With COVID-19 case numbers recently exceeding more than 100 cases per 100,000 people, the Ontario government took the prudent decision to impose a province-wide emergency brake. Extra restrictions will take effect Saturday, April 3 at 12:01 a.m. and continue for at least four weeks. This decision is necessary if we are going to stop the spread of cases and reduce the burden on our hospitals. ICU admissions have already exceeded the peak of the second wave in January, forcing some hospitals to cancel surgeries. For a complete list of the restrictive measures, please visit: https://www.ontario.ca/page/enhancing-public-health-and-workplace-safety-measures-provincewide-shutdown.
Across the province, health units are putting in long hours to vaccinate as many people as possible against this virus. Over the weekend, we hope to surpass the 2.5 million-dose milestone in the province, but predictable vaccine supplies are hampering efforts. In March alone, more than 800,000 fewer vaccines were delivered to the province than promised. Last-minute changes require our health units to only schedule clinics based on the current supply on hand, as the resources required to call back clients to cancel and change appointments would be excessive. We are also facing challenges with people refusing to be vaccinated, especially many of our front-line workers. One fact remains clear, all of the approved vaccines prevent 100% of the hospitalizations and deaths from this deadly virus.
The Eastern Ontario Health Unit team, led by Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, continues to vaccinate residents as fast as it receives doses. Over 25,000 shots have been administered to our residents, and they are now scheduling those born in 1951 and earlier. The Ontario Pharmacists Association is also working on adding vaccination sites for people born in 1961 and earlier. They will be opening locations in our region once the AstraZeneca vaccines become available over the next week. You can book your appointment at www.ontario.ca/bookvaccine. If you don’t have a green OHIP card and want to schedule an appointment at one of the health unit’s sites, please call the helpline at 1-888-999-6488. This line is also available for group appointments and those in need of assistance. The EOHU is working on a plan to visit home-bound residents, and advises anyone requiring a visit to register at www.eohu.ca or calling 613-933-1375.
The latest local and provincial COVID-19 cases continue to rise sharply, mainly due to the much more contagious variants of concern. These new variants affect all age groups, and stretch our hospital facilities’ capacity, including our limited intensive care units (ICU). Our Government is re-establishing further restrictions to help control the spread of the virus and protect our health care system on the recommendations of our health command table. Please review these new restrictions at www.Ontario.ca/COVID-19.
The recent 2021 Ontario Budget offers effective funding assistance to buffer small businesses against the effects of capacity restrictions and lockdowns. The Government has added new programs to help the tourism, culture, and hospitality sectors, which have been amongst the hardest-hit during the pandemic. The new one-time Ontario Tourism and Hospitality Small Business Support grant will provide $10,000 to $20,000 to eligible applicants who did not qualify for the Small Business Support Grant. I urge businesses and organizations to make applications for these programs by visiting https://www.ontario.ca/page/businesses-get-help-covid-19-costs.
I was pleased to coordinate an information webinar to help local businesses and stakeholders apply to the new $105 million Community Building Fund, available through Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Reconnect Festivals Events program. Organizations that work within the non-profit arts, culture, heritage, tourism, sport, and recreation sectors, as well as Indigenous communities, can apply. Please apply to https://otf.ca/our-grants/community-building-fund/community-building-fund-operating-stream.
I was also happy this week to announce the start-up of an innovative skills program that will train 30 residents. Administered by the Eastern Ontario Training Board, each participant will participate in an intensive 10-week course that will provide recruitment, pre-employment, essential and technical skills training, and a five-week placement. For our province to recover successfully from the pandemic, we need to fill a growing vacancy of skilled trades’ positions.
I want to remind everyone, to maintain personal spacing, wear a mask, and stay home except to pick up essential items.
I want to wish everyone a Happy Easter, and 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