Key public health and health care indicators continue to improve, along with great strides being made in the provincewide vaccination program. As a result, Ontario moved to Step 3 of the province’s Roadmap to Reopen on Friday, July 16, allowing for reducing many of the restrictions needed to curb this virus. Cinemas, gyms, indoor dining, and museums are a few of the amenities that are reopened with some restrictions and further relaxation of restrictions in many areas. Complete details for Step 3 are included in Ontario Reg. 263/20 and can be found at www.Ontario.ca/reopening-Ontario.
I know that these are challenging times for everyone, but our work is not complete. The Eastern Ontario Health Unit and our health care professionals, pharmacies, and volunteers are doing a terrific job getting needles in arms, but they need help. We must reach our target of 80% of adults with at least one dose and 75% fully vaccinated to complete Step 3 and move back to our new normal. As we look around the world, a fourth wave is hitting many regions, including Europe, Australia, and the United States. As hospital admissions rise in these areas, more than 99% of the patients have not been fully vaccinated, highlighting the importance of immunization. The health unit has added thousands of appointment slots in our region, so please go to www.Ontario.ca/bookvaccine or call 1-888-999-6488 if you have a red and white OHIP card or need assistance. We are almost at the 80% target for the first dose, but we need help to reach the 75% fully vaccinated milestone. The sooner we reach this mark, the sooner we fully reopen and enjoy all that our country has to offer.
In another covid-19 related support for our rural and agricultural communities, the Minister of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs, Minister Lisa Thompson, announce new supports for our festival and fairs that have been cancelled due to provincial restrictions. The government will provide up to $5,000 for each eligible agricultural society and up to $1,500 for each eligible horticultural society, equal to their 2019 grants. This is the latest investment from the provincial government to strengthen Ontario’s agri-food sector, ensuring the sustainability of agriculture and fostering vibrant rural economies. This latest funding follows the January 2021 investment of $5 million to help support agricultural and horticultural societies impacted by cancelled events in 2020. In communities such as ours, this will have a significant and positive outlook for the return of those events that we have missed with our families.
Over the past number of years, we have realized the severe impact mental health has on our communities, and this situation has been magnified by this pandemic. This week I was happy to welcome the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Michael Tibollo, to our riding. He had a chance to talk and receive the feedback of many of our mental health practitioners in Cornwall, the Counties and Akwesasne. While we have significantly increased funding in the area, we know there is much more to do. Minister Tibollo is working hard to ensure our health care dollars achieve the needed results.
As always, I want to thank all of you for your contributions in order for us to get to this latest milestone in the reopening process. While 75% fully vaccinated is the milestone needed to move back to normal life, we know that we need to eventually reach the 90% requirement for herd immunity under these new variants. Remember to get your vaccination and be sure to remain vigilant as we continue to move forward together!
MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry