The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is reporting 37 new COVID-19 cases today, along with the loss of another member of the community. Yesterday there were 40 cases, and on Sunday there were 47 cases. In Toronto today there were 138 cases, in Peel there were 39 cases, in Hamilton there were 25 cases, and in Middlesex-London there were 14 cases. Our region currently has 288 active cases, with 122 of those being variants of concern cases, and a total of 19,627 cases and 454 deaths related to COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. Of the new cases announced today, 14 are from close contact with another confirmed case, 11 are considered community spread, five are outbreak related, one is travel related, and six are under investigation. There are 13 workplace outbreaks, five school outbreaks, two community outbreaks, and two outbreaks at long-term care/retirement homes. There are 37 confirmed cases in the hospital, with eight in the ICU. Locally, a total of 609,497 doses of the vaccine have been administered, with 82.9 per cent of individuals 12 and over having received one dose, and 76.8 per cent of individuals over 12 having received both doses. Across the province today there were 466 cases of COVID-19. Yesterday there were 613 cases, and on Sunday there were 653 cases.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT VACCINE PASSPORTS
Many of our constituents have contacted us with questions or concerns related to restrictions placed on them. They have indicated there is a lot of conflicting information, and a number of assumptions made about what people’s rights and obligations are. It is never easy, and our office does not pretend to have all the answers. What we do maintain is that we must follow the advice of the medical professionals. While we do our best to answer questions posed by constituents, we do ask that you remain respectful. My staff have reported increased cases of abusive calls, and I have made it clear to my staff that they should not tolerate this. My office remains committed to respectful discussions of your concerns.
We have tried to put together some answers to the questions being posed by constituents since the vaccine passports have come into effect:
- To access the “vaccine verification regulation”, more commonly known as the vaccination passport, constituents can visit this link.
- The Ministry has produced some guidance for businesses required to check vaccination status, and this can be found here.
- Businesses and organizations can submit questions to the Ministry of Health here. I encourage those who have submitted questions and received answers to share the responses with my office so that we can share them with others as well who are asking similar questions.
- Nothing we have heard suggests that the mandatory use of smart phones or vaccination records with QR Code are being contemplated. While it is believed that the QR Code may address some privacy concerns, and make the process easier, at this time, everything we have seen suggests that the all vaccination receipts will remain valid whether they have a QR Code or not. You will, however, need to have ID. The identification requirements are flexible, and identification is required to confirm only name of the person and date of birth – government identification can be used for this purpose; however, is not the only type of ID accepted. Proof of identity can be established using documentation issued by an institution or public body, provided it includes the name of the holder and date of birth. Identification that young people may have access to that include name and date of birth could include birth certificate, or a passport, among other forms of ID. It is not required to be photo ID.
- Many have contacted us expressing concerns over registering your vaccinations from out of province. We continue to work with a number of constituents who are trying to access their vaccine records from elsewhere. Those who have received their vaccine records can register their out of province vaccinations at this link.
What right does an organization have to impose restrictions not provided for under the Vaccine Passport regulations?
- Under Regulation 364/20: Rules for areas in Step 3 and at the Roadmap Exit Step of the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020, S.O. 2020 c. 17, the local medical officer of health can impose additional requirements not set out in the Reopening Ontario Act regulations. The local medical officer of health has issued a number of these and they can be found here. These are in addition to the Vaccine Passport Regulations. While my office will pass on your concerns to the WECHU, we do not direct the local medical officer of health in respect to decision making.
- Nothing in the regulation prohibits businesses or organizations from imposing their own requirements. However, imposition over and above the requirements of the Vaccine Passport Regulation may open a business or organization to challenges under the Ontario Human Rights Code. Those who have concerns should seek legal advice, however, my office will not interfere with a business or organizations’ decision making.
Exemptions for Medical Reasons:
- We have started to get more enquiries about medical exemptions from vaccinations and the vaccination passport system. The exemptions are quite narrow. Individuals seeking a medical exemption should be aware of the two predominant justifications: severe anaphylaxis to vaccine ingredients and past reactions to COVID-19 vaccines. A Sample letter can be found here
Vaccinations are contrary to my rights under the Ontario Human Rights Code:
- There are some constituents that have demanded that the vaccine passport is contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code. For those who want to know where the Ontario Human Rights Commission stands on vaccination requirement under the Ontario Human Rights Code, they may wish to visit the commission’s webpage here. The Commission has also produced a FAQ page that addresses issues related to COVID-19 and the Code.
- While valid religious exemptions have been accepted in Ontario as a means of avoiding vaccination, it is quite uncommon, and there are no available decisions at this time showing a valid religious exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine. The Ontario Human Rights Commission (“OHRC”) has provided some guidance on this issue in its COVID-19 and Ontario’s Human Rights Code – Questions and Answers . The OHRC’s current position is that a singular belief or personal preference against vaccinations does not appear to be protected on the ground of creed under the Code. Further, there are very few religions that strictly ban the use of vaccines among their congregation. However, those seeking to impose requirements over and above the requirements of the Vaccine Passport regulations may wish to explore all available accommodation options if there is such a request. While the OHRC’s position and statement do inform the discussion, they are not legal rulings. In that regard, the (inevitable) first cases to be tested in Ontario’s Courts and Tribunals are sure to be highly anticipated and severely scrutinized. Those who are questioning whether they can claim exemptions from vaccination under the Ontario Human Rights Code in their specific situation may wish to contact the Ontario Human Rights Legal Support Centre to discuss their concerns. They can be reached at 1-866-625-5179
Steps To Justice, in partnership with Community Legal Education Ontario, have a page dedicated to COVID-specific legal questions, which can be found here: https://stepstojustice.ca/legal-topic/covid-19/
NEW COVID-19 MODELLING
New projections by the Ontario Science Advisory Table released today show that the COVID situation is fragile and the danger to children is real. With cold weather around the corner, now is not the time to let our guard down. Ontario should be doing everything in its power to stop the spread of COVID-19 among school-aged children, particularly those too young to be vaccinated. We know what will help: smaller class sizes, mandatory vaccination for education workers, rapid testing and adding the COVID vaccine to the list of required immunizations for eligible students. We also need a provincial plan in place to vaccinate five to 11 year-olds the minute that Health Canada approval comes. You can find the new modelling from the Ontario Science Advisory Table here.
The local health unit will be holding the following pop-up vaccination clinics this week. No appointments are required:
- Ongoing until October 8 at the parking Lot at 33 Princess St in Leamington – open 7 days a week from 11am to 7pm
- September 29 - Optimist Memorial Park, inside the community centre – from 10am to 3pm
- September 30 – Food Basics parking lot at the corner of Tecumseh Road East and Lauzon Road – from 10am to 3pm
COVID-19 IN SCHOOLS
One class is in isolation after a confirmed case of COVID-19 at Saint-Ambroise Catholic Elementary School in St. Joachim, according to the French Catholic school board, and the public school board is reporting cases at Coronation, Harrow, and Prince Edward elementary schools, as well as a case at Massey high school. The local health unit has notified all affected students. Parents are reminded to please monitor their children each morning for COVID-19 symptoms and to keep them home if they are sick.
For up-to-date information on outbreaks at the public-school board, see here: https://www.publicboard.ca/News/COVID-19Report/Pages/default.aspx#/=
For up-to-date information on outbreaks at the Catholic school board, see here: https://www.wecdsb.on.ca/about/covid19/outbreaks
Please continue to stay safe and follow public health guidelines.