It’s been a period of lockdowns and restrictions, but the end is now in sight. We have done a tremendous job getting vaccinated, but with ample supply and our targets within reach, we are seeing numbers dropping. To exit Step 3, we must reach 75 percent of those 12 years old and older to be fully vaccinated, with two doses of an approved vaccine. Our medical experts believe that a rate of 90 percent is required to avoid a fourth wave that would overwhelm our health care system. It is a pandemic of the unvaccinated, as we see the numbers of active cases rising in many countries worldwide. For those who are fully vaccinated, thank you. If you haven’t had a chance to receive your two doses, there are available appointments, or you can walk into one of our local clinics without an appointment. It is easy, safe, and fast. For more information, visit www.eohu.ca. You can book or advance an existing appointment by accessing www.Ontario.ca/bookvaccine or calling 1-888-999-6488 if you have a red and white OHIP card or need assistance. A Public Health Ontario study revealed that less than one percent of the more than 400,000 covid cases in 2021 were fully vaccinated, showing us how well this vaccine works.
This week, Education Minister Stephen Lecce, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, released our plan to get students back to the classroom this fall, five days per week. The back-to-school guidance provides school boards with operational guidance that will promote the health and safety of students and staff for the 2021-22 school year. The government is taking a balanced approach, ensuring that students return to school and stay in school. The plan allows some of the cherished parts of school life to return, including sports teams, playing instruments in music class, field trips, and other extracurricular activities. Spaces such as libraries and cafeterias will be open, allowing students in cohorts to enjoy lunch again. All students from grade 1 up will be required to wear a mask. The government is making record investments for the third straight year, with more than $2 billion in additional resources to put the plan in place. This amount includes $1.6 billion for COVID-19 resources, $85.5 million to support learning in math and reading, and $25.6 billion towards Grants for Student Needs, a $561 million increase over the previous year. After ongoing investments since the pandemic’s start, Minister Lecce announced this week additional funding of $25 million to further improve ventilation in schools. All of our school boards have implemented measures to improve ventilation and air quality in their schools.
Our government announced its commitment to invest $4 billion in our spring budget to provide high-speed internet connections for Ontario’s 700,000 unserved and under-served homes and businesses by 2025. This past week, we announced the second round of projects that will serve the majority of these locations with fibre facilities. Work is underway to award contracts to connect the final 300,000 homes by March 2022 through our new reverse auction procurement system. Ontario is on track to be one of the first jurisdictions of its size in the world to have full 50/10 Mbps internet coverage.
I am thrilled to see three local events selected to receive the new Reconnect Festival and Event Program funding that will help ensure a safe experience for participants. The program has selected Cornwall’s 2021 World Junior A Hockey Challenge ($93,000), the Cornwall Art Walk ($8,000), and North Dundas’ Black Creek Rodeo ($17,250).
In closing, remember to get your vaccination and be sure to continue precautionary measures as we look forward to a new normal.
MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry