The number of COVID-19 cases has dropped slightly over the past week as vaccination rates continue to inch upwards. It demonstrates that every fully vaccinated person will have a positive impact. The lower-than-average vaccination rate in the city has resulted in a positivity rate that’s almost three times the rest of the health unit’s region. We have also seen a corresponding drop in institutional outbreaks. While some facilities get in the clear, others get added, showing how easily the Delta variant can quickly spread, reinforcing the need for proof of vaccination certificates. We need to keep potentially contagious people from spreading the virus to vulnerable and unvaccinated populations in close settings, such as long-term care homes and schools with children under 12. Hospitalizations and ICU bed occupancy levels remain a concern during this fourth wave, as some hospitals have had to cancel surgeries. If you have not gotten your shots, check for our local vaccination clinics and participating pharmacy locations at the Eastern Ontario Health Unit’s website at www.EOHU.ca or call 1-800-267-7120. Please ensure that you have proof of vaccination and photo ID before entering many non-essential indoor settings. You can obtain your proof of vaccination certificate at a Service Ontario centre by calling 1-833-943-3900 or downloading it at https://covid19.ontariohealth.ca/. The digital version is undergoing final testing and should be available by mid-October.
Our Government announced the launch of a COVID-19 rapid antigen screening program for schools and child care settings where the risk of transmission is high. Local health units will be responsible for the program to help keep schools and licensed child care settings open and safe for children and students. The Chief Medical Officer of Health has recommended the program to increase access to this testing to help identify and contain cases in select schools and child care settings, especially for areas with the highest risk of spreading the virus.
This week, Rod Phillips, the Minister of Long-Term Care, announced that the Government will provide $4.9 billion to hire more than 27,000 long-term care staff over four years to ensure that residents receive, on average, four hours of direct care per day by 2024-25. Currently, residents receive an average of two hours and 45 minutes of direct care from nurses and personal support workers. So, for example, in a typical 160-bed LTC home, it will result in 43 additional staff. More staff means more care, which is a key component of our plan to fix the LTC sector that has been ignored for years.
The Government kicked off the fall session Monday with the reading of the Throne Speech by the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell. The speech outlined that we have come a long way through challenges that were unimaginable 18 months ago. While many steps have mitigated the pandemic’s effects, the Government is committed to ensuring that we take further measures to protect the health and well-being of Ontarians. Case levels may rise during the winter, but we believe that getting even more people fully vaccinated will be instrumental in containing the virus. Our economy is bouncing back, but we continue to support businesses and employers as they do their part to re-energize our prospects for a better future. We will recover our solid economic and fiscal standing with growth and new jobs, not by hiking taxes or cutting programs and services.
I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving weekend and remember to stay safe.
MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry