The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is reporting 46 new COVID-19 cases today. Yesterday there were 28 cases, and on Monday there were 38 cases. Since the beginning of the pandemic our region has had 15,911 cases and 419 deaths related to COVID-19. Of the new cases that were announced today, two are outbreak related, 19 are from close contact with another confirmed case, nine are considered community spread, and 16 are under investigation. There are currently 330 active cases in our region, with 171 of those being variants of concern. There are 19 confirmed cases in the hospital, three in the ICU, 15,162 cases have been listed as resolved, and there have been 199,767 doses of the vaccine administered. Across the province today there were 2,320 new cases. Yesterday there were 2,073 cases, and on Monday there were 2,716 cases.
The vaccine eligibility was again expanded today and now anyone 30 years of age and older can book an appointment to get vaccinated at one of the city’s mass vaccination sites. In addition, essential workers who cannot work from home and fall into the Group 2 category – such as grocery store, restaurant, and retail workers – are also now eligible to book their vaccine appointments. To book your vaccine appointment, please visit www.wevax.ca or call 226-773-2200.
My colleagues and I have called on the Premier to not abandon the hot spot strategy for vaccines – a move that ignores the advice of health experts, and risks allowing COVID fires to spread again. The provincial government intends to return vaccine allocations to a strictly per-capita basis at the end of the week. Ontario’s Science Table recommended that 50 per cent of vaccines go to 74 hot spot areas for no less than 25 days. Windsor-Essex has seven hot spot postal codes.
We are also calling on the provincial government to release a plan for children 12 and up to get their vaccines – and to book as a family. We know parents are already juggling at-home learning, work, childcare and other responsibilities during this pandemic. Many of them had to hunt for available clinics, take multiple transit to get there and line up for hours to get their own shots. We need to fix the system now so they don’t have to book a separate vaccine appointment for each of their kids. We need to immediately provide public health units with guidelines for vaccinating youth over 12, including a plan to allow households to register once, and have all kids over 12 vaccinated at the same appointment.
Dr. Ahmed has said that the approximately 37,000 local residents who received the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine made the right decision and shouldn’t be worried about receiving the second dose. This comes after the announcement that the province has decided to suspend giving out first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine going forward. That decision was made out of an abundance of caution due to the potential for a very rare blood clotting disorder. There are risks with all medication, and Dr. Ahmed assures residents that the local health unit will continue to provide the best available scientific advice. In Canada, more than two million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were given and 12 cases of the rare blood clotting disorder were confirmed.
The province is expected to receive more than 250,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine next week, and officials are suggesting that the doses will likely be used for second shots, but there is still uncertainty of what that process will look like. Officials have said they are also considering the possibility of whether vaccines can be mixed safely and are examining data from the United Kingdom where this process has been done for months to help get their citizens vaccinated. You can read more here.
ADVOCATING FOR LOVED ONES IN LONG-TERM CARE
Our caucus has written to the Chief Coroner of Ontario, Dr. Dirk Huyer, to inquire about whether he is holding inquests into the deaths of seniors who may have died in long-term care from dehydration or starvation. We are urging him to do so, and to make public how many death inquests he has ordered. Throughout the pandemic, nearly 4,000 seniors tragically lost their lives to COVID=19 in long-term care homes across the province.
Today, my colleague, MPP Lisa Gretzky, called on the provincial government to take responsibility for failing seniors who died in long-term care and move now to ensure congregate care residents have meaningful access to their family caregivers. MPP Gretzky’s bill, the More Than A Visitor Act, would enshrine rights for people receiving care, support, or services in congregate care settings, such as long-term care and group homes, to ensure consistent, continuous, and safe access to their essential caregivers.
STUDENT MENTAL HEALTH
The Greater Essex County District School Board will be releasing a survey to gauge students’ well-being and how they are coping with the pandemic. The deadline for the student survey is May 21 and it can be found here. We recognize that the pandemic has had a significant impact on children's mental and physical health which is why my colleague, MPP Stiles, introduced a motion to establish a Child and Youth Recovery Action plan, a motion that was voted down by the Government. This plan would mitigate the pandemic's impacts on children, youth, and young adults, especially those disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Young people have been an afterthought in the government's COVID-19 response. Yet experts warn that without a clear plan to mitigate the damages, there will be lasting consequences for the next generation socially and economically. We must centre the experiences of children and youth and ensure they benefit from all legislation related to the post-pandemic recovery. We also continue to call on the provincial government to stop underfunding mental health services for children and youth. My colleague, MPP Bhutila Karpoche, has introduced the Right to Timely Mental Health and Addiction Care for Children and Youth Act which would seek to cap wait times for children and youth seeking mental health and addiction services at 30 days.
Please stay diligent and continue following public health advice by staying at home, only going out for essential trips, wearing a mask, practicing physical distancing of 2 metres apart at all times when around others who live outside your household, and washing your hands frequently.