This past week saw the sharpest jump in COVID-19 cases for the southern portion of the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) territory. We experienced a 340 percent increase, week over week, reaching 44 active cases on Wednesday. Recent data continues to bear out the risks of being unvaccinated, as they are 42 times more likely to be in the ICU than those fully vaccinated. The EOHU is working hard through its last-mile strategy to provide appointment vaccination opportunities and walk-ins at numerous locations in our region. For more information, please visit the EOHU website at www.EOHU.ca/vaccines for clinic availability.
The new Delta variant is proving to be more challenging to contain, affecting more younger people and exhibiting more severe health impacts. Over the past month, our Government has tightened restrictions to control the spread, including pausing the exit from Step 3 of our Reopening Ontario plan. To date, Ontario has achieved some of the lowest per capita case numbers in the country. Unfortunately, new modelling that includes the recent experiences of other jurisdictions is predicting a significant increase in cases this fall as we move back indoors. As a result, our Government took steps this week to contain this increase by adding additional restrictions necessary to help control the spread of this virus. Starting September 22, Ontarians will need to provide proof of being fully vaccinated (two doses plus a full efficacy period of 14 days) along with a photo ID to access specific public settings and facilities. The focus is on indoor public settings where face coverings cannot always be worn. This includes restaurants and bars (excluding outdoor patios, delivery, and takeout), theatres, cinemas, banquet halls, and gyms or facilities used for sports and fitness activities and personal fitness training. The proof of vaccination requirements does not apply for essential services and where masking has proven effective, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, personal care salons, and settings where people receive medical care. We are asking for the public’s cooperation, as we must ensure that we protect our citizens who cannot receive their vaccinations because of their age or if they have a compromised immune system. We must also protect our medical care capacity as we attempt to catch up on elective surgeries and procedures, such as joint replacements and cancer treatments.
Students are also returning to school, and the Ministry of Education has prepared the steps to ensure the best possible protection against COVID-19. An updated screening tool, approved by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, has been issued for the first line of defence, focusing on five categories of COVID-19 symptoms: fever and chills, cough or barking cough, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell, and nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. As well, students and staff must complete self-screening before arriving at school. The enhanced screening is one of many measures we are taking for a safe return to school, supported by more than $2 billion in additional resources. Please check your school board for complete details and requirements.
In April, we introduced new measures to ensure that workers do not lose pay if they need to stay home for reasons related to the pandemic, such as self-isolating, getting tested and waiting for results, or getting vaccinated. In response to new data showing the Delta variant is spreading faster and more transmissible, we are extending our COVID-19 paid sick leave program until December 31, 2021. This will ensure that we continue to get people vaccinated as quickly as possible and protect workers sick from this virus.
In closing, for those still without complete vaccine protection, help us turn back a fourth wave and further lockdowns by visiting one of our many vaccination centres listed at www.EOHU.ca.
MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry