I am happy to report that our region continues to make encouraging progress beating back COVID-19. We ended last month with a rolling weekly average of 50 cases per 100,000 residents and have chopped it to below 20 for the week ending Thursday, May 27. We would have been unable to accomplish this feat without our local residents’ sacrifices and dedication to follow new restrictions. Many of us are looking forward to embracing many of our outdoor recreational pastimes, and this process advances this cause. The case reduction has allowed the government to make plans to turn on the green light for a more typical summer. The new Roadmap to Reopen Ontario provides us with a three-step vision. Each step will follow the next depending on the increased vaccinations, coupled with falling hospitalization and positivity rates. Step One is expected to begin on or before June 14, depending on continued progress. Please visit https://www.ontario.ca/page/reopening-ontario for complete details. As we look around the world, we see that the new, more dangerous Variants of Global Concern, continue to pose a severe threat, requiring continued caution. While the path may not be clear, we are determined to avoid the setbacks of the fourth wave that other counties have experienced.
Our Eastern Ontario Health Unit’s vaccination team and our hospitals, pharmacies, health clinics, and EMS delivered close to 45,000 vaccine doses in May, closing in on 105,000 doses. We started May booking appointments for adults 55 and over, and have advanced to those 12 years old and older this past week. Plans are in place to vaccinate all students during June, allowing for their second dose before returning to school in the fall. Please consult www.eohu.ca for details and current eligibility. 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. Our pharmacy program is also expanding to provide the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. Currently, there are 11 pharmacies in Cornwall and SDG available for appointments. This number will continue to grow as vaccine deliveries increase, with eighteen approved locations. Contrary to the other vaccines, AstraZeneca has recommended a 12-week interval between doses to achieve its maximum effectiveness. As a result, pharmacies that provided the first dose of AstraZeneca will be contacting their clients to arrange for a second dose, starting with those who received their first dose between March 10 and March 19.
I know parents and children are hoping to return to in-class learning. Considering the successes we have achieved this month, a decision on reopening schools could be forthcoming very soon. The provincial science table has not given the ok, citing the threat of the Variants of Global Concern and the negative experiences and setbacks of other jurisdictions. Until vaccination levels increase further, we must be careful not to trigger a fourth wave and a further lockdown that would negate the significant progress we have achieved. Experts agree that the increased mobility from reopening our schools will cause a bump in the number of cases but disagree on the impact. Our priority is to return our students to school as quickly as possible, but no one wins if a further lockdown is required, undoing the progress made over the past months.
As more vacation and recreational opportunities return as summer approaches, the government has taken another critical step to ensure local tourism operators and organizers are ready. I expect the new Ontario Tourism and Travel Small Business Support Grant, announced this month, will do a lot to assist business owners. Applications for the one-time grant of between $10,000 and $20,000 are available for qualified applicants at www.Ontario.ca/COVID. Remember to follow our public health guidelines.
Please stay safe and save lives.
MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry
www.jimmcdonellmpp.ca • 613-933-6513