The spread of Omicron-fuelled COVID-19 shows signs of plateauing, with case numbers predicted to peak over the next couple of weeks. As expected, the lag time between rising active cases and hospitalizations appears to be over, as hospitalization and ICU numbers continue to increase across the province. Staffing of emergency services has become a significant concern during the Omicron wave, with steps being taken to alleviate some of the shortages. The province is collaborating with Ontario Health (OH) and the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) on initiatives to deploy internationally educated nurses to hospitals and other health care settings under the supervision of a regulated health care provider. More than 1,200 internationally educated CNO applicants have expressed interest in participating in these initiatives so far. Since March 2020, the government has launched emergency programs that have already added over 6,700 health care professionals to the system, including acute care settings. Another 6,000 will be available by March 31, 2022, including the deployment of nursing students and other health care providers-in-training.
Our schools will be returning to in-person learning on Monday, as laid out in the December announcement. Over 3.9 million rapid antigen tests were shipped to school boards last week to help stabilize workforce and student participation. The use of the tests is for symptomatic individuals, who will be required to take two rapid tests 24 hours apart, and upon negative results, can return to class. In addition, parental consent forms will be sent home in the upcoming week to facilitate launching school-based vaccine clinics for youth and staff.
More than five million Ontarians have received their third dose as we add more clinics and pharmacies throughout the month. Data shows that you are 20 times more likely to end up in the hospital if you are not vaccinated. Check out the Eastern Ontario Health Unit’s website at www.EOHU.ca or by calling 1-800-267-7120 for the latest vaccination information, including booster availability and walk-in clinics locations for children and their parents. Book your appointment at www.Ontario.ca/bookvaccine or through a local pharmacy and primary health practitioner. The EOHU vaccination team continues to add more appointments.
Many of our cherished festivals and special events have been curtailed by the pandemic. In response, we are investing $20 million to help municipalities and organizers who are planning now to offer great close-to-home activities for local residents. The funding is available through the Reconnect Ontario program. I urge applicants to submit their proposals before the deadline of 5 p.m., February 2, 2022. Successful applicants may use their grants for eligible expenses such as programming and production, promotion, mobile applications and website development, and implementation of health and safety measures. Please visit this link for more information: http://www.mtc.gov.on.ca/en/awards_funding/Reconnect%20Ontario%202022%20Info%20deck.pdf.
The Ontario government provides targeted relief for businesses and people impacted by the current public health measures aimed at blunting the spread of the Omicron variant. A $10,000 grant has been introduced for eligible businesses subject to closures under the modified Step Two of the Roadmap to Reopen. It also provides property tax and energy rebates during the shutdown and a six-month interest- and penalty-free period starting January 1, 2022, for Ontario businesses to make payments for most provincially administered taxes. Details are available at https://www.ontario.ca/page/businesses-get-help-covid-19-costs#section-1.
Remember to follow public health guidelines and get vaccinated if you have not done so.
MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry