The arrival of a third wave, fuelled by new, more contagious variants, has forced the government to re-introduce a stay-at-home order with stricter restrictions, including the return of online learning for our students. Some of the measures, including the closure of many recreational amenities, are a hard pill to swallow but are necessary to protect our hospitals and hard-working healthcare workers. We are into our fourth week of the lockdown, and we see a flattening of active cases across the province. Unfortunately, the impact on hospital and ICU admissions continue to be high, as patients require more extended periods of care before they are discharged, leaving very few open beds for new cases. Locally, we have been more successful, reducing our active case numbers by over 40% from their high point early last week. This success was no small feat, as the more contagious variants are now over 90% of all cases in the province. Of the 34 health units in Ontario, we are one of only fourteen that has reduced the per capita weekly cases since April 12.
Over the month, our local vaccination efforts continued to get shots in the arms of our residents, reaching approximately 60,000 people with their first dose. Our program puts our health unit area ahead of the provincial per capita number, which administered 3 million doses in April, recently surpassing the 5 million dose milestone. The EOHU vaccination team is accepting appointments from residents born in 1966 and earlier. Throughout May, the Minister of Health, Christine Elliott, announced that the province will be reducing the age of eligibility each week to finally include all adults 18 years old and older by the final week. Our Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, has plans to distribute May’s forecasted allotment of close to 60,000 doses. He is cautiously optimistic that we may receive additional supplies and that his team is ready to scale up to distribute any extra doses.
Dr. Paul’s team is making provisions to vaccinate additional at-risk populations and essential workers, including childcare workers and teachers, over the next couple of weeks. Please consult their website at www.eohu.ca for details and current eligibility. You can book your appointment through the www.ontario.ca/bookvaccine portal or by calling 1-888-999-6488 if you have a red and white OHIP card or need assistance. He also reported that there are 57 local pharmacies approved to participate in the local program and ready to be included in our program when more supplies of the AstraZeneca vaccine are available.
This past week, Tara Kirkpatrick of the county’s economic development department, hosted a virtual business meeting. We welcomed the Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism, and Culture, Lisa MacLeod, to discuss the recently passed budget and the support programs being finalized for release soon. Our government is working to ensure businesses and not-for-profit organizations receive the support they need to rebound from this pandemic. We are also finalizing negotiations with the Federal Government to supplement the Federal Sick Leave Plan with provincial funds to cover the initial three days that were previously not covered on their plan. Details are being finalized and will be released soon.
During the pandemic, the Provincial Legislature has continued to operate with modifications to address the province’s needs. Our teams were split into cohorts to lessen the opportunity for spread. Unfortunately, this week, I received a positive test for COVID-19 and am now following the necessary quarantine restrictions. After receiving my first dose of vaccine, I can tell you that I was particularly diligent in following the masking and distancing guidelines for the short two-plus week period required to achieve its protection. The only situation I can recollect was waiting for an apartment elevator when someone masked in line inadvertently sneezed. I remember feeling uncomfortable, but it happens. Whether this was the point of contact, I can’t say for sure, but I mention this only so that you may appreciate how little contact it takes for these new variants to spread and for the increased risk our essential workers and people in large urban areas face daily. While the short period of vaccination could not stop me from picking up the virus, I can credit it for the minor symptoms that I am experiencing that could easily be explained as the common cold.
Within a short number of weeks, everyone will have had the opportunity to have received their first vaccination, if we continue to follow public health safety measures, we can start to participate in the benefits our country has to offer. Please stay home, stay safe and save lives.
MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry
www.jimmcdonellmpp.ca • 613-933-6513