E-newsletter- January 8, 2021
It’s great to touch base with all of you and I hope you had a restful and pleasant holiday season. I know many of us celebrated the holidays differently this year, so I have to again commend the people of Etobicoke – Lakeshore for their dedication to following health protocols as we try to work our way past the virus. The start of 2021 brings great optimism but it will also test our patience.
While the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines is a bright light at the end of the tunnel, we still have to deal with the ramifications of COVID-19 as time will be needed to receive the necessary vaccines from the federal government to vaccinate everyone who wants to receive one. You may not like all the decisions being made but please be assured that all decisions are being made to keep people safe by not overwhelming our health care system.
DEFERRED RETURN TO SCHOOL
On the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and other health experts, we are extending the closure of in-person learning in publicly funded and private schools in response to increasing community transmission, in-person learning for elementary school students in the 27 Southern Ontario public health regions will be deferred to January 25, 2021, which aligns with the planned return of in-person learning for secondary school students in these regions.
We will continue to support those impacted hardest by the COVID-19 outbreak — Ontario families. To support them during this time, our government is also announcing several new measures:
- Starting on January 11, an expanded Support for Learners program is providing $200 for each child/youth up to grade 12 and $250 for each child/youth up to age 21 with special needs. Applications will be open until February 8, 2021.
- Investing up to $10 million in immediate and new mental health supports, including an immediate increase of $1-million in Kids Help Phone. Minister Lecce has directed the creation of a mandatory mental health module for all students during this period, designed by Student Mental Health Ontario.
- Investing an additional $80 million to school boards for more technological devices, such as laptops, tablets, and connectivity solutions, to further support remote learning.
- Expanding eligibility for the free emergency child care program for a broader number of frontline health and safety workers.
Parents are reminded that they can access the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) which provides $500 per week for up to 26 weeks per household for workers unable to work for at least 50% of the week because they must care for a child under the age of 12 or family member because schools, day-cares or care facilities are closed due to COVID-19. To apply for this benefit, click here.
In Ontario, an employee is also entitled to infectious disease emergency leave (IDEL). The health and well-being of the people of Ontario is our top priority and nobody should have to choose between their job and their health. If you stay home to self-isolate or care for loved ones, you will not be fired and this includes caring for children where schools or day cares are closed or operating with reduced hours because of COVID-19.
While our schools remain safe and rates of transmission in them are low, rates are rising in the communities and therefore we play an important role in the solution by limiting the amount of movement and spread of COVID-19.
We remain firmly committed to getting students back into class as soon as possible. We are taking proactive and preventative action to protect schools following the holiday break so we can open schools safely as soon as possible. I know many will be disappointed with this development but the best medical and scientific experts have been clear: while schools have been safe places for kids, the sharp rise in community transmission puts that progress and Ontario families at risk.
During this time, students will remain engaged in live teacher-led online learning, and have access to enhanced mental health and technology supports. As part of our Government’s efforts to protect the most vulnerable, boards will be required to make provisions for in-school learning for students with special education needs.
The Minister of Education will continue working with the Chief Medical Officer of Health to get kids back into class as soon as possible, with expanded asymptomatic testing and additional investments to keep kids safe.
Since news first emerged of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, our government will spare no expense to ensure Ontario has one of the most successful immunization campaigns in the country.
Our vaccine rollout is well underway since launching in December and our government is continuing the rollout of the first phase of our vaccine implementation plan in order to protect the health and well-being of Ontarians.
This is why we’ve prioritized all residents, health care workers and essential caregivers at long-term care homes in the priority regions of Toronto, Peel, York and Windsor-Essex to receive a COVID-19 vaccination by January 21, 2021. Frontline health care workers who participated in the successful Pfizer pilot program in Toronto and Ottawa are receiving their second doses this week.
As of January 7th, more than 72,000 people in Ontario have received a COVID-19 vaccine. We continue to expand the number of vaccination sites, currently up to 44, enabling us to vaccinate a growing number of health care workers and essential caregivers in hospitals, long-term care homes, and retirement homes. In fact, and are now administering over 12,000 doses a day across the province.
We are implementing a three phase vaccine distribution plan as quickly as possible, and we won’t stop until all of the doses we receive are administered and the freezers are empty.
An estimated 2 million vaccine doses are expected to arrive throughout the winter during Phase One of the province's vaccine implementation plan.
As the vaccination rollout continues, it remains critically important that all Ontarians continue following public health advice to protect our communities and most vulnerable populations, and to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The data for daily and total doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered in Ontario is available online, please click here to learn more about Ontario’s vaccination program.
LET’S HONOUR THOSE IN OUR COMMUNITY
While it’s easy to focus on the negative during this COVID-19 era, there have also been incredible examples of people being selfless in aiding their fellow citizens. Please take a moment to be grateful for the commitment of the front-line health care professionals, the essential workers who showed up every day and also for the many volunteers who sewed masks or delivered groceries and other needed goods to shut-ins.
Many of these amazing people live in our community and I am pleased to have met many of them. If you know of a business or a person who has gone above and beyond exemplifying the true Etobicoke and Ontario Spirit, please send an email to [email protected] so they can be recognized.
I encourage everyone to download the new COVID Alert app on their smart phone from the Apple and Google Play app stores. This app lets users know if they may have been exposed to the virus. It is free, easy and safe to use. The more people who download the app, the more effective it will be in stopping the spread of COVID-19.
Christine Hogarth, MPP