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Dear Neighbour, 

The second wave of COVID-19 is here.

I have been hearing from many of you concerned about the lack of a comprehensive plan for the second wave. Unlike the first wave, experts gave the government ample warning that the second wave was coming in the fall. 

Unfortunately, a lack of proactive planning to stop the spread of COVID-19 by not building up our testing and contact tracing system has resulted in an upward trend of cases. The Globe and Mail Editorial, The pandemic second wave arrived right on schedule – and still caught the Ford government by surprise, explains it well.

The Ontario Hospital Association has issued a warning that we are losing ground in the fight against COVID-19. OHA says, “If current trends continue to accelerate, economic restrictions may tighten once more, and the school year for our children will be in jeopardy.No one wants the worst case scenario. So let us all also continue to do our part and remain vigilant in following public health recommendations. 

You can count on me to continue to push the Ontario Government to release and implement a comprehensive second wave plan that helps keep everyone safe.

Public health guidelines are changing frequently now, and I urge you to regularly check the City of Toronto’s public health page and the Ontario Government’s public health page for updates. A host of additional measures to face this second wave of COVID-19 were announced today.

I have provided details on these new measures, along with notable announcements from the past two weeks, below. 

As always, wash your hands, practise physical distancing, wear a mask when needed, be kind.

Warmly,

Bhutila Karpoche,
MPP for Parkdale—High Park

New Public Health Measures

The province has introduced a number of new public health measures which come into effect on Saturday, October 3, 2020 at 12:01am.  

  • Mandatory use of face coverings in all public indoor settings across the province, such as businesses, facilities and workplaces, with limited exceptions. 

  • Extending the pause on any further reopening of businesses, facilities, and organizations for an additional 28 days, unless already permitted to open under O. Reg 364/20

  • Pausing social circles and advising that all Ontarians allow close contact only with people living in their own household and maintain physical distancing from everyone else. Individuals who live alone may consider having close contact with another household. 

  • Targeted measures for Ottawa, Peel, and Toronto, including:

    • Setting an indoor capacity limit to restrict occupancy at restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments to the number of patrons who can maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from every other patron (up to a maximum of 75 in Toronto, and 100 in Ottawa and Peel);

    • No more than six patrons per table at those same establishments;

    • Mandating the collection of name and contact information for each patron for contract tracing purposes.

    • Restricting group exercise classes at gyms and fitness settings to 10 individuals, as well as restricting the total number of people allowed at these facilitators to a maximum of 50

    • Setting a limit on the number of people allowed at meeting and event facilities, including banquet halls, to six people per table and 50 people per facility. 

  • Guidance is coming soon for seniors (70 and over) on how to minimize their risk of acquiring COVID and for upcoming annual gatherings, such as Thanksgiving and Remembrance Day. 

New Testing Measures

Testing at Ontario assessment centres will be available on an appointment-only basis beginning Tuesday, October 6, 2020. This model is intended to reduce the amount of waiting in line, especially as the cold winter months approach, and ensure that centres are able to conduct enhanced screening to ensure adherence to the new testing guidelines (more on that below!)

Beginning on Sunday, October 4, assessment centres will discontinue walk-in testing services, to allow the province’s lab network to process the backlog of tests and allow assessment centres to ensure preparedness for the new appointment model. This means that there will be no testing conducted on October 4 or 5 at Ontario assessment centres. Testing in pharmacies may be available by appointment for those who are asymptomatic, depending on availability. 

The government has set a goal to increase testing and processing capacity to 50,000 tests per day by mid-October and 68,000 tests per day by mid-November. They will also be introducing new testing methods, subject to Health Canada approval, including point of care testing and antigen testing.

Updated COVID-19 Testing Guidelines

Dr. Barbara Yaffe (Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health) announced that, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and Ontario’s Testing Strategy Expert Panel, the province has moved to update the testing guidelines to prioritize those who are at greatest risk. This also means that the province is moving away from untargeted asymptomatic testing, in anticipation of the upcoming flu and cold season.

Testing at assessment centres remains available for those who are symptomatic, have had close contact with a confirmed case, or are part of an outbreak investigation. Certain asymptomatic individuals will continue to have access to testing, namely those who are at a greater risk due to their health condition or employment, at the direction of the Ministry of Health or Ministry of Long Term Care. 

Effective immediately, Ontarians should only seek testing at assessment centres if you are:

  • Showing COVID-19 symptoms;
  • Have been exposed to a confirmed case of the virus, as informed by your public health unit or exposure notification through the COVID Alert app;
  • A resident or work in a setting that has a COVID-19 outbreak, as identified and informed by your local public health unit; and
  • Eligible for testing as part of a targeted testing initiative directed by the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Long-Term Care.

Asymptomatic testing is now available at select pharmacies. See below for more details.

COVID-19 Testing Expanded to Select Pharmacies

The Ontario government has partnered with three major pharmacy brands to bring COVID-19 testing to more locations across the province. Testing at pharmacy locations will be offered by appointment only to individuals with no symptoms of COVID-19. Up to 60 pharmacy locations are currently accepting appointments for COVID-19 tests across the province. 

As a result of changes to the testing guidelines for COVID-19 assessment centres, pharmacy locations are currently the only place where asymptomatic people, without reason to believe they have been exposed to a positive case of COVID-19, can be tested. 

You can find your closest COVID-19 testing location using this online tool.

Temporary Wage Increase for PSWs

The government announced $461 million in funding for a temporary enhancement of wages for Personal Support Workers across the province. This temporary wage increase is effective October 1 and applies to over 147,000 workers:

  • $3 per hour for approx. 38,000 eligible workers in home and community care

  • $3 per hour for approx. 50,000 eligible workers in long-term care

  • $2 per hour for approx. 12,300 eligible workers in public hospitals

  • $3 per hour for approx. 47,000 eligible workers in children, community, and social services providing personal direct support services for the activities of daily living

The wage increase will be reviewed on a regular basis and could extend through March 31, 2021, in connection with regulations made under the Reopening Ontario Act, 2020. 

PSWs are run off their feet, doing incredibly challenging work. Their jobs take a massive physical, mental and emotional toll. They deserve a permanent wage increase, full-time jobs, and benefits. And the people they care for deserve for them to have that stability, too. All essential workers deserve pandemic pay during the second wave – no exceptions — and for the sake of our loved ones in care and for generations to come, all PSWs should have decent, well-paying jobs. Thousands of PSWs have left their jobs, and long-term care homes are understaffed even more than when the COVID-19 crisis began. PSWs deserve a permanent raise, and full-time jobs.

Proper Mask Disposal

It has been heartening to see the rate at which masks and face coverings have been adopted by members of our community — it is a sign of mutual respect for your neighbours and shows that we’re committed to keeping each other safe. 

Just as important as mask wearing is the proper handling and disposal before and after their use. If you are using disposable masks, please be sure to properly dispose of them in a garbage receptacle, or carry around a plastic bag to hold soiled masks in until you can deposit them in your home garbage bin.

  • You can learn more about the donning and doffing of masks from the World Health Organization here
  • You can learn more about the proper disposal of masks from the Ontario Waste Management Association here

Other provincial updates
  • Previously announced lower gathering limits for Toronto, Ottawa, and Peel are now in effect for the entire province. 10 people are permitted at an indoor event or gathering, and 25 people at an outdoor event or gathering. 
  • The government has announced $540 million in funding for long-term care homes to prepare for future waves of COVID-19. It will go towards operating costs, minor capital repairs, staffing supports, and PPE. 

  • The Ontario government will be field-testing online assessments for Grade 9 math EQAO testing in the coming school year. For the 2020-21 school year, Grade 3 and 6 students will not participate in EQAO assessments. 

  • The Ontario Community Support Program has been extended until March 2021. This program provides meals and other essential supplies to the homes of low-income seniors and disabled people. Since April, this program has enabled the delivery of more than 230,000 meals to vulnerable people protecting themselves from COVID-19 at home.

Reminder: For the most up-to-date information please visit Toronto Public Health, Ontario Ministry of Health, and the Public Health Agency of Canada. Contact information is available on my website here.
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Community Office
While our office is closed to the public as part of our efforts to manage the COVID-19 virus, we will continue to provide services for constituents via phone and email. Thank you for your patience and flexibility during this time. 

Phone: 416-763-5630
Email: BKarpoche-CO@ndp.on.ca 
BhutilaKarpoche.ca
Copyright © 2020 MPP for Parkdale—High Park, All rights reserved.


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