers face by internationally trained workers – especially nurses, doctors, and other health care workers needed and wanted in Ontario. The Fairness For Ontario’s Internationally Trained Workers Act will force the government to finally take action to fix the foreign credentials system in Ontario, so people can get to work in their field quicker. There are highly skilled nurses who have watched this pandemic steamroll Ontario’s hospitals and long-term care homes, while they are forced to watch from the sidelines. There are doctors who would like to help with the shortage of family doctors in communities across Ontario — but families go without care while doctors are caught up in a broken system. Ontario is home to people from all over the world, many of whom come here seeking safety, security and hope for a better life. And Ontario desperately needs health care workers. Fixing the international credentials system is a win-win
RAPID ANTIGEN TESTS
The provincial government announced that 5.5 million rapid antigen tests will be available across the province each week. Please remember to store your test kits out of the reach of children, as there have been reports of poisoning after accidental consumption. You can find participating grocery stores and pharmacies 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. The Devonshire mass vaccination site is open Tuesdays from 11:30am to 6:15pm, and Wednesdays to Saturdays from 9am to 3:30pm. 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 March 11 – Windsor Bus Terminal Downtown – 300 Chatham Ave, Windsor – 9am to 4pm
- Friday March 11 – Downtown Windsor Public Library – 185 Ouellette Ave, Windsor – 9:30am to 3:30pm
Please continue to stay safe and follow public health guidelines.