The latest modelling data shows that Ontario is in a crisis, revealing that our hospital ICUs will be overwhelmed in a few short weeks if current trends remain unchanged. Escalating case counts have led to increased hospitalization rates and intensive care unit (ICU) occupancy, resulting in the cancellations of scheduled surgeries and procedures. Notably, data shows that mobility and contacts between people have not decreased with the current restrictions. A new variant of COVID-19 emerged in November, and if community transmission of this variant occurs, Ontario could experience even higher case counts, ICU occupancy and mortality. To this end, we are taking urgent and decisive action. Effective this past Thursday, the Government issued a stay-at-home order requiring everyone to remain at home, except under specific permitted purposes or activities. These include going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health-care services, exercising, and work, if it cannot be done remotely. This order and other new and existing public health restrictions limit people’s mobility and reduce the number of daily contacts with those outside your immediate household. For full details of these new restrictions, visitwww.Ontario.ca/COVID-19.
On a positive note, our region was greeted with great news this week as our front-line staff, and long-term care residents started to receive vaccinations. Retired General Rick Hillier has committed that all staff and residents in our long-term care homes and high-risk retirement homes will receive their first dose by February 15 if we can obtain the necessary supplies from the Federal Government. While supplies are tight, they are expected to increase as the year progresses, and more vaccines become approved by Health Canada. Province-wide, we expect to have administered more than 160,000 estimated doses by this weekend.
During this unprecedented time, small businesses have been hit especially hard, and our Government provides several supports to supplement current federal programs. First, our Ontario Small Business Support Grant provides up to $20,000 to help small businesses that must close or significantly restrict services due to the recent province-wide shutdown. The Property Tax and Energy Bill Grant will cover municipal and educational property taxes and energy costs, including electricity and heating fuel, during the entire length of time that the public health restrictions are in place. Third, the Main Street Relief Grant will provide a one-time grant of up to $1,000 for eligible businesses with two to nine employees. For details and to apply, go to www.ontario.ca/page/businesses-get-help-covid-19-costs.
As part of the new emergency measures, the Federal Government has acquired more rapid testing devices. Ontario will be receiving 12 million Panbio Rapid Testing units, enabling us to ramp up rapid testing capabilities to 300,000 rapid tests per week. This will support schools, long term care homes, and essential employment sectors. Along with the vaccine, these units will be a huge help in protecting our most vulnerable and helping to stop the spread.
As always, remember to stay home, stay safe and save lives. Your health and that of your loved ones may depend on it.
MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry