Jim McDonell, MPP
Over the week, the province’s active cases continue to spike, stretching our hospitals and their intensive care facilities to capacity. Patients are being transported between hospitals, regions, and provinces to access emergency services. While thousands of additional hospital beds have been added, the staff required to operate them has become very difficult to find. The new variants are proving to be much more contagious than the original virus and are now responsible for over 70 percent of the cases across the entire province, including our region. New tighter restrictions were put in place to bring the caseload under control, but we know that it takes three to four weeks to bring this caseload down to acceptable levels. We need everyone’s patience and cooperation. The variants may be new, but the medical experts agree that the key to stopping the virus remains the same. We must eliminate coming in contact with it, either through avoiding personal contact or through vaccination. Until the country’s vaccination level achieves herd immunity levels of close to 80 percent, personal distancing measures and masks will be required to control this virus.
The worldwide demand for vaccines has resulted in the shortage that we are experiencing in the country today. The anticipated April surge in supplies is not happening, with delays in scheduled deliveries causing vaccination centres to be run at less than compacity, and in some regions, shut down entirely as their supplies run out. I want to commend Dr. Paul Roumeliotis and his team for the smooth operation of the local clinics. He has been scheduling clinics to deal with the last-minute delays the province has experienced. To schedule your vaccine, please go to www.ontario.ca/bookvaccine or call the helpline at 1-888-999-6488. More than 3.7 million doses have been administered province-wide.
I wanted to clarify some issues that I have heard, including the designation of “hot-spots.” In some of our larger provincial centres, they have experienced high vaccine hesitancy rates, resulting in unfilled appointments. Several accommodations have been made to deal with this issue, including lowering the age eligibility to increase the demand for the available timeslots. Another strategy involves re-allocating a portion of a region’s vaccine supply to target “hot-spots,” or neighbourhoods with high transmission rates, to lower the overall community numbers, comparing it to extinguishing a fire.
Locally, I have been asked about supporting the designation of a particular region or municipality in our health unit region as a hot spot to allow it to receive a higher percentage of our unit’s allocation. The simple answer is that we need more supply, and to quote our Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, “when the supply increases, all these problems go away.” To be clear, at this time, there are no additional vaccines for area hot spots; they are served by reallocating the existing supply from one area to another – robbing Peter to pay Paul. Since the beginning of this pandemic, most municipalities in our health unit area have taken their turn in holding the high-case banner. We need to concentrate on the big picture of vaccinating our most vulnerable residents, those with underlying health issues, and essential workers and ensuring all regions have equitable local access. Vaccine deliveries have fallen back to Federal Government’s original forecast, but we know they are working hard and doing all they can to secure these scarce vaccines. We need and appreciate everyone’s patience and co-operation.
As noted, the stay-at-home order remains in effect until at least May 6. Please continue to follow the details of the order at www.Ontario.ca/COVID-19. 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