The need to be fully vaccinated is taking on a new urgency. For the first time in over a month, the number of COVID-19 cases in our region is back into double digits and rising fast. As expected, this region is not immune to the Delta variant as it is the cause of nearly every new case. This variant is much more contagious than the original strain, and experts predict that a 90% fully vaccinated population will be required to avoid a fourth wave that would delay our recovery. Putting the next few months in context, Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Kieran Moore wrote an Op-Ed in the Toronto Star. I point to these excerpts:
“Ontarians should expect cases to begin to rise as we enter the fall and as more people head indoors. This is not a cause for panic. Case rates will fluctuate, but thanks to the protection offered by vaccines, growing case counts will not have the same meaning as during previous waves of the pandemic.
“The months ahead will require continued vigilance, but we have no desire to cause unnecessary disruption to people’s everyday lives. The reality is that COVID-19 is not going anywhere anytime soon, and we have to learn to live with the virus. Ontario has the infrastructure in place to manage outbreaks, including a high-volume capacity for testing, and people on the ground to perform fast and effective case and contact management when needed.”
So please, if you haven’t received your two vaccine doses, book your appointment today by accessing www.Ontario.ca/bookvaccine or calling 1-888-999-6488 if you have a red and white OHIP card or need assistance. Walking-ins are also accepted without an appointment at Eastern Ontario Health Unit’s clinics. Check their website at www.eohu.ca for details.
While we work toward double vaccinating our older students before they return to classrooms, the Ministry of Education ensures that every classroom’s ventilation system has been upgraded to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. To this end, we are investing another $25 million to purchase 20,000 new standalone HEPA ventilators for school boards. This new addition will bring the total of new ventilators to 70,000 in Ontario schools. Of the 20,000 units, local boards will receive 633 of them.
The return to school plan is just one segment of the province’s overall recovery from the pandemic, outlined in last spring’s budget. It spells out the government’s priorities, including a focus on special needs children and youth. This week, Ministers Dr. Merrilee Fullterton and Todd Smith announced a four-year, $240 million investment to better support the various Children’s Treatment Centres and preschool speech and language programs. The funding will reduce wait times for much-needed children’s services and serve up to 10,000 more preschool children with speech and language difficulties and up to 47,000 children and youth with rehabilitation needs.
The provincial government’s partnership efforts with the federal government to bring 50/10 Mbps internet coverage is creating more local connection projects. I am excited to see the North Stormont villages of Crysler and Berwick, plus Marionville on the borders of North Dundas, will be next in line for upgrades. It is part of a $362 million investment in Eastern Ontario to connect more than 90,000 homes. I look forward to sharing more of these developments over the coming months as we make every effort to connect everyone by 2025.
In closing, remember to get your vaccination and be sure to continue precautionary measures as we look forward to a new normal.
MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry