Peggy Sattler MPP, London West

Government of Ontario
 

Hello Neighbour,

What a difference a week makes.

Since my last newsletter, we have seen the impact of the rapidly-spreading Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus. Multiple schools in our community are currently closed, and more and more people are learning that they have been exposed to the virus. Area students have been told to take personal belongings home for the holidays to prepare for a possible return to online learning. This is alarming to all of us. No one wants their loves ones to get sick, our hospitals to be overwhelmed, or another round of school and business lockdowns.  

We need strong action to help blunt the Omicron wave. The new measures announced by the government (speeding up booster shots, making free rapid tests available at select GTA locations, and reducing capacity limits at large venues) should have been in place earlier. Today, the Science Advisory Table released updated projections calling for even stronger public health measures and an immediate "circuit breaker" to decrease everyone's contacts by 50 percent.

There is much more that can be done to avoid further closures and reduce the spread of the virus. We need a full Omicron package that includes:

  • Lower capacity limits for large gatherings so that we can prioritize keeping schools and businesses open over unnecessary events with thousands of people in attendance
  • Make more free rapid tests available at locations across the province for both on-site and take-home testing. Just 2 million free tests for 15 million people is not enough, and it is absolutely unacceptable that there are no pick-up locations in London or even Southwestern Ontario
  • Speed up vaccines for five to 11 year olds with in-school clinics
  • Reduce contacts for children and youth by shrinking class sizes
  • Launch an urgent recruitment and retention blitz for health care workers. The chronic shortage of frontline health care workers is increasing burn out and exhaustion among those who are administering vaccines and caring for COVID patients. Doug Ford's Bill 124 (which caps nurses' wages) is causing thousands more nurses to leave the profession, and must be repealed

Although there is much we do not yet know about the Omicron variant, the Science Table's data shows that two doses of vaccine can protect against severe illness, and that boosters will provide even better protection against infection. Unfortunately, the government's lack of planning and leadership is presenting challenges for the Middlesex London Health Unit to meet the surge in demand for boosters, and has left pharmacies without the supply they need to fill appointments. It is frustrating to once again be forced back to the "hunger games" to get a vaccine, but please take the first opportunity you can to roll up your sleeves.

I will keep you posted and I will continue to advocate on behalf of Londoners with the government. Please reach out to share your thoughts.

Take care and stay safe,

My community office is available to help with provincial programs and services by phone at 519-657-3120 or by email at [email protected] In-person meetings can be arranged by appointment only.

 
In this newsletter:
 

COVID-19 Developments

  • The Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table updated projections included the following key findings:
    • The Omicron variant is now the dominant strain in Ontario.
    • Omicron transmits very quickly, doubling cases up to twice as fast as other variants.
    • Early evidence suggests that Omicron can produce severe disease, and that ICU occupancy could reach unsustainable levels in early January without quick intervention.
    • While two doses of vaccine provide protection against severe illness, the vaccines are less effective against Omicron infection. Boosters will substantially improve protection, and the rapid rollout of booster doses is essential.
    • Increasing vaccination is not enough to slow this wave. Circuit breakers with strong additional public health measures that would lead to at least 50 percent fewer contacts among people, and strong booster campaigns (250,000 per day) could blunt the Omicron wave.
    • High-quality masks, physical distancing indoors, improved ventilation, and increased access to rapid testing can help buy time for boosters to take effect and keep schools open.
       
  • NEW BOOSTER SHOT ELIGIBILITY: As of Monday, December 20, everyone 18 years and older will be eligible to get their booster shot 84 days (12 weeks; just under 3 months) after their second dose.
     
  • Those 50 and over or with certain health conditions who are already eligible for a booster dose are now eligible for one 84 days (12 weeks; just under 3 months) after their second dose. If you are in this group, you are encouraged to book an appointment before Monday to get ahead of the expected demand. If you already booked an appointment at 6 months after your second dose and are now eligible for an earlier appointment, you can reschedule.
     
  • The province announced that free rapid antigen tests will be available at pop-up locations during the holidays. They have indicated that more locations will be added to the list at ontario.ca/holidaytesting, but currently, there are no locations in London or Southwestern Ontario.
     
  • The province will work with large corporations and businesses to rollout booster doses for employees. Interested businesses should contact the Stop the Spread Business Information Line at 1-888-444-3659 to find out whether they are eligible to participate in the program.
     
  • Effective Saturday, December 18, any venue with a capacity of 1000+ people will be capped at 50 percent of regular capacity.
     
  • The Middlesex-London Health Unit has released updated self-isolation requirements for anyone who is a close contact of someone with COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status, and for anyone who tests positive for COVID-19. These individuals must self-isolate for 10 days following their exposure, and get tested immediately as well as 7 days after the exposure. Individuals must self-isolate for 10 days regardless of the test results.
     
  • The Middlesex-London Health Unit has announced that it will expand vaccination capacity to meet the expected demand for booster doses in the new year. This will include reopening a vaccination clinic at the Earl Nichols Recreation Centre beginning January 6.
     
  • In a media briefing held today, Acting Medical Office of Health, Dr. Alex Summers, said that the Middlesex-London Health Unit is calling on amateur sports leagues in the region to strongly consider cancelling or reducing activity. Similarly, all residents are called on to significantly reduce indoor contact with people not from their household, and Londoners are reminded that the health unit has already recommended limiting holiday gatherings.
     
  • The following changes will be implemented in long-term care homes (as of December 17) and retirement homes (as of December 22):
    • All staff, students, volunteers, caregivers must be tested at least twice per week regardless of vaccination status.
    • Visitors and support workers must have a negative rapid antigen test to enter. 
    • Long-term care caregivers must be fully vaccinated (with a first dose by December 20 and second by February 21) unless they have a valid medical exemption or are visiting a resident in a palliative end-of-life situation. Retirement homes are strongly encouraged to implement similar restrictions.
    • Long-term care indoor visits will be limited to 2 people per resident at a time; outdoor visits will be limited to four people per resident at a time.
    • Long-term care residents will be cohorted for higher-risk activities such as singing and dancing, in addition to cohorting at meal times, which is already occurring. Retirements homes will limit the number of visitors and group sizes for social activities.
    • Residents must be fully vaccinated to go on social day trips, will have to be screened upon return, and may be required to isolate or get tested if they have had a known exposure to a case
    • Overnight absences for social reasons will be suspended in long-term care, regardless of vaccination status. Retirement residences will implement additional testing and isolation requirements for residents when they return from an overnight absence.

Everyone born in 2016 or earlier is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine in Ontario, as well as for an accelerated second dose. Some individuals are now eligible for a third booster dose, and everyone aged 18 and over will be eligible for one as of Monday, December 20.

  • Make an appointment at an MLHU mass vaccination clinic
    • Call the Boys & Girls Club transit services at 519-434-9119 (8am - 5:30pm, Monday to Friday) to book a ride if you have mobility issues and cannot get to a clinic yourself
    • You can also get vaccinated in your car at a mass clinic (call 226-289-3560 to book, 8am - 7:30pm, Monday - Friday)
  • Visit a walk-in pop-up clinic
  • Make an appointment at a participating pharmacy
  • If you cannot leave your home, arrange a vaccination at home (call 519-663-5317, 8am - 7:30pm, Monday - Friday)
For the most up-to-date information, please refer to linked sources and the COVID-19 information provided at the Middlesex-London Health Unit website, COVID-19.Ontario.ca, London.ca/covid-19, Canada.ca/coronavirus. You can also find a range of helpful resources on my website at peggysattler.ca/covid19resources.
 

Taking Action on Housing

For years, it has been getting more and more difficult for people in London and across the province to afford the homes they need. Homelessness is on the rise, there has been little growth in affordable housing, renting is expensive and feels precarious, and ownership is completely out of reach for many.

I am calling on the government to agree to implement five urgent actions right away:

  1. Stabilize rents by making it illegal for landlords to raise the rent in between tenants beyond the provincial guideline or increases approved by the Landlord and Tenant Board.
     
  2. Introduce a speculation and vacancy tax on those who don’t pay taxes in Ontario and who own houses they don’t live in, plus increase the Non-Resident Speculation Tax to 20 per cent, and apply it province-wide.
     
  3. Change zoning rules so that developers are forced to build more affordable housing in every major development, not just near major transit hubs, and so that multi-unit homes — like duplexes and townhouses — are allowed in all neighbourhoods.
     
  4. Allow municipalities to shift property taxes onto properties worth more than $2 million and take the burden off middle class families.
     
  5. Immediately commit to funding the building of at least 99,000 affordable housing and supportive housing units.

These actions are all part of a broader housing strategy. Please get in touch if you would like more details.

 

Passing the Buck on Climate Costs

A new FAO report from the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario details the financial impacts of climate change on public infrastructure. It demonstrates very clearly that the costs of doing nothing are much higher than the cost of taking climate action now.

By not investing in solutions, our homes, businesses and public buildings are left vulnerable to flooding and extreme weather, and our roads and wastewater systems will need to be replaced and rebuilt. Our children and grandchildren will not have the option to put off these costs. They will have to bear them while also navigating a less livable world—unless we act now to mitigate climate change.

The government's failure to take climate change seriously, and even to happily take Ontario backwards, now means we won't achieve one-fifth of his government's own watered down climate targets. We owe it to future generations to do so much better than this.

If you would like to learn more about the ambitious, concrete, and achievable plan to fight climate change that I support, please let me know.

 

Around London

One year after the deadly Teeple Terrace tragedy, I joined the London District Labour Council and family and friends of injured workers to mark a sombre anniversary, call for answers, and demand justice. We need the strongest possible workplace health and safety laws to keep workers safe, and prevent such tragedies from ever happening again.

'I was barely alive': Workers return to site of London, Ont. building collapse on one-year anniversary, CTV News, December 11, 2021

 

The London Environmental Network's Environmental Action Incubator Program supports six community projects a year that help to enhance the environment. LEN offers administrative support, project coaching, communications support, and up to $1,000 in funding towards your project. Applications to participate in the 2022 incubator program are open until January 14.