This past week, case rates, hospitalizations, and ICU occupancy increased rapidly, threatening to overwhelm the health care system. Between March 28 and April 5, the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the province increased by 28.2 percent, with a 25 percent increase in intensive care occupancy. In consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, the Government issued a province-wide Stay-at-Home order, effective this past Thursday morning. It requires everyone to remain at home except for essential purposes, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services (including getting vaccinated), for outdoor exercise, or for work that cannot be done remotely. As Ontario’s health care capacity is threatened, these measures will preserve public health system capacity, safeguard vulnerable populations, allow for progress to be made with vaccinations and save lives.
The order will limit most non-essential retailers to curbside pick-up and delivery, via appointment, between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Discount and big box stores will be restricted to in-person retail sales of grocery items, pet care supplies, household cleaning supplies, pharmaceutical items, health and personal care items. Outdoor garden centres, plant nurseries, and indoor greenhouses that engage in sales to the public will be allowed to operate with a 25 percent capacity limit between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Full details of the order can be found at www.Ontario.ca/COVID-19.
Keeping schools and childcare open is critical to the mental health and well-being of Ontario children and youth. Except where required to close by local public health officials, schools and childcare will remain open for in-person care and learning. The April school break begins this Monday, and education workers who provide direct support to students with special education needs across the province will be eligible to register for vaccination. A rollout will follow them to all teachers and staff across the province as supply allows, starting in provincial hot spot regions.
This week, the province entered Phase 2 of its rollout plan, focusing on those over sixty years old, essential workers, those living in congregate settings, and at-risk populations. Vaccine supplies have increased significantly this week, allowing our provincial teams to inoculate over 100,000 people per day, exceeding the 3 million dose milestone. With the latest Federal Government forecast, we hope to vaccinate 40% of Ontario’s population by the end of April. This will be a huge game-changer in relieving the pressure on our health care system and will set us up to reach our goal of inoculating nine million more Ontarians with their first shots by the end of June. The Eastern Ontario Health Unit vaccination team, led by Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, opened a second Cornwall site at the Benson Centre. In addition, local pharmacies are offering the AstraZeneca vaccines to people born in 1961 and earlier. To schedule your appointment, please visit www.ontario.ca/bookvaccine or call the helpline at 1-888-999-6488. This line is also available for group appointments and those in need of assistance. The EOHU will visit home-bound residents and advises anyone requiring a visit to register at www.eohu.ca or by calling 613-933-1375.
Mental health concerns continue to rise across the province, and this week we announced $12.5 million of funding to bolster mental health services for Ontario Provincial Police and their families. This program will allow detachments to hire additional mental health professionals, who will enhance the OPP’s Healthy Workplace initiatives to improve mental health and overcome occupational stress injuries.
More important than ever, I want to remind people to maintain personal spacing, wear a mask, and stay home except to pick up essential items.
MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry