I hope everyone had a nice long weekend.
The Provincial government has said that after careful consideration and consultation with health experts, they have decided that they are not going to open schools at this point in time. All students who were on track to graduate from secondary school before the initial school closure order was made in March will be able to graduate, and all students will receive report cards. The government is also working to make sure child-care centres can open safely during stage two of the re-opening process.
The Ontario government also unveiled an expanded seven-point summer learning plan emphasizing that online learning would continue for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year. In-person classes will not resume until at least after the summer break. You can read the full release here.
Our party said that while we agree that schools should remain closed until it’s absolutely safe for kids to return, parents are now being called back to work. That’s a major gap that will leave households all over the province with no options for child care, and the government needs to step up with a plan and tangible supports for those parents. We also recognize that parents, students and educators are doing their best to keep up learning from home, but the government hasn’t provided additional supports to help them get through this. From learn-at-home supplies to supports for students with special needs, the government can do better to help students, teachers and families through this.
Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care, announced that the Provincial government will be launching a Government commission into Ontario's long-term care system beginning in September. New Democrats have instead called for a non-partisan, independent, public inquiry into the failures in our long-term care system. A public inquiry includes the voices of residents and their families, seniors entering care, and loved ones of COVID-19 victims.
In question period today, our caucus asked Ontario Minister of Health Christine Elliott why frontline health care and other essential workers are not able to get proper PPE for work. We referred to accounts by health care workers of consistent shortfalls of critical PPE like masks and gowns - especially N95 masks, which our caucus believes workers have a right to, based on the precautionary principle. We also said that the government must consult with First Nations before reopening the North in order to ensure the safety of communities vulnerable to a resurgence of Covid-19. Finally, we asked the Government why they are not mandating an across-the-board auto insurance rebate and leaving it up to the auto insurance companies to decide.
The Prime Minister announced that the Federal government will be expanding the eligibility criteria for the Canada Emergency Business Account to include businesses that are sole proprietors receiving income directly from their businesses, businesses that rely on contractors and family-owned corporations that pay employees through dividends rather than payroll. You can read more about the expanded eligibility criteria here.
The Prime Minister noted that the Federal government has reached an agreement between Canada and the United States to keep the border closed to all non-essential travel until June 21, even as parts of both countries begin gradually re-opening.
The Prime Minister also noted that in recent weeks his government has doubled the inventory of surgical masks and face shields and is expecting hundreds of thousands of hospital gowns, face shields and swabs to be delivered to the provinces and territories in the coming weeks.
The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is now advising COVID-19 testing for area residents if they experience just one symptom of the disease — an expansion on previous testing criteria. But Medical Officer of Health Dr. Wajid Ahmed added that preventative measures — such as physical distancing, hand-washing, and self-isolation when required — remain more important than testing to fight the novel coronavirus pandemic.
As of today, Windsor-Essex 794 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 63 deaths.
Take care of yourselves, wash your hands and keep practicing social distancing.