After three weeks of the stay-at-home order, we are showing signs of flattening the curve. It’s been a long year, and I know people are getting frustrated, and many are suffering much more than others. I hear from people who feel that the measures are too harsh, while the medical experts are critical of our government for not tightening up restrictions earlier. It’s a tough balancing act, but cell data clearly shows the mobility of our population is increasing, resulting in more opportunities to spread this virus.
Recently, the National Advisory Council on Immunization (NACI) modified their recommendations to allow those 40 years old and over to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine. This vaccine is much easier to transport and store, allowing it to be provided through our pharmacy vaccination program. Locally, two additional pharmacies were added to supplement the Winchester Seaway Pharmacy. You can now book appointments at the Brookdale Shoppers Drug Mart and the Freshco Pharmacy on Ninth Street East in Cornwall. The AstraZeneca vaccine accessed by these pharmacies is in short supply and is being replenished as required. More pharmacy locations will be added when the AstraZeneca deliveries continue sometime in May. The good news is that we are receiving additional Pfizer vaccines that more than offsets the shortfall in Moderna and AstraZeneca doses. The extra supplies will allow the EOHU, led by Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, to add more clinics in more areas, with discussion already underway with local authorities. Dr. Paul is now projecting to administer the first dose to 75% to 80% of eligible residents by the end of May, based on current forecasts. This tremendous progress should allow for a brighter summer. To schedule an appointment, please go to www.ontario.ca/bookvaccine or call the helpline at 1-888-999-6488. For residents with mobility issues and those in conjugate living can register with the Health Unit to arrange for a visit from one of their mobile clinics.
On Wednesday night, I met with County Council to discuss the issues around the pandemic. Pandemic fatigue is evident across the entire country, and our region is no different. Businesses are feeling the brunt of this shutdown, and we hear you. We have programs that provide up to $40,000, plus dollars to cover property taxes and energy costs during the shutdown, but I know it is not enough, and not every business qualifies. For many, it is hard to justify the lockdown, and I get it. On the other side of this equation are the medical experts, who have been very vocal over the past week that our lockdown measures did not go far enough when they didn’t start earlier. Cell phone data clearly shows an increase in people’s mobility despite the stay-at-home order and that it’s resulting in a third wave. Many factors are involved in this third wave, some beyond our control, but a tighter lockdown would likely have brought down the number somewhat. For that, the Premier apologized for the delay in the lockdown and the shutdown of playgrounds. The question comes down to where we draw the line on what’s open and what’s not. Clearly, there are many different opinions, but we must follow the advice of the medical experts. I don’t like it either, but the projections resulting from this third wave are frightening if we don’t take decisive action.
Yesterday, a patient was transported from Toronto to Kingston to access a Critical Care Unit (CCU) bed freed up when the patient there was moved to a bed in Ottawa. I am told that our hospitals are experiencing the same problems. The next step is to deny care, and I believe that we can all agree that we don’t want this to happen. We have already experienced 4,224 cases and 96 tragic deaths and we need to end this quickly, stop the spread and while trying to protect everyone quickly. All non-urgent surgeries are now being cancelled due to the lack of these CCU beds; it is a serious situation. Perhaps you can appreciate our potential overreaction in the closing of playgrounds. The doctors are correct, that well-distanced children playing on slides and climbing structures are not a problem, and we are asking people to follow those guidelines. We are social creatures by nature, and we need to avoid friendly gatherings that this promotes. It is the neighbourly thing to do, but the results could be severe. The second concern was the pharmacy issue I mentioned above.
Finally, I want to thank the front-line workers working long hours to get us vaccinated and provide us with the health care, food, and other essential supplies we need. We need your patience, for the end is in sight.
Remember to maintain personal spacing, wear a mask, and stay home, except to pick up essential items.
MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry