After a four-week stay-at-home order, the number of active cases of COVID-19 in the region has dropped enough to allow some easing of restrictions. I want to congratulate and thank our community for making the sacrifices needed to reduce our active cases by more than half over the past week. While continued caution needs to be exercised, the data highlights the community’s ability to reduce this virus’s spread by reducing community contact and strictly following best practices.
The month-long lockdown has taken our health care system from the verge of being overwhelmed to a more manageable state and allowing for some easing of restrictions. With the extent of COVID-19 varying significantly from region to region, the province will be transitioning under a revised and strengthened COVID-19 Response Framework. The criteria for loosening restrictions will be based on the level of virus transmission, health system capacity, public health system capacity, local context and conditions and testing capacity. When it is determined that specific parameters are met, the province will allow a region to revert to the COVID-19 colour code framework used during the fall.
The provincial and local Medical Officers of Health will be monitoring each Health Unit’s area on an ongoing basis to determine the required colour-coded level. We anticipate an announcement will be made shortly as to our region’s status for next Tuesday, February 16. After review, our region will likely be moving to the Orange – Restrict level. This change will allow for re-opening our small businesses, restaurants, church services, and personal care services with restrictions. Details can be found at www.EOHU.ca. Although restrictions may be relaxed, we need to continue practising the basics: social distance, wear a mask, wash hands frequently, stay home except for essential reasons, and get a test if feeling unwell. The Premier has been very clear that, if case numbers increase, we will require more restrictive measures, including returning to the current lockdown level. More concerning variants have been found in Ontario, and medical experts are very concerned and reviewing data as they become more prevalent.
On the vaccine front, Ontario’s program has slowed due to the Federal Government’s reduced deliveries. We were able to announce this week that the first round of COVID-19 vaccines has been administered in every long-term care home across Ontario to all eligible residents who wanted one. Congratulations to General Hillier, Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, and their teams on meeting this commitment, despite the repeated delays and reduction in vaccine shipments. The team’s forethought to hold back enough supplies to allow the second dose for this most vulnerable group within the recommended 21 to 27-day period has proven to be necessary. We expect deliveries to ramp as we move into March, allowing us to vaccinate the rest of the Phase 1 groups, including seniors, front-line health care workers, and our most vulnerable residents. You can find more information at https://covid-19.ontario.ca/zones-and-restrictions.
On Wednesday, I was pleased to host representatives from our local municipalities and general public members for our riding’s virtual consultations for the upcoming 2021 Ontario Budget. I was happy to welcome Rudy Cuzzetto, the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Finance. The input we have received has been submitted to the Ministry of Finance. It will help the government create programs and services that will benefit our recovery from the pandemic over the next couple of years.
I was pleased to announce this week that more child care opportunities will be available soon. Winchester Public School has been approved for a $5.4 million investment that will add 49 spaces in three additional rooms.
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