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Safer at Home Programs Provide Relief to Ontario Families

Province Expands Support for Learners Program and Lowers Hydro Bills

Toronto — The Ontario government is providing new financial supports for individuals, families and small businesses, as they do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect the province’s health care system during the Provincewide Shutdown. The province is expanding the Support for Learners program to include secondary school students and lowering electricity prices to a discounted off-peak rate 24/7 for all time-of-use and tiered customers.

In January 2021, students aged 13 through Grade 12 will be eligible for funding under an expanded Support for Learners program. Parents or guardians will receive a one-time payment of $200 per eligible student to help offset education expenses. Support will be available for those who attend a public or private school or who are homeschooled.

As part of the Provincewide Shutdown, elementary students will be studying virtually until January 11, 2021. Secondary students in Northern Ontario will be studying virtually until January 11, 2021 and secondary students in Southern Ontario will be studying virtually until January 25, 2021. This additional funding will provide support for families impacted by these recent restrictions. While transmission in schools remains low, these approaches will help further limit community spread of COVID-19.

Application instructions will be available on the Support for Learners web page starting in January 2021. 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 is being extended to February 8, 2021.

This support is part of over $900 million in direct financial support that the Ministry of Education has provided to parents since the start of the pandemic.

To support people as they stay home during the Provincewide Shutdown, 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. This low rate will be available 24 hours per day, seven days a week for a 28-day period. The off-peak price will automatically be applied to bills of all residential, small business, and farm customers who pay regulated rates.

The province is also making it easier for families and businesses to get the support they need to help pay their energy bills through the COVID-19 Energy Assistance Program (CEAP). Any residential, small business, or registered charity customer with an overdue electricity or natural gas bill will now be eligible to apply. A residential customer can receive up to $750 to help cover their electricity bill and an additional $750 for their natural gas bill. Small businesses can receive up to $1500 for each. Newly eligible customers can apply for these enhanced benefits through their local utility, starting in January 2021.

Quick Facts

Ontario’s Action Plan: Protect, Support, Recover provides a total of $13.5 billion in direct support for families, workers and employers, in addition to $11.3 billion in cash flow support.

As part of the commitment to keep students safe, the government made available $1.3 billion to support the safe reopening of schools – the most robust and comprehensive plan in the entire country. This includes an additional $381 million from the federal government’s Safe Return to Class Fund.

To date, the new Support for Learners program has received almost 1.3 million applications and provided more than $175 million in funding to support over 850,000 children and students since November 30, 2020.

According to data reported by school boards as of Friday, December 18: approximately 99.64 per cent of students in Ontario have not reported a case of COVID-19; approximately 92 per cent of schools across the province have had either no cases or one case reported within the last 14 days; and approximately 80 per cent of schools do not have a reported case of COVID-19.

In March, the government suspended time-of-use electricity rates, holding electricity prices to the off-peak rate of 10.1 cents-per-kilowatt-hour 24/7 for time-of-use residential, small business, and farm customers for a period of 45 days.

From June 1, 2020 to October 31, 2020, the government introduced a new fixed COVID-19 Recovery Rate of 12.8 cents per kilowatt hour to provide relief to time-of-use customers.

Being Angry is a Choice

Our need as a civilization to learn to deal with anger productively. The traditional response when someone does something we don’t like is some level of hostile response, even if it remains at an internal level. The feeling is that the offender deserves our anger, and should not get away with whatever she has done. Now things may be pretty clear cut if someone robs you or assaults you. There are laws which clearly state the acceptable boundaries. But it gets more difficult when we enter the grey area of human relationships. Is it acceptable to be angry with your child because he doesn’t like sports, or she chooses not to go to university?

Does a child deserve our anger if they no longer want to attend church, or insist on dressing the way their friends do?

Does a partner or spouse deserve anger if they no longer feel love for us and want to leave? Certainly we may feel angry if any of these things happen to us, and it may even be a normal response initially, but that does not mean that the person deserves to be the recipient of those angry feelings. Each of us is responsible for our own angry feelings, and we should no longer let them run loose any more than we would let a pet tiger run loose.

Anger becomes toxic and dangerous when it moves beyond being an expression of how we feel, and becomes a tool or a weapon to control or intimidate another human being. It is natural at times to feel angry, but it is not O.K. to seek revenge. Such a response only escalates the situation, and on a large scale has resulted in much death and destruction throughout the history of civilization. Seeking revenge seems to be justified by our angry feelings, but this is where it all breaks down.

The world will never be rid of violence by attacking those who trigger anger. Rather, this approach breeds racism, war and genocide. The inappropriate expression of anger is the problem, and that is the responsibility of the one with the anger. Nobody makes us angry. We make ourselves angry, we choose an angry response to a situation.

Wayne Dyer says that if you squeeze an orange, orange juice will come out, because that’s what’s inside. If someone “squeezes” you, or pushes your buttons, and anger comes out, it’s because that’s what’s inside. So if there’s too much anger in your life, now you know where you can start to look for solutions.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist.  For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit www.gwen.ca. Follow Gwen on Facebook for daily inspiration. 

Tips for Making 2021 a Healthier Year

SATURDAY, Jan. 2, 2021 — A New Year’s resolution to take better care of yourself is one you should keep, especially in the era of COVID-19.

Wearing a mask, maintaining a safe distance from others and washing your hands frequently are going remain important in 2021. But don’t forget to prioritize a healthy lifestyle that improves your overall health and quality of life, and helps prevent cancer, according to experts at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey.

The institute offers the following tips:

Eat a healthy diet and watch your weight.

For cancer prevention, the American Institute for Cancer Research and the American Cancer Society recommend maintaining a healthy weight, staying active and eating a healthy diet. That’s one rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruit and beans, with a minimum of red and processed meats, fast food and processed foods high in fat, starches or sugars. Avoid sugary drinks.

Cutting out alcohol lowers the risk of many cancers, including breast cancer.

Exercise regularly. It has many benefits for physical and mental well-being.

Current guidelines recommend at least 150 to 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 to 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity.

Muscle-strengthening activities should also be included.

Sitting for a long time watching TV or using the computer is discouraged.

Find fun ways to stay active, such as online exercise classes, or walking or jogging in your neighborhood.

Quit smoking.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death. Quitting smoking will lower the risk for many cancers, including those of the lungs, mouth, throat, blood, bladder, esophagus, stomach, pancreas and kidneys.

Getting preventive care is an important step to manage your health.

This includes cancer screenings, which can detect cancer before it spreads.

GBGH resumes some elective and non-urgent procedures and surgeries

December 30, 2020 – Georgian Bay General Hospital (GBGH) is resuming non-urgent and elective procedures and surgeries after these services were postponed December 7 at the beginning of the outbreak. The resumption of services includes ambulatory care procedures, such as endoscopy, which were also postponed. The decision to proceed was based on no transmission in the surgical and ambulatory care departments and was made in consultation with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.

“GBGH has a comprehensive plan to safely and efficiently resume elective and non-urgent surgeries and procedures, ensuring our community once again has access to these important services,” says Dr. Vikram Ralhan, chief of staff and chair, Elective Surgical and Procedural Oversight Committee, GBGH. “We have worked with our physicians and clinical leaders to develop and implement a plan which will enable us to re-schedule procedures and gradually catch up on any waitlists created by this postponement.”

Physicians’ offices or the hospital will contact patients to notify them regarding re-scheduling their surgery or procedure. Urgent and emergent surgeries and procedures have always continued throughout the pandemic and recent outbreak. The hospital does have plans in place should it need to suddenly ramp down services again due to a surge in COVID-19 patients.

As of the end of day December 29, there have been the following cases related to the outbreak:

31 patient cases

10 patients admitted in hospital

15 patients discharged

Six outbreak-related deaths

27 staff/credentialed staff cases

One visitor related to the outbreak (high risk contact of a COVID positive patient during their period of communicability)

Statistics related to the outbreak are updated daily and can be found on the GBGH website – http://gbgh.on.ca/covid-19-novel-coronavirus-updates/

Who is Dr. Charles Gardner?

Dr. Charles Gardner

Medical Officer of Health

Dr. Charles Gardner, MD, CCFP, MHSc, FRCPC

Dr. Gardner has been the Medical Officer of Health (MOH) for the Simcoe Muskoka Health Unit since 2005, after having served as MOH with the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit for seven years. Prior to that, he worked in general medical practice in Newfoundland, New Brunswick, and Zimbabwe.

In the past Dr. Gardner has been the chair of the Council of Ontario Medical Officers of Health, president of the Association for Local Public Health Agencies, president of the Ontario Council for Community Health Accreditation, member of the Ontario Public Health Leadership Council, and co-chair of the Healthy Environments Both Natural and Built Table for the Ontario Public Health Sector Strategic Plan.

Most recently Dr. Gardner was a member of the Ontario Tobacco Control System Committee and of the Modernization of the Smoke Free Ontario Strategy Executive Steering Committee, and is a member of the Smoke-Free Ontario Scientific Advisory Group and of the Ontario Tobacco Research Network.

Dr. Gardner is active personally and professionally on the promotion of health through green, compact, complete, walkable and cycleable communities.

Since the start of the COVID 19 infections, he has been the individual giving the public in the Simcoe-Muskoka area updates.

From the Simceo Muskoka website – we find…

In recent years we have come to appreciate the importance of general living conditions. Known as the social determinants of health, they determine 60 per cent of our health status. Our income, education, occupation, early life nurturing, social support networks, and freedom from discrimination all have a powerful impact on our life expectancy and our likelihood of experiencing illness.

We at the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit are committed to helping communities address the social determinants of health. Our health status reports include content on topics such as alcohol and healthy weight gain in pregnancy. We review our programs and services to better ensure access to all. We work with community partner agencies to find and address service gaps for those disadvantaged, such as with the development of Simcoe County’s community housing strategy. We also advocate for policy to address health inequities, such as those related to food insecurity and smoke-free community housing in Simcoe, Muskoka and Barrie.

People of low income are particularly challenged. They die prematurely more often than those with higher incomes. We are giving special attention to their needs in our program delivery, health assessments, partnership work and advocacy, balanced with our overall population health approach, and with the consideration of other populations with health needs.

The Health Unit uses environmentally sustainable business practices – reduced office space, reduced travel, and environmentally friendly procurement practices – to reduce our carbon footprint. We seek to do our part to help address climate change, an emerging major public health threat. We also support changes in community design to improve health through safe physical activity and improved air quality. These changes also greatly reduce the carbon footprint of communities. Simcoe County’s Food and Agriculture Charter, and to continue similar work in Muskoka will help to safeguard local food production and access for all.

Accountability is demonstrated through improving compliance in our Balanced Scorecard, and through perfect compliance on our Accountability Agreement targets with the province (to achieve safe foods sold, safe small water systems, safe pools, less vaccine wastage, rapid response to communicable disease case reports, reduced tobacco sales to youth and increasing breastfeeding supports).

Health unit staff have been trained to work with clients with a wide range of backgrounds, to provide better service. With the launch of the provincial Public Health Sector Strategic Plan, we have the opportunity to augment the capacity of the health unit by working more closely with other health units, the provincial government and Public Health Ontario. The provincial strategic plan’s collective areas of focus are well aligned with the Health Unit’s 2012–2016 strategic plan priorities.

By working closely with our communities and with the rest of the public health community across the province, we will continue to improve the health of the people of Simcoe Muskoka in 2013 and beyond.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc. follows…

Global News asked him – “What were you doing in 2010 and how does that contribute to where you are today?

Charles Gardner: In 2009, public health throughout the world responded to an influenza pandemic. This required us to stop most of our regular program delivery and re-deploy our staff to vaccinate the population against this new influenza strain over a six-week period late in the year.

Moving into the new year of 2010, we were recovering from our response to the pandemic and commencing our health protection, health promotion and disease prevention programming. At that time, we also had to continue with our preparations to manage the impacts on our communities from the G8 summit. Responding to communicable disease outbreaks, which happen frequently each year, and to community emergencies will always be the highest-profile aspects of our public health mandate.

GN: How were you hoping things might shape up in Simcoe Muskoka over the last decade in terms of health and wellness (from 2010 until now)?

Gardner: Our staff and board of health had always focused on the full provision of the many programs that we’ve offered to prevent disease. Our board continued to maintain and fulfill strategic plans, with a focus on the determinants of health, putting a spotlight on municipal, provincial and federal government policy changes needed to create healthy living conditions for all.

Over the last 15 years, our work has included advocacy for healthy public policy and action on tobacco and alcohol control, changing the design of our communities to encourage and support people to safely walk, cycle and use public transit, enhancing green spaces in our neighbourhoods and better ensuring access to the basic needs. In more recent years, this has included advocacy for a guaranteed annual income.

GN: How did events end up shaping up in the last decade?

Gardner: We have always continued to provide our health protection and disease prevention services. These include the enforcement of food safety requirements, drinking water safety and the prohibition of tobacco to minors, [as well as] smoking in designated public and work spaces. Our board of health has been very active in advocating for tighter tobacco control, and in more recent years, in response to youth vaping, they have also focused on advocacy in this area. Over the past decade, we have brought smoking rates in Simcoe Muskoka down, close to the provincial average.

GN: How has the make-up of Simcoe Muskoka changed over the last decade? How does this drive your decisions?

Gardner: New issues arise, and we respond. The legalization of cannabis requires us to provide guidance and support to our municipalities. The tragic and rapid rise of opioid poisoning and deaths in our communities has been a great concern to us, and we’ve worked with healthcare partners, social service agencies, police agencies, the education sector, upper-tier municipalities and others to create a plan of action. Opioid deaths continue to be alarmingly high, and we continue to put a great deal of our resources behind its control.

In 2020, the provincial grant will be reduced, with an expectation from the province that the municipalities provide a substantial increase in their funding contribution to local public health. Our resource base has [therefore] declined, while the population that we serve increases annually and new issues continue to arise.

GN: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing Simcoe Muskoka over the next decade in terms of health and wellness?

Gardner: Climate change has been identified by the World Health Organization as the defining public health issue of our time. Since 2014, climate change has been a strategic priority of our board, leading us to develop a health vulnerability assessment of our communities, with projections on climate change health impacts into the 2080s. Much of our work with our communities over the years does much to reduce our carbon footprint and to prepare us for the changing climate that will come.

Over the next decade and beyond, our full intention is to work with our communities toward the substantial changes needed to manage the climate crisis, while also reaping the health benefits that come with such changes. In having our communities become less car dependent, to be complete, compact, connected and green, and to employ a just transition that doesn’t leave anyone behind, we will go a long way to achieving health for all.

Such changes will not be easy, but also they will not be avoidable if we are to succeed in managing the climate crisis.

Another inpatient unit removed from COVID-19 outbreak at GBGH

January 5, 2021 – Georgian Bay General Hospital (GBGH) is now able to remove the 1 North inpatient unit from its COVID-19 outbreak – a decision made in consultation with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit. The 2 North inpatient unit is now the only remaining area of the hospital still considered to be in outbreak. The hospital had previously removed 2 East, ICU and Obstetrics from the outbreak on December 22.

Over the past weekend and within the upcoming week, more than 50 per cent of GBGH staff and credentialed staff will receive the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from the Barrie Immunization Clinic. GBGH staff and credentialed staff are travelling to receive the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Barrie due to its temperature sensitivity

“This week is historic for our hospital as the majority of our staff and credentialed staff will have received their first dose of the vaccine by January 10,” says Gail Hunt, president and CEO, GBGH. “Our goal at GBGH is to provide safe, exceptional care and having this vaccine available to us so quickly brings hope and a much-needed morale boost to our team.”

GBGH staff and credentialed staff will receive their second dose of the vaccine approximately 21 days after the first dose. Even once the vaccine provides full immunity, the hospital will continue following public health guidelines for personal protective equipment (PPE) and physical distancing to ensure the ongoing safety of patients and team members.

As of January 5, there have been the following cases related to the outbreak:

32 patient cases

Six patients admitted in hospital

20 patients discharged

Six outbreak-related deaths

32 staff/credentialed staff cases

One visitor related to the outbreak (high risk contact of a COVID positive patient during their period of communicability)

Statistics related to the outbreak are updated daily and can be found on the GBGH website – http://gbgh.on.ca/covid-19-novel-coronavirus-updates/