The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is reporting 25 new COVID-19 cases today. Yesterday there were 21 cases, and on Saturday there were 28 cases. There have been 16,558 total cases and 426 deaths related to COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Of the new cases reported today, seven are considered close contact with a previously confirmed case, six are considered community acquired, and 12 are under investigation. There are currently 223 active cases in our region, with 134 of those being identified as variants of concern. There are 15 people in the hospital, four of which are in the ICU, and 15,909 cases have been listed as resolved. There have been 245,782 doses of the vaccine administered. Across the province today there were 916 new cases of COVID-19 reported, the fewest since mid-February. Yesterday there were 1,033 cases, and on Saturday there were 1,057 cases.
ADVOCATING FOR YOU IN THE LEGISLATURE
Our caucus continues to urge the government to develop a plan for people getting their second doses. Many people don’t know when or where to go to get their second doses, and there isn’t a plan in place to help them. We've seen this happen locally with those who received their first dose of AstraZeneca, as many are putting themselves on multiple pharmacy waitlists simply to secure their second dose. The government’s plan to cross their fingers and hope that people who attended one pharmacy for their first shot will find another pharmacy at the right time is the wrong approach. We need an actual, comprehensive plan to ensure everyone knows when and where they will get their second shot. We continue to press the government for answers on how people can access the second doses of AstraZeneca and when more doses will become available for our community.
Today, we forced a vote on the government's motion to extend the Emergency Orders for seven months until December. My colleague MPP Peggy Sattler announced in the house two weeks ago that our caucus will most certainly not support the motion. While we maintain that we must continue to follow the advice of public health experts, we believe that there is no justification for this government to continue the emergency orders that are set out in the Reopening Ontario Act, as the existing Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act already gives the government the ability that would be necessary to put in place public health measures that may be needed to protect Ontarians from another phase of the virus. You can read the debate here. While our caucus voted against this motion, the Government used their majority to vote in favour and move this motion forward. My colleagues and I will continue to raise your concerns and hold this government accountable by calling for a full, public, independent judicial inquiry into Ontario’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, to make sure the province is better prepared for the next major health event, and never repeats the same mistakes again.
We also forced a vote on my colleague MPP Sandy Shaw’s bill to dismantle the toothless and ineffective Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority (RHRA) and place retirement homes under direct supervision of the Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility. The Premier and his government blocked the bill. The RHRA’s job is supposedly to keep residents safe, but its board has been occupied by for-profit executives and retired politicians who have an inherent conflict of interest. Ontario’s Auditor General has revealed that multiple parties have sounded the alarm about inadequate staffing and poor resident care. The Audit also reported that retirement homes with repeated violations and non-compliance orders have been permitted to continue to care for seniors, those waiting for placement in long-term care, and other adults with complex medical needs, without being required to make real changes. Self-regulation is ineffective, and in this case irresponsible. Retirement home residents have been failed by successive governments. MPP Shaw’s Bill 296, the Retirement Home Justice and Accountability Act, would amend the Retirement Homes Act by dissolving the RHRA and placing retirement homes under direct jurisdiction of the Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility. We will continue to advocate for proper oversight of retirement homes to ensure that residents receive proper care.
The local health unit has announced two COVID-19 pop-up vaccination clinics this week for youths between the ages of 12 and 17. The first will be held tomorrow in Belle River at the Atlas Tube Centre, and the second will be held on Thursday June 3 in Essex at the Essex Centre Sports Complex. Family members 18 years of age and older who need their first dose of a vaccine are also eligible to attend one of the pop-up clinics. Both clinics will run from 12pm to 7pm and are walk-in only, no appointment required. Those attending are asked to take a piece of ID that show who the individual is and where they live, such as a driver’s license, health card, student card, work ID, or passport.
Health Canada has given Ontario permission to extend the expiry on some of the doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine after a review of “stability data”. This means the vaccines that were set to expire today, are instead usable until July 1. A bioethicist at the University of Toronto has said that this is good news that doses won’t be wasted, and that people should not be concerned about the changed expiry date, saying that extreme caution is taken when setting expiration dates. You can read more here.
VISITORS ALLOWED AT HOSPITALS
Windsor Regional Hospital announced that starting today, visitor restrictions at Met Campus, Ouellette Campus, and the Regional Cancer Centre would be loosened to allow one essential visitor per patient, once per day in a specified time slot. Patients may also choose a maximum of two essential visitors to rotate during their hospital stay. Patients with active, confirmed, or suspected COVID-19 are still not permitted visitors. You can find more information here.
NEW CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER
With the news that Dr. Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, will be leaving his post early, our caucus welcomes the idea of someone new taking over the position – a replacement who can give sound public health advice and communicate it clearly. We have raised our concerns, however, that this is the second person high up on the Premier’s pandemic response team to leave before the pandemic is over; the first was General Hillier. Additionally, the motion put forward today by the government would appoint Dr. Kieran Moore as Dr. Williams’ replacement. Chief medical officers of health in Ontario are chosen by an all-party committee and it is concerning that the government is skipping this process.
CUTS TO EDUCATION
Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office (FAO) released a report that shows that the provincial government has not budgeted for known increases in costs, and that this will leave a $12.3 billion shortfall by the end of the decade. At a time when students, education workers, and their families need more support than ever, the Premier is cutting $800 million from the Ministry of Education budget and setting our public education system up for a decade of cuts. Now is the time to be investing in schools, to ensure our kids have stability, support, and every opportunity possible to build their best future.
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.