Peggy Sattler MPP, London West

Government of Ontario
 
Dear Neighbour,

A small number of MPPs participated in a one-day sitting of the Ontario Legislature on Tuesday May 12 for the first Question Period since the COVID-19 emergency was declared. I was privileged to participate in the debate on the extension of the state of emergency to June 2, and highlighted the crisis in long-term care, the lack of pandemic pay for many front-line workers, the urgent need for proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and the dire situation facing small businesses in London and across the province. You can read my remarks here.

The legislature will meet again on May 19, 20, 26, 27, June 2 and 3, when we will continue to hold the government to account on these and other issues.  

We will also be continuing our push for a full public inquiry into COVID-19 and the long-term care system. As Official Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath has clearly stated, we can not and must not return to the status quo. Inexplicably, he government has so far refused to launch an inquiry into this terrible virus that has killed more than 1200 in long-term care homes. Public inquiries were held on SARS (44 dead in Ontario), Elizabeth Wettlaufer (8 dead), Walkerton (6 dead), and Ipperwash (1 dead). Surely a public inquiry into the ravages of COVID-19 in our long-term care sector is warranted.  

Finally, a shout-out to my colleague MPP Joel Harden for his Toronto Star editorial urging the Ford government to declare the assistive program (ADP) an essential service, and also to King's University professor (and Londoner) Jeff Preston for his powerful piece on living with disability in the time of COVID

As we enter a new phase in the pandemic, please keep in mind that our actions will determine how COVID-19 affects our community, our friends and our families during the reopening of the economy. Physical distancing has enabled us to flatten the curve and slow the spread. We can't let up now.

Please enjoy this holiday weekend, and remember that we are all in this together.

 

What's Ahead 

With the reopening of the economy, Ontarians are looking for assurances that workers will be protected and that sufficient testing will be conducted to detect any resurgence of the virus, particularly asymtomatic spread. There is also a need to ensure child care for workers returning to work, especially women who have borne the brunt of the job loss. The NDP has been urging the Ford government to ramp up its COVID-19 testing and tracing before easing restrictions, and to better protect workers and customers by replacing suggested workplace safety guidelines with enforceable rules.

Here's what we know to expect from the government in the coming days:

  • Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams confirmed that guidance on the use of non-medical masks by the public will be released very shortly. The use of facial coverings will be strongly recommended but not mandatory, although Dr. Williams said that municipalities will have the option of making these mandatory for public transit or other public settings.
  • There will be an update on child care and schools on Tuesday May 19.
  • The Premier announced that a relaxation of the limits on the size of public gatherings will be coming early next week.
 

COVID-19 Government Updates

Stage 1 Reopening of the Economy

As part of the first stage of the government's reopening framework, certain retailers, seasonal businesses and health and community service providers will be permitted to open or expand their services on Tuesday, May 19 at 12:01am, provided that the general trend on health indicators continues to improve. See the detailed list of Stage 1 re-openings for more information. Additional seasonal services and activities, including golf courses, marinas, private RV campgrounds and stables, are permitted to open on Saturday May 16 at 12:01am with some restrictions.

To support the reopening of the economy, a new website was launched to provide business owners with information on personal protective equipment (PPE) suppliers. The Workplace PPE Supplier Directory has an up-to-date list of Ontario companies and business associations that are ready to supply personal protective equipment.

 

Crisis in Long-Term Care

An emergency order was passed allowing the province to immediately take over management of a long-term care home struggling to deal with a COVID-19 outbreak. The manager could be any person, including a corporation or a hospital. A long-term care home may require management assistance if they face challenges like a high number of cases among residents or staff, a high number of deaths, an outbreak that has not yet been resolved, significant staffing issues or outstanding requirements from infection prevention and control assessments. 

In addition to this long-overdue measure, the Official Opposition continues to push for a public, non-partisan inquiry into the crisis in long-term care, including into the role of for-profit homes. 

 

Relief from Tripling of Drug Dispensing Fees

On March 20, 2020 the government limited dispensing of medications to 30 days in order to protect the drug supply during the pandemic. For people who used to get their prescriptions filled every three months, this meant getting their prescriptions filled monthly instead, and paying a dispensing fee each time. While other provinces also introduced a 30-day cap, they waived the additional dispensing fees. Despite calls from the Ontario NDP to eliminate the co-payment for seniors, Ontario did not provide any relief, until this week. 

People who use the Ontario Drug Benefit Program will no longer be required to pay any co-payment until July 1, 2020 for prescriptions of more than 30 days. In addition, existing and new Trillium Drug Program households can apply for an income reassessment, if they experienced a 10 per cent drop income. Eligible households who are not currently enrolled in the Trillium Drug Program and have high prescription costs can also complete and submit an application and re-assessment form by e-mail or fax.

 

More Federal Support for Businesses

The Government of Canada launched the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF), providing interest-free loans to help support fixed operating costs of small and medium-sized businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including commercial rents. The fund is specific to businesses that have not been able to access other Government of Canada measures during COVID-19. 

 

Education Workers Filling Staffing Shortages

More details were announced on the emergency order to allow the temporary voluntary redeployment of education sector employees at congregate care settings during the COVID-19 outbreak. Education sector employees, including custodial, maintenance, food preparation, children and youth service workers, social workers and educational assistants, will be able to voluntarily fill staffing roles needed in hospitals, long-term care homes, retirement homes, women's shelters, and homes serving those with developmental disabilities, while maintaining their employment status with their school boards. Training and appropriate safety equipment will be provided to redeployed staff. 

 

Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB)

Applications for the federal government’s CESB opened on Friday, May 15, providing financial support to post-secondary students, and recent post-secondary and high school graduates who are unable to find work due to COVID-19. Find out how to apply here.

 

Agri-food Workplace Protection Program

The second intake of the Agri-food Workplace Protection Program, funded through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (the Partnership), was launched this week, to help farmers enhance health and safety measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. The funding will be used for initiatives like purchasing personal protective equipment, enhanced cleaning and disinfection, and redesigning workstations. Support is also available for farmers who experience unexpected costs for housing and transportation as a result of a COVID-19 outbreak among on-farm employees.

The response to COVID-19 is evolving rapidly, so please refer to linked sources and official websites for the most up-to-date information.
 
 

COVID-19 in London

Two London Health Care Heroes Lost to COVID-19


I join all Ontarians in extending my deepest condolences to the families, friends and coworkers of two London health care heroes who died this week of COVID-19.

On May 17, International Nurses Day, Brian Beattie became the first registered nurse to die of COVID-19 in Canada. He was a dedicated and well-liked nurse at Kensington Village, where eight staff have tested positive for the coronavirus and five residents have died,

Maria, a devoted Personal Support Worker (PSW) who had worked at the Sisters of St. Joseph care home for the last 16 years, succumbed to COVID-19 the same day. She is at least the sixth PSW to die of the virus in Ontario.

We offer our profound gratitude to all the front-line workers who are risking their lives during this pandemic, and remember and mourn those who have loss their lives. 

 

We're All In This Together


Like so many London businesses that are stepping up to help, earlier this month the Early Riser Cafe celebrated a donation of 3000 gloves, 44 pounds of rice, 22 pounds of powdered milk, 44 pounds of flour, 10 pounds of chicken stock, 9 L of vegetable oil, 400 garbage bags, and 2 cases of water to the London Food Bank, as well as 1200 take out meals to the Salvation Army Center of Hope. Kudos to owner Brad Heslop and his team for their continued donation of 10% of all take out orders and 100% of tips to the London Food Bank. 
 

Enjoy the Outdoors!


The City of London is encouraging Londoners to enjoy the outdoors this long weekend, while staying close to home and maintaining physical distance of two metres (or six feet).  Some great choices include walking or biking through parks, green space, trails and pathways, or participating in a neighbourhood scavenger hunt. To find all bike routes, walking trails and community paths, check out CityMap online.
 

COVID-19 Assessment Centres


The  COVID-19 Assessment Centre at Carling Heights Optimist Community Centre (CHOCC) will be open over the long weekend from 11am to 7pm. The Assessment Centre at Oakridge Arena will NOT be open Saturday or Sunday, but will be open from 11am to 7pm on Monday, May 18, 2020. Before visiting an Assessment Centre, the Middlesex-London Health Unit recommends that you use the online self-assessment tool at: covid19checkup.ca, You can also call Telehealth at 1-866-797-0000 for a telephone assessment if you have COVID-19 like-symptoms, including fever, a new or worsening cough, or new or worsening shortness of breath.
 

London Business COVID-19 Portal

The London Economic Development Corporation (LEDC), London Chamber of Commerce, and London Small Business Centre have partnered to create this resource hub for London businesses, providing a one-stop shop for reliable and up-to-date resources and information about local, provincial, and federal government COVID-19 measures.   

 

Neighbours Supporting Neighbours

If you hear about other neighbourhood initiatives for Londoners to help and support each other through these difficult times, please let me know so I share them!

 

Reliable Sources of Information

Middlesex-London Health Unit - Find local information about COVID-19 and what is being done locally to prevent and prepare for a potential outbreak in London, and information about assessing your own symptoms.

You can also find updates regarding local health care response and procedure changes at London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph's Health Care.  

COVID-19.Ontario.ca - Find information about COVID-19 symptoms, how to protect yourself, and an information sheet that is available in multiple languages. You can also use the Ministry of Health's interactive online assessment tool if you think you may have symptoms of COVID-19.

London.ca/covid-19 - Updates on city services and programming impacted by COVID-19.

Canada.ca/coronavirus - Information from the Public Health Agency of Canada, and updates on the national response, travel advice and preparedness.  

travel.gc.ca - Important travel updates regarding Coronavirus around the world.

 
 

If you need to find access to mental health support, food services, financial assistance or more, dial 2-1-1. Their community navigators are available any time day or night, and can provide help in more than 150 languages. To find support specific to COVID-19, you can also visit www.211covid19.ca.

 

**NEW RESOURCES**

Please check my website if you are looking for resources from previous newsletters.
 

Keeping Children Safe

School closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in children staying home and spending more time online.This resource for parents and caregivers examines potential increased risks for online sexual exploitation and abuse of children, and provides strategies for parents to keep children safe while they continue to use the Internet for positive uses.
 

Support for Caregivers

The Ontario Caregiving Organization has developed a new Caring Communities web portal that gives people who need help an easy way to find it in your community.  This can include finding help with grocery or medication pick-up and delivery, friendly phone calls and mental health support. 
 

Sexual Violence and COVID-19

This infographic shares some of the ways that COVID-19 has an impact on sexual violence. If you are experiencing abuse and require emergency assistance, call 9-1-1. For crisis counselling, call the 24-Hour Crisis & Support Line at 519-642-3000 or 1-800-265-1576. 
 

Health Impacts of Substance Use

With a marked increase in alcohol and cannabis use since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction has developed a COVID-19 resource section with accurate and trusted information on the health impacts of COVID-19 and substance use.