Today, Ontario reported 1,808 new cases across the province and 9 new deaths, the highest case count our province has seen since May 21, 2022.
This is another frightening climb, indicating that we are indeed, in the midst of another COVID wave with the novel Omicron variant leading the way. As has been the case with each new variant, what this brings is still vastly unknown. What we do know, however, is that it is much more transmissible than any that have come before it. We must continue to exercise extreme caution to protect those most vulnerable and of course, ourselves.
The good news is it was announced just this afternoon that eligibility to receive booster shots has been expanded. As of Monday, December 20th, anyone over 18 can book their vaccine appointment using the provincial website. Pharmacies will also be accepting walk-ins for anyone over 18 to receive their third booster shot as of Friday, December 17th. We urge each person eligible to jump on this opportunity and ensure this wave is shorter and shallower than what we experienced this time last year.
To book your vaccine appointment using the provincial online portal, click here. For a list of pharmacies where you can receive a COVID-19 vaccine, click here. If you have any trouble whatsoever in accessing either option, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our office at [email protected] in which our team will be happy to assist how we can.
The Federal government also introduced new restrictions for those traveling abroad today. These included a 4-week travel advisory asking Canadians to avoid non-essential international travel that risks them being stranded abroad. Arrival testing will also be expanded to as many travelers as possible.
We know that this time of year means many have international travel planned. While this announcement may put a wrench in your plans, adhering to the new directives is important in keeping each other safe and lifting us out from under this wave sooner. International travel destinations will still be there once this is over. For now, we must ensure each of our community members will be too.
While each of these updates is an important step, they certainly aren't the only ones needed. Rapid antigen tests must also be made readily available and easily accessible, without a price attached limiting who can take them.
As you may have seen from my special bulletin sent earlier today, the government has given in to these collective calls by handing out free tests at the corner of Yonge and Eglinton this morning and early afternoon. While I’m happy to see tests being distributed as a step in the right direction by this government, the process needs to be more transparent, organized, responsive to communities most in need of them, and for them to be made aware in advance. The last-minute nature in which I found out about this distribution to alert you as your MPP is unacceptable.
It's also important to note that new information around COVID-19 can and has led to significantly-increased anxiety and other mental health struggles. This is especially the case following almost two years of uncertainty, which has had a tremendous impact on mental health across our province. Please know that resources are available to you, many for low or no cost.
You can find a list of these resources here or reach out to our office at [email protected] if you need help accessing them.
In better news, it’s official! August will now be formally recognized in the province of Ontario as Emancipation Month. This tri-party legislation was brought forth by co-sponsors across three parties (a rare occurrence at Queen’s Park), including my friend and colleague, MPP Lindo of Kitchener-Centre.
The Bill's success is also owed to the incredible Dewitt Lee III, founder of Emancipation Month Canada. Throughout his career, he has worked tirelessly towards Black liberation; this piece of legislation being just one of his many fetes.
As a member of the Ontario NDP Black Caucus, I had the profound honor of speaking to this Bill in debate last week and in a break from regular proceedings, I chose to share a poetic piece I wrote months ago. This was an ode to Black girls and women who need to be reminded, now and then, of their strength and resilience, their excellence, but also their softness and vulnerability. Their humanity in a world that too often, tries to take it away.
It was an incredibly moving moment for myself as one of the too few Black women that have had an opportunity to stand in that room and speak. I am confident that the passing of this legislation will lift Ontario’s Black communities to continue to forge these pathways.
Click here to watch my remarks.
Speaking of, Ontario Creates has announced their program, AcceleratiON: An Entrepreneurship Initiative for Black- and Indigenous-Owned Music Businesses. This program looks to enrich Ontario's entertainment and culture sectors by expanding the capacity of Black and Indigenous music-entrepreneurs to pursue this. The program is open to any self-identifying Black or Indigenous-owned businesses including record labels, artist managers, podcasters and creators, music marketing agencies, and many more, with funding between $2,500-$20,000 being granted to successful applicants.
Applications are open as of today until January 26th, 2022. Ontario Creates will also be hosting an online information session on January 11th, 2022 from 4-5PM for those interested in learning more.
Registration is required for the information session. Click here to register or to learn more about the AcceleratiON program.
Last but not least, this Saturday I’ll be hosting a holiday social from 1-2PM. Stop by outside my office at 803 St. Clair West to say a socially-distanced hello and grab some pizza and hot chocolate! I look forward to seeing you to wish you all a wonderful, SAFE holiday season.