Thursday evening, all 12 Niagara mayors and Regional Chair Jim Bradley agreed to send a letter to the province outlining their concern with the “exceptionally serious situation” related to COVID-19, and the need to work together to gain control of the rising number of cases, the increase in pandemic-related deaths, and the continued impact of outbreaks in more than 50 per cent of Niagara’s long-term care homes.
The letter calls on the province to ensure Niagara front-line health care workers and residents have “equal and timely access to vaccines as compared to other areas of Ontario,” and urges the province to consider increasing the role municipalities and local Public Health units in the vaccine distribution strategy.
Niagara also calls on the province to more openly share its plans regarding vaccine distribution, to ensure local residents have the information they require.
Paramedics across the province should be added to the list of priority healthcare staff to receive the vaccination, says the letter.
On Monday, Dr. Mustafa Hirji, Public Health’s acting medical officer of health, voiced his frustration to The Local on the lack on information from the province about a timeline for vaccine arrival in Niagara, or any details about its distribution. He said he was also concerned about the lack of involvement of municipal public health departments in discussions about any of the provincial response to the pandemic.
The politicians also assured the province Niagara’s municipal partners are “exploring opportunities to share staff resources in all appropriate areas, to further bolster Niagara’s pandemic response, including possible redeployment to long-term care homes and to support public health initiatives.”
The letter to the province days Niagara’s municipalities will reaffirm their commitment to share information “in a timely and accurate way, to ensure all parties can make effective decisions.”
Its news release issued Friday says Niagara’s municipal leaders are asking the community to be patient and understanding as vaccines begin to arrive across the region, adding the federal and provincial government have committed to ensuring there will be a vaccine for everyone who wants one, but this process will take time.
The region also reminds residents that the most effective way to slow the spread of the virus is by practising physical distancing, staying home whenever possible, washing their hands frequently and wearing a mask when required.
On behalf of the people of Niagara, it says, “the mayors and regional chair thank our local front-line health care who continue to perform admirably after more than 10 months confronting this deadly virus. Niagara’s leaders also recognize the significant challenges faced by local businesses due to the lockdowns and are committed to providing any assistance possible. The heads of council empathize with the impacts on students, teachers and families who are managing new and challenging learning environments.”
The release adds that Niagara’s municipal leaders recognize that most residents are making the sacrifices necessary to combat COVID- 19. As the province experienced its highest single day increase in COVID-19 cases Friday since the beginning of the pandemic, and Niagara recored 196 new cases, “all Niagara residents are reminded of the importance of following all public health directives to keep everyone safe.”