A roundup of coronavirus news in Ontario on March 7.
5:12 pm “Respect Us. Protect Us. Pay Us.”
That’s the message issued at a press conference Sunday afternoon by unions representing health care workers.
“After shouldering the crushing burdens of the pandemic for the past year, workers in the healthcare sector – a majority female workforce – are calling on Premier Ford’s government to stand with working women, not on the side of a broken system that profits from their labour,” says a statement released by SEIU Healthcare, Unifor, and CUPE. Together, the unions represent some 175,000 frontline health workers in hospitals and long-term care facilities.
The unions are demanding the Ford government reverse the staff exodus in health care because of “exploitative part-time jobs” by making those jobs full-time with benefits.
Paid sick leave, personal protective equipment and making the $4 per hour “pandemic pay” promised by the Ford government available to all healthcare workers and permanent is also on the list of demands.
“This International Women’s Day, women in healthcare want more than hollow words from Premier Ford’s government,” says Sharleen Stewart, president of SEIU Healthcare. “After the devastating financial and emotional toll from serving on the frontline of the pandemic, healthcare workers want those words backed up by bold action to fully recognize their contribution to the care economy.”
Stewart says that must include paying a living wage and for low-wage workers like Personal Support Workers that means raising the base wage to at least $25 per hour.
“The lack of respect for care work has become painfully evident during COVID-19 but it stems from a longstanding failure to recognize the value of this work simply because women are performing it,” says Katha Fortier, assistant to national Unifor president Jerry Dias.
Sharon Richer, secretary-treasurer for the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions says health care workers continue to have issues accessing proper equipment to protect themselves from the virus.
“Nearly 20,000 health care workers have contracted COVID-19 at work and 20 have died. Although health care staff were entitled to an N95 mask they couldn’t get one from their employers. They were told that this wasn’t necessary. The masks are under lock and key. This must change. This valuable female workforce deserves respect, protection and better pay.”
She says that mandating the N95 mask, as Quebec has done, and $4 an hour in the form of pandemic pay “would be strong gestures of appreciation by the Ontario provincial government.”
The unions say that healthcare workers will demonstrate their demands at hospitals, nursing homes, and retirement homes across Ontario on 2021 International Women’s Day Monday, March 8, by wearing stickers that read: “Respect Us. Protect Us. Pay Us.”
11 am Ontario is reporting 1,299 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, March 7, the highest case count in the province in almost a month. The last time the province reported almost 1,300 cases in one day was back on February 13.
Sunday’s numbers are based on 46,586 tests. An additional 15 people have died, with one death of a resident in long-term care. Hospitalizations are down slightly to 606 patients. That includes 273 patients in intensive care, and 179 of those patients are on ventilators.
The province counted 990 new cases on Saturday, 1,250 on Friday and 994 on Thursday. The seven-day rolling average increased slightly to 1,069, but that’s still down from a week ago when the average was at 1,104.
The province’s vaccination rollout saw some 30,192 doses administered in the past day, bringing the total number of people who have been fully vaccinated in the province to 271,807.
Meanwhile, variants of the virus continue to spread across the province; five more cases of the P1 variant have been confirmed within the past day and two more B117 cases. There are now 13 cases of the P1 variant, 31 of the B1351 variant and 828 of the B117 variant.
The virus has claimed 7,067 lives so far in Ontario.
The following regions reported five or more new COVID-19 cases:
Toronto = 329
Peel = 192
York Region = 116
City of Hamilton = 89
Region of Waterloo = 59
Durham Region = 58
Thunder Bay District = 53
Ottawa = 48
Halton Region = 39
Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph = 38
Simcoe Muskoka District = 36
Sudbury & Districts = 34
Niagara Region = 33
Windsor-Essex County = 32
Middlesex-London = 29
Lambton = 21
Peterborough = 12
Brant County = 12
Haldimand-Norfolk = 12
Eastern Ontario = 9
Leeds, Grenville & Lanark District = 8
Huron Perth = 7
Renfrew County and District = 6
Northwestern = 5
Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge
District = 5
Chatham-Kent = 5