Our province-wide success at reducing the number of COVID-19 cases while increasing vaccination rates allows the Ontario Government to take the cautious, measured steps required to reopen Ontario. There is no defined path laid out to successfully reach the desired outcome of any open economy, with reasonable and acceptable health impacts. Our Chief Medical Officer of Health, along with our expert panel, reviews data from around the globe to evaluate the results of various options taken, including action plans that lift capacity limits in select indoor and outdoor settings. As a result, our Government now allows more fully vaccinated Ontario residents to enjoy indoor sporting and entertainment activities, such as cinemas, concerts, and professional sporting events. We continue to maintain capacity limits in restaurants and gyms where face coverings need to be removed, and physical distancing is hard to maintain. As vaccination rates slowly increase, we will look to open additional venues while closely monitoring any changes in active cases and the impact on our health facilities. We are trying to avoid the negative results inflicted on many jurisdictions that attempted to reopen too quickly, only to have to return to tighter measures to bring the pandemic under control. Data around the world clearly shows that it is a difficult balancing act between relaxing restrictions and containing the resulting health impacts to a manageable level that our limited health care system can accommodate.
Locally, our vaccination rates in the city have been lower than the provincial average and that of the surrounding rural area, causing a high infection rate that is five times the provincial average. This has resulted in increased hospital and ICU admissions and a concerning number of hospital staff contracting the virus. These beds are essential as many people need surgery every day, and postponing their urgent medical treatment would not be necessary if fewer COVID-19 patients were occupying them. All this highlights the importance of getting fully vaccinated and the increased options for a faster return to an open society. If you have not gotten your shots, check for our local vaccination clinics and participating pharmacy locations at the Eastern Ontario Health Unit’s website at www.EOHU.ca or call 1-800-267-7120. Please ensure that you have proof of vaccination and photo ID before entering any non-essential indoor settings. You can obtain your proof of vaccination certificate at a Service Ontario centre by calling 1-833-943-3900 or downloading it at https://covid19.ontariohealth.ca/. The online enhanced certificate is now available Friday, October 15 over three days based on birth month. It will have an official QR code and the free, made-in Ontario verification app, Verify Ontario, is available for download from the COVID-19 vaccination portal. As of October 18 at 6 a.m., the portal will open for any individual to download their enhanced vaccine certificate.
One of the essential tools for our recovery is to ensure our health-care system is sufficiently staffed by health and medical professionals. We took a key step to fulfilling this objective when we welcomed this fall the first cohort to St. Lawrence College’s independent Bachelor of Nursing program. I look forward to hearing the success stories for these students in the near future.
I am pleased to see that proceeds of crime, seized from criminals, are being channelled back to help assist residents. This week, the Government announced that Akwesasne is receiving $100,000 to set up a legal clinic pilot project. This clinic will address the hesitancy that Indigenous people sometimes face when they require legal assistance outside of their community.
With the beautiful fall weather upon us, I encourage everyone to embrace a new government program to encourage Ontarians to rediscover our beautiful province. The Destination Ontario campaign will run until November 4, 2021. It will promote information and links found on social media through the hashtag #RediscoverON and help our many attractions and events operators rebound from the pandemic.
As always, stay safe and get vaccinated if you have not done so.
MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry