First up today, it is with an incredibly heavy heart, I share this news.
On the COVID-19 front, today Ontario had 2059 people in hospital with COVID-19, and 449 in ICUs.
These numbers demonstrate the continued downward trend in cases across Ontario, and our positivity rate continues to decline as well. While the numbers are coming down, we are still in the midst of the Omicron wave, and it’s important that we all still remember to wear our masks when it’s appropriate, and make sure that we are fully vaccinated (including a booster).
On that note, I’m excited to share that on February 28, from 1 to 7:30PM there will be a vaccination clinic that I’ve helped organize along with the great teams from the For Youth Initiative (FYI) and Women’s College Hospital (WCH).
Here are all the details:
Location: For Youth Initiative – 504 Oakwood Ave (near Vaughan and Oakwood)
Date: Monday, February 28, 2022
Time: 1PM to 7:30PM
Vaccines on Site: Pfizer and Moderna
Eligibility: Ages 5+
ID Required: ID that shows proof of age
This week, the Ontario government announced that anyone would be able to get a free pack of five (5) rapid antigen tests at a number of participating locations around the province. Sadly, before going over the details of this new program, I have to talk about the issues that have already arisen.
This afternoon, we learned that at Walmart locations they have been asking customers to spend at least $35 dollars to get a “free” pack of rapid tests, and there have been reports of similar purchasing requests coming from other stores as well.
Let me say this clearly.
Free must mean free. We need these tests to be widely accessible, and without barriers, so that they can get to everyone who needs them. It’s also frustrating that left off this list of pick-up points were libraries, community centres, shelters, support services, and not to mention no ability to simply order online.
To know that there are multi-billion-dollar businesses actively looking to profit off their inclusion in this list is horrifying. It is my sincere hope that this will be rectified quickly, and judging by the ferocity of the public backlash, I think it will be.
With that said, here are some of the larger chains that are participating:
- Longo’s (available through Grocery Gateway online orders)
- Walmart (available only through advanced online orders for in-store pick-up)
- Loblaws including DRUGStore in Fortino’s and Your Independent Grocer, Real Canadian Superstore and Zehrs
- Shoppers Drug Mart
- The Northern Store
- Metro and Food Basics
- Rexall pharmacies
As it stands, distribution is to be limited to one box of (5) per household, and at this time, it’s recommended that you call in advance to check in on availability at each store, as the full distribution of the tests is not yet complete.
Next, I want to provide an important update to a campaign that I am proud to have spearheaded with the support of our community.
It started as a concern from a constituent with a disability who alerted me to the fact that OHIP cards could not be renewed online without a driver’s licence. This was a clear accessibility issue, as there are many people out there without a driver’s licence who shouldn’t be forced to renew their OHIP cards in-person, during a pandemic, when there was no good reason it couldn’t be done online.
In response, we organized a petition and started gathering public support for the campaign, I raised the issue repeatedly in the Legislature and pressure the government to act.
Today, we learned that the government is finally moving ahead with making this change. While it hasn’t happened yet, according to the government they will be taking steps to make the OHIP cards renewable online in the coming months by using an Ontario Photo Card – not just a driver’s licence.
I want to thank everyone who took the time to email, sign a petition, share on social media, and the myriad of other ways people got involved. This is a win for our community, and frankly for the accessibility of the province. While we now need to make sure that this commitment is followed through on, I am confident that with the public pressure that we were able to apply, this will get done.
Looking ahead to tomorrow, our city is on high alert after it was shared on social media that the convoy currently occupying downtown Ottawa, were planning on moving their convoy to Toronto tomorrow (Feb 10). While we can’t confirm anything just yet, I’ll certainly be keeping my eye on this story as it continues to develop.
Finally today, I want to invite our community to join me this Saturday at 11AM for a Day of Action for Universal Childcare! We’ll be gathering online, and then making calls to our neighbours to let them know about the Ontario NDP’s plan to deliver universal childcare to Ontario. If you’d like to join in on the calls – you can RSVP here.