Peggy Sattler MPP, London West

Government of Ontario
 

Hello Neighbour, 

After a challenging holiday season, the new year is off to a sobering start, as Ontario enters a second State of Emergency

Just two weeks into 2021, we have seen a rapid surge in COVID-19 cases and confirmation of the new, highly contagious UK variant in Ontario, the sudden closure of schools until at least January 25, and a shocking and violent insurrection in the United States.  

While there is no question about the seriousness of the updated COVID-19 modelling, and the potentially devastating impact of the UK variant, similar dire projections were previously released as a warning of what could happen if the government failed to take effective action. The consequences of half-measures, delays, and mixed messaging are now being seen, as Ontario set a grim record of 89 single-day deaths last Thursday and the highest daily number of cases on Friday at 4249.

Despite government claims of an "iron ring" around long-term care, the virus is raging in more than 40 percent of Ontario LTC homes. Of the 5,021 Ontarians who have tragically lost their lives to COVID-19, almost 3,000 were LTC residents. 

Unfortunately, the plan announced today by the Premier continues to lack the urgency needed to beat the virus, and the clarity necessary for people to understand the rules. No changes were made to big box stores, or most workplaces. No paid sick days were brought in, and no new help at all for workers or businesses was announced. There was no announcement of additional help for long-term care. The government failed to listen to countless health care and public health experts, who are calling for:

  • At least 10,000 more staff in long-term care, plus infection prevention and control experts in every nursing home
  • Paid sick days so people stop being forced to spread the virus at work
  • A ban on evictions so people don’t work sick out of fear of eviction
  • Self-isolation centres
  • A massive ramp-up of testing and contact tracing, including in-workplace and in-school testing, and public release of the vaccination schedule
  • Restricting non-essential travel in between regions

There is absolutely no excuse for inaction at this point in the pandemic when families are losing loved ones in long-term care every day, when our hospitals are full, ICUs at capacity, and cancer surgeries are being postponed.

We need to recall the Legislature immediately so that MPPs can get back to work on concrete steps to curb the spread of COVID-19, and ensure people and businesses have the support they need. There are billions of unallocated pandemic funds that could be used to ramp up vaccination, save lives in long-term care, reduce workplace transmission, and make our schools safe. 

Stay safe and take care,

 

Although my community office is closed to in-person meetings, we remain available to help with provincial programs and services by phone at 519-657-3120 or by email at psattler-co@ndp.on.ca.


In this newsletter:
 

"Do As I Say, Not As I Do"

Many Londoners have contacted me to express their anger over the former Finance Minister's December vacation in St. Bart's (and his elaborate social media cover-up to conceal his whereabouts), and the five trips to the US taken during the pandemic by former London Health Sciences Centre CEO Dr. Paul Woods. Not only did these travel decisions violate public health guidelines, but they also undermine public confidence in COVID-19 restrictions, and both men have been rightfully removed from their positions.

From the beginning of the pandemic, public health advice has been clear: stay home and avoid non-essential travel. I know the sacrifices that many of you have made to follow public health guidelines. You did not gather with loved ones over the holidays, and have missed special occasions with people who are precious to you. You have experienced the pain of not being able to hold your loved ones in long-term care. In the face of a deadly virus, and the emotional and financial toll of necessary measures to control it, it is completely unacceptable for elected officials and health care leaders to act as if the rules do not apply to them. It must never be a case of "do as I say, not as I do." Elected officials and health care leaders should be held to the same – if not higher – standard in adhering to COVID-19 measures.

You can read some of my comments in the media about Dr. Woods below: 


Vaccination Concerns

I have received many emails from London West constituents raising concerns about the slow pace of the government's vaccination roll-out. Unfortunately, the government has not provided specific timelines, or even information as to how people will be notified when they can get a shot. I know how frustrating this is, especially for seniors and others who are higher-risk, and I will continue to push for the release of the full vaccination schedule and detailed plan. People deserve to know the priority order of all long-term care and congregate care facilities, how people will be notified when they are eligible for the vaccine, how proof-of-vaccination is going to work, benchmark timeline goals and more.
 
The Middlesex-London region is currently in Phase One of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccination program. That means that only health care workers in hospitals, long-term care homes, retirement homes, congregate care settings, and remote Indigenous communities are currently receiving vaccines. At this time, there is no way for others to get on a waitlist for the vaccine. You can find updated data about vaccination progress here and download technical briefings and other program updates here.

As of January 11, approximately 6,466 people had been vaccinated with their first dose of vaccine through the Western Fair Agriplex Clinic. Starting later this week, the first dose cohort will receive their second dose. To date, the clinic has received 8,775 doses, and an anticipated 4,875 doses per week is expected for the next three weeks. The Western Fair Agriplex Clinic supports the MLHU, Huron Perth Public Health, and Southwestern Public Health.


Workplace Outbreaks Should Not Be Secret

Almost 9,000 workers have been infected with COVID-19 in workplaces in Ontario, making workplaces the second-most common source of transmission after LTC homes. Essential workers don’t have the option to stay home, and have been exposed on the job at manufacturing plants, distribution centres, farms and grocery stores. In many cases, staff did not know there was an outbreak at their workplace. When outbreaks were known, that information was not shared with customers, delivery workers or first responders.

This puts the lives of workers and their families at risk, and it increases the chance of community spread. The City of Toronto announced recently that it will publish the names and locations of workplace outbreaks, and I am urging the provincial government to provide resources to do the same for workers in the rest of the province.

Paid sick days are a critical component of reducing workplace transmission, and an essential tool in our pandemic response. Workers should never have to choose between putting food on their table or going to work sick. Yet every day, Londoners are faced with that choice, right here in our community.

Add your name to my call for the government to immediately pass my Stay Home If You Are Sick Act, which will ensure every worker has the paid sick days public health experts say we need.

Government Limiting LTC Investigation

The government's decision to dismantle the Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission's investigation into practices at Ontario homes after April 30 is deeply concerning. The commissioners wrote to the Ministry of Long-term Care last month asking for an extension until December  31, 2021 to complete their work. Their letter noted that they had faced delays in receiving necessary information from the government, and that they needed more time to process the large amount of data now collected. Their request was refused.  

With the mounting LTC death toll and the horrifying details of last year's CAF report, it is unconscionable that the government would shut down its own commission's work, especially after passing legislation that makes it very difficult for people to hold for-profit long-term care operators accountable for negligent care. 

My colleagues and I called for an independent inquiry rather than a premier's commission to avoid this kind of limitation being placed on the investigation, and we remain committed to building a fully public and not-for-profit long-term care system that will better protect our loved ones in care.

The Ontario Health Coalition is hosting an online briefing and Q&A about access to long-term care. All LTC families are welcome. Join them on Zoom on Wednesday, January 13 from 5:30 - 7pm.
 

Around London

The City of London has launched ConnectLDN, a virtual recreation hub featuring activities, resources and experiences to keep Londoners engaged, entertained and active at home. There will be new content each week, including children’s activities, weekly seniors’ fitness classes and digital library and museum programs. 

On February 11, “Culture Shock! The Impact of Pandemics" will bring together local historians, medical professionals, and cultural experts for an online panel to discuss how previous pandemics, such as the 1918 influenza pandemic, shaped culture and how the current pandemic is spurring change. Find more information on the London Heritage website and RSVP on Facebook.


A fun COVID-19 Version of International Winter Bike to Work Day allows Londoners to choose a point of interest in the city, create loops that connect all the submitted points in a ride, and then ride their favourite loop on February 12. The city with the most loops and riders wins! Sign up at winterbiketoworkday.org!

The Hyde Park Business Improvement Association has launched their website Shop Hyde Park in Uptown London, a central online shopping portal that connects over 150 Hyde Park businesses under one hub and provides links to businesses’ sites, online shopping carts, or takeout profiles along with their hours and contact information.

London's Essential Workers' Angel Project is a grassroots initiative that has paired up nurses, doctors and other front line workers with volunteers who want to express their gratitude for the work done during the pandemic. Check out their Facebook page if you would like to be involved.
 

Declared State of Emergency

  • Ontario has declared a state of emergency, effective immediately and expected to remain in place for 28 days.
     
  • A stay-at-home order will come into effect on Thursday, January 14 at 12:01 am. Under that order, everyone must stay home except for essential trips, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, for exercise or for essential work. While this was previously recommended, the province will now provide authority to all enforcement and provincial offences officers to issue tickets to individuals who do not comply with the stay-at-home order.
     
  • Outdoor gatherings of people who do not live in the same household are restricted to 5 people.
     
  • All businesses must ensure that any employee who can work from home, does work from home.
     
  • Non-essential retail may only open from 7am to 8pm. The restricted hours of operation do not apply to stores that primarily sell food, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, and restaurants for takeout or delivery.
     
  • Individuals are required to wear a mask or face covering in the indoor areas of businesses or organizations that are open. All enforcement and provincial offences officers will be authorized to issue tickets to individuals not wearing a mask or face covering indoors. Wearing a mask or face covering is also recommended outdoors when you can't physically distance more than two metres. 
     
  • Extended closures of schools in some regions have been announced, but did not include Middlesex-London. The premier indicated that the Chief Medical Office of Health will provide recommendations for schools in other regions by January 20. In-person learning is currently suspended in Middlesex-London until January 25. 
     
  • Non-essential construction is further restricted, including below-grade construction, exempting survey.

Other COVID-19 Developments

  • The Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table released new modelling that shows growth of the virus has accelerated and is now over 7% on the worst days. COVID-19 ICU occupancy is now over 400 beds, and a quarter of Ontario hospitals have no free ICU beds. Case growth is continuing despite current restrictions, and many people are still not following public health measures. It also showed that the new UK variant is in Ontario, and could drive much higher case counts.
     
  • The Support for Learners program, which offers families $200-$250 of support for each child, is now accepting applications related to students from age 13 to Grade 12, in addition to elementary students. The deadline to apply is February 8, 2021.
     
  • Londoners who need COVID-19 tests for essential international travel can find private testing locations on the COVID-19 testing in Middlesex and London website as assessment centres will no longer offer provincially-funded tests for travel.
     
  • The COVID Alert app has been updated so that it can run on older phones, including iPhone 5s, 6 and 6 Plus with a new iOS 12.5. COVID Alert does not use GPS or location services and has no way of knowing your location or the time or place you were near someone.
     
  • University Hospital is now outbreak-free, but there are ongoing outbreaks at Victoria Hospital. London Health Sciences Centre has updated the visitor policy for both hospitals and the Children's Hospital. LHSC reminds Londoners that the hospitals remain open, and it is important that you do not delay seeking care for any urgent or emergent needs. 
     
  • The provincial government has expanded eligibility for emergency child care during the provincewide shutdown. Visit the City of London website for more information about eligibility and how to register.
     
  • The province has set most electricity prices at 8.5 cents per kilowatt-hour at all times of the day beginning January 1 and ending on January 28. This price will automatically be applied to bills of all residential, small business, and farm customers who pay regulated rates. If you are struggling with hydro bills, please visit the London Hydro website to learn about available assistance programs.
The response to COVID-19 is evolving rapidly, so please refer to linked sources and the following websites for the most up-to-date information: 
Canada.ca/coronavirus 

You can also find a range of helpful resources on my website at peggysattler.ca/covid19resources.
 
 
Community Office
240 Commissioners Rd W, Unit 101
London, ON N6J 1Y1
Tel: 519-657-3120
Queen's Park Office
Room 359, Main Legislative Building, Queen's Park
Toronto, ON M7A 1A5
Tel: 416-325-6908
Email: psattler-qp@ndp.on.ca
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