Dear OPHA Members,
Here’s your summary of some key developments, announcements and messages conveyed today by our political and public health leaders related to COVID-19.
- Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table has issued today a statement advocating for stronger provincial measures to control the pandemic. The brief outlines six things that will reduce transmission, protect our health care system, and allow us to re-open safely (see details below).
- The medical officers of health in Peel Region and Toronto have issued Section 22 Class Orders requiring workplaces with five or more COVID-19 cases within the past two weeks to close for 10 days. The orders will take effect on Friday, April 23.
- Health Minister Elliott indicated Ontario could introduce a provincial paid sick leave program after “it was clear yesterday with the budget that it was not going to be improved by the federal government, so we are considering our alternatives now to deal with those gaps.”
- Select Ontario pharmacies will begin offering the AstraZeneca vaccine 24/7 to individuals aged 40 and over, including 16 Shoppers Drug Mart locations in the hot-spot communities of Toronto, Peel and York Region.
- Prime Minister Trudeau has announced non-essential travel restrictions with the United States have been extended for another month until at least May 21st.
- Air passengers arriving in Canada will continue to be tested for COVID-19 before entering a hotel quarantine period.
- The Prime Minister also indicated that the federal government is considering whether any further measures are needed related to international travel noting that “we are continuing to look at more and I have asked our officials to look carefully at, for example, what the U.K. has done very recently on suspending flights from India” or other countries that have high rates of infection.
- Air Canada and WestJet have extended their voluntary suspension of flights to sunshine destinations until the end of May.
- The European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced its safety committee has found a possible link between Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine and rare blood clotting issues in adults who received doses in the United States.
- The EMA concluded that a warning about unusual blood clots with low platelets must be added to the vaccine’s labels. But experts at the EMA confirmed the vaccine’s overall benefits outweigh the risks.
More details are included below along with an update on cases in Ontario and across Canada.
Outlined below are the key points from the statement issued today by Ontario’s Science Table. The members of this group emphasized “if we want to bring cases under control, protect our health system and reopen as quickly as possible, this is the way forward.”
What Will Work:
- Essential workplaces, only: Some indoor workplaces have to remain open, but the list of what stays open must be as short as possible. This means permitting only truly essential indoor workplaces to stay open and strictly enforcing COVID-19 safety measures in those places.
- Paying essential workers to stay home when they are sick, exposed or need time to get vaccinated: SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, spreads when people go to work sick or after having been exposed to the virus. Workers who do this, often do so because they have no choice: they must feed their families and pay their rent. Compared to other models that appear to have limited spread, the federal program is cumbersome and does not provide enough financial support. An emergency benefit that offers more money, is easily accessible, immediately paid and that, for the duration of the pandemic, is available to essential workers – when they are sick, when they’ve been exposed, need time off to get tested, or when it’s their turn to get vaccinated – will help limit spread.
- Accelerating the vaccination of essential workers and those who live in hot spots:. This means immediately allocating as many doses as possible to hotspot neighbourhoods, vulnerable populations, and essential workers. It also means accelerating the distribution and administration of vaccines overall, making it easier for at-risk groups to get vaccinated, and promoting the vaccine with more intensive and effective on-the-ground community outreach.
- Limiting mobility: This means restricting movement between regions of the province and restricting movement into the province. Simply put, Ontarians need to stay in their local communities.
- Focusing on public health guidance that works: This means Ontarians can’t gather indoors with people from outside their household (with the very limited exception of safe indoor work in essential workplaces).
- Keeping people safely connected: This means allowing small groups of people from different households to meet outside with masking and two-metre distancing. It means keeping playgrounds open, and clearly encouraging safe outdoor activities.
What Won’t Work
- Policies that harm or neglect racialized, marginalized and other vulnerable populations will not be effective against a disease that already affects these groups disproportionately. For these reasons, pandemic policies should be examined through an equity lens to ensure that all communities benefit.
- As noted in repeated studies from around the world, inconsistent policies with no clear link to scientific evidence are ineffective in fighting COVID-19.
- Policies that discourage safe outdoor activity will not control COVID-19 and will disproportionately harm children and those who do not have access to their own greenspace, especially those living in crowded conditions.
We will continue to monitor and report on key COVID-19 developments to help our members stay informed. Stay well!
Pegeen and Faduma
Trends and Cases in Ontario, Canada, and First Nations on Reserve:
As of April 19th, Indigenous Services Canada was aware of these confirmed cases of COVID-19 for First Nations communities:
- 26,239 confirmed positive COVID-19
- 736 active cases
- 1,167 hospitalizations
- 25,198 recovered cases
- 305 deaths
Cases in Ontario: (April 19th as of 10:30am)
- Total number of cases: 424,911; an increase of 3,469
- Most newly confirmed cases are concentrated in five public health unit regions (e.g. 1,074 new cases in Toronto, 775 in Peel, 406 in York Region, 256 in Durham and 197 in Ottawa)
- So far, 39,276 cases of the B.1.1.17 (United Kingdom) virus variant have been reported, 105 cases of the B.188.8.131.52 (South Africa) virus variant and 211 cases of the P.1 (Brazilian) virus variant
- Resolved: 374,213(88.1%); an increase of 3,369
- Deaths: sadly, 7,757 people have died; an increase of 22 people
- Hospitalizations: 2,360 people were hospitalized; 773 were in intensive care and of those, 537 were on a ventilator
- Long-term care homes (according to iPHIS): 36 active outbreaks; 38 active cases in residents; 128 active cases in staff; 3,755 deaths among residents and 11 among staff
- Lab testing: 13,616,626 completed; 40,596 tests were completed yesterday; while the backlog of tests waiting to be completed is 29,217
- Vaccinations: As of 8:00 p.m. yesterday, 3,995,187 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, including 90,409 yesterday; with a total of 347,597 people fully vaccinated
Cases in Canada: (April 19th as of 7pm)
- Total number of cases: 1,131,773; an increase of 8,317
- Deaths: sadly, 23,667 people have died; an increase of 45
- People tested per million: 790,447
- Percent Positivity: 3.9%
- Vaccinations: 10,407,798 doses administered; more than 9,469,391 Canadians have received at least one dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine; 938,407 Canadians are fully vaccinated; 164,380 vaccine doses were administered yesterday.
- In total, 13,312,260 doses of COVID-19 vaccines (including Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca) have been delivered to the provinces for administration. As of today, 78.2% of doses delivered to the provinces have been administered.
Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA)
199 Quetico Avenue
Oshawa, ON L1J 1E9