NWHU addresses provincial State of Emergency, provides COVID-19 vaccine update
Tim Brody - Editor
The provincial government declared a State of Emergency last week, issuing a stay-at-home order, which came into effect on Jan.14. The State of Emergency enacted additional public health measures which expand on measures outlined in the provincial shutdown.
“No one should leave their house unless it is for essential reasons. The Ministry defines the following as essential reasons: going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, getting exercise or going to work where the work cannot be done remotely,” explained Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kit Young Hoon.
“There are also new restrictions under the shutdown. This includes only five people can gather outdoors and they must wear masks if not two metres apart, unless they are from the same household. Also new is that no one can gather indoors with anyone outside their household, however someone who lives alone can join with one other household exclusively.
“In addition, there are restrictions for schools, so students in grades 1 to 3 are now also required to wear masks at school. And all students must mask outside at recess if they cannot guarantee they will stay two metres apart from others,” Dr. Young Hoon said, explaining additional measures laid out as part of the provincial State of Emergency.
As of Jan. 18 at noon, NWHU was reporting 18 active COVID-19 cases in its catchment area https://www.nwhu.on.ca/covid19/Pages/regional-COVID-19-results.aspx
Dr. Young Hoon also provided an updated on the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in the Northwestern Health Unit’s catchment area, “Northwestern Health Unit staff are working hard on making sure our residents get vaccinated as soon as we receive the vaccine. We expect to start receiving vaccine in February. Currently we are working with local partners and agencies across the region on plans for phase one and will be focusing initially on long-term care home residents, staff and essential caregivers.”
“We provide information as soon as we can on the vaccine situation,” she said, adding, “We will be as transparent as possible throughout the process, keeping in mind that there are security protocols that must be followed. As we receive more information on dates and quantities, we will share the information as we’re allowed to. We will also share information about clinics and eligible populations so that people know when they can get vaccinated.”
Phase One of the Government of Ontario’s vaccination implementation plan is expected to see approximately 1.5 million eligible people vaccinated.
On Jan. 15 the provincial government shared that it is preparing to immunize up to 8.5 million people before the end of Phase Two.
“With Phase One of our plan well underway, we’re getting ready to expand our vaccine rollout and get more needles into arms as soon as the supply is available,” said Premier Doug Ford. “We now have a well-oiled machine, led by General (Rick) Hillier, and we are making tremendous progress. We know this second phase will be an even larger logistical undertaking than the first. That’s why we’re ramping up our capacity on the ground to ensure these vaccines are administered quickly, beginning with the people who need them most.”
“As recommended by the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force and aligned with the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, the province has mapped out the next steps for transitioning into Phase Two and has adopted an approach for identifying the next groups to receive the vaccination as early as March 2021,” the Government of Ontario’s news release informed.
The provincial government shared that groups eligible to receive vaccines as part of Phase Two of the Ontario immunization program will include:
Older adults, beginning with those 80 years of age and older and decreasing in five-year increments over the course of the vaccine rollout;
- Individuals living and working in high-risk congregate settings;
- Frontline essential workers (e.g., first responders, education workers, food processing industry);
- Individuals with high-risk chronic conditions and their caregivers; and
- Other populations and communities facing barriers related to the determinants of health across Ontario who are at greater COVID-19 risk.
“Phase Two is expected to be completed by end of July 2021 and Phase Three for the general population could begin as early as August 2021, pending availability of vaccines. Vaccination of populations in Phase One will continue until all vaccinations are complete,” according to the Government of Ontario.