Dear OPHA Members,
Here’s your summary of the key announcements and messages conveyed today by our political and public health leaders related to COVID-19. As our leaders head into the holiday season, we anticipate this will be our last COVID update until January 4, 2021. We’ll keep an eye out for any major developments from now until then and share those with you should the need arise.
At the provincial level:
- Premier Ford called on the federal government to immediately implement measures requiring pre-departure screening tests for anyone seeking entry into Canada.
- Education Minister Lecce announced that parents or guardians of students aged 13 through Grade 12 will be eligible to receive a one-time payment of $200 to help offset education expenses under an expanded Support for Learners program in January 2021.
- Energy Minister Rickford announced the government will hold electricity prices to the off-peak rate of 8.5 cents per kilowatt-hour for all time-of-use and tiered customers on a temporary basis starting January 1, 2021.
At the federal level:
- Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Tam provided an update on the current COVID-19 situation in Canada and the new virus strain found in the United Kingdom.
- Dr. Tam cautioned that “currently Canada remains on trajectory for an even stronger resurgence over the next two months and this is a perilous time.”
- Public Safety Minister Blair provided an update on the federal government’s efforts to address security concerns at the border.
- Health Minister Hajdu indicated that Health Canada now has all the data required to make a decision on the Moderna vaccine and that decision is expected to “be very soon.”
More details are included below along with an update on cases in Ontario and across Canada.
Expanded Support for Learners Program
- Starting in January 2021, parents or guardians of students aged 13 through Grade 12 will be eligible to receive a one-time payment of $200 to help offset education expenses under an expanded Support for Learners program.
- Secondary school student applications will be open from January 11, 2021 to February 8, 2021.
- The application deadline for Support for Learners for children or youth aged 0 to 12 and for children or youth aged 0 to 21 with special needs has been extended to February 8, 2021.
Screening Requirements for International Travellers:
- As international concerns grow over reports of a new COVID-19 variant, Premier Ford called on the federal government to “immediately implement measures requiring pre-departure tests for anyone seeking entry into our country” emphasizing that “it’s a massive threat that we can’t take lightly…everyday we delay it, thousands of people are landing.”
- Premier Ford said he has “directed [provincial] officials to begin preparing infrastructure necessary for testing at airports. I hope we won’t have to go it alone, but we’re prepared to do that, if we must.”
- The Premier said “we’re letting tens of thousands of people into our country every week without the basic screening requirements…[even though] pre-testing before people come into our country…puts no burden on us. None whatsoever. It doesn’t cost us anything…we should have mandatory testing. It’s as simple as that folks.“
Update on the COVID-19 Variant Identified in the United Kingdom:
- After looking at well over 2,500 sequences of the highest quality viral samples, Dr. Tam noted that “to date, Canada has not identified the new variant of the coronavirus [B1.1.7] under investigation in the United Kingdom.” Provincial data bases in British Columbia, Quebec and Alberta “have not detected this particular lineage.”
- Health Minister Elliott confirmed that “we haven’t seen this mutated strain in Ontario yet.”
- Dr. Tam said the principals of the Canadian COVID Genomics Network, which includes a number of partners across public health and academia, have been convened to look at what has been done and what more needs to be done.
- Health officials will be targeting enhanced sequencing efforts to the high-probability samples from travellers and stored samples available from travel-related samples from the last two weeks. Dr. Tam added that Alberta, which has a pilot project at the border, has “samples that are currently undergoing sequencing and we should hear about them pretty soon.”
International Travel Restrictions and Quarantine Measures:
- Public Safety Minister Blair noted that enhanced screening has been put in place at all Canadian airports and all points of entry for any travellers who may be arriving from the U.K. indirectly.
- In every case, individuals will be screened for having been in the U.K. in the past 14-days and, if they have, will be referred to the Public Health Agency Canada at both land and airports of entry.
- All travellers entering Canada are subject to COVID-19 prescreening, regardless of their country of origin or the mode of entry and, unless they are exempt, anyone arriving at the border must isolate for 14-days if they have symptoms or quarantine if they don’t have symptoms.
- The Public Safety Minister noted the majority of people who are exempt from quarantine restrictions are truck drivers and those doing the essential work of bringing much-needed supplies and goods in and out of our country.
- All travellers are required to provide contact and quarantine information.
- In addition to the screening measures for travellers, Public Safety Minister Blair indicated the government has scaled up the federal public health presence at 32 points of entry that accounts for the vast majority of traffic into Canada during normal operations.
- Public Safety Minister Blair noted that “COVID-19 cases related to international travel currently account for 1.8% of all cases. That means 98.2% of COVID transmissions are a result of community transmissions, not international travel.”
We will continue to monitor and report on key COVID-19 and other provincial and federal developments to help our members stay informed. Stay well!
Pegeen and Faduma
Details and Links to Other Announcements:
- Safer at Home Relief Programs: The provincial government will hold electricity prices to the off-peak rate of 8.5 cents per kilowatt-hour for all time-of-use and tiered customers on a temporary basis starting January 1, 2021. The off-peak price will automatically be applied to bills of all residential, small business, and farm customers who pay regulated rates.
- CEAP: Any residential, small business, or registered charity customer with an overdue electricity or natural gas bill will be able to apply to the Ontario COVID-19 Energy Assistance Program.
- Passenger Road Test Cancellation: The Ontario government will cancel all in-vehicle passenger tests across Northern Ontario until January 9th and until January 23rd in Southern Ontario.
Trends and Cases in Ontario, Canada, and First Nations on Reserve:
Cases Among First Nations on Reserve:
As of December 21st, Indigenous Services Canada was aware of these confirmed cases of COVID-19 for First Nations communities:
- 7,536 confirmed positive COVID-19
- 2,977 active cases
- 344 hospitalizations
- 4,489 recovered cases
- 70 deaths
Cases in Ontario: (December 21st as of 10:30am)
- Total number of cases: 160,255; an increase of 2,202
- Most newly confirmed cases are concentrated in four public health units (e.g. 636 new cases in Toronto, 504 in Peel Region, 218 in York Region and 172 in Windsor-Essex County)
- Resolved: 136,767 (85.3%); an increase of 1,900
- Deaths: sadly, 4,188 people have died; an increase of 21
- Hospitalized: 1,005 people were hospitalized; 273 were in intensive care and of those, 172 were on a ventilator
- Long-term care homes (according to iPHIS): 159 active outbreaks; 963 confirmed cases in residents; 972 confirmed cases in staff; 2,537 deaths among residents and 8 among staff
- Lab testing: 7,471,302 completed; 45,265 tests were completed yesterday; down from 54,505 tests on Saturday; while the backlog of tests waiting to be completed increased to 47,872 from 39,106
Cases in Canada: (December 21st as of 7pm)
- Total number of cases: 515,314; an increase of 6,381
- Resolved: 423,631 (82.2%)
- Deaths: 14,332 (2.8%)
- People tested per million: 350,871
- Percent Positivity: 3.8%
Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA)
154 Pearl Street
Toronto, ON M5H 1L3