October 17 2021 COVID-19 report
Dear Colleagues: Welcome to our Sunday, October 17 report during this twentieth month of COVID-19 in Ontario. You can find earlier update reports here, including thematic pieces in Doris’ COVID-19 Blog. And, for the many resources RNAO offers on COVID-19, please visit the COVID-19 Portal where you will also find RNAO media hits and releases on the pandemic here. Daily Situational Reports from Ontario’s MOH EOC can be found here. As always, feel free to share this report and links with anyone interested. Scroll down for policy updates and action alerts, as well as RNAO’s upcoming webinars.
The first item today is (1) a renewed call to #RepealBill124 and address the human resources crisis in nursing. The remaining of today’s report focuses on (2) a crucial moment for global public health – the November climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland; (3) climate change as the new public health emergency; and (4) a statement from health organizations around the world – urgent climate action is necessary to protect people’s health.
Help us reach 8,000 signatories! Action Alert: Repeal Bill 124, premier!
Bill 124, passed by the Ford government in 2019, caps compensation increases for a broad range of public sector workers, including nurses, at just one per cent. In August 2021 – the latest data available – the average inflation rate in Ontario was 4.0 per cent for the past 12 months. That means nurses were treated to a decrease in their real income of 3.0% during the last pandemic year.
During the worst health crisis Ontarians have ever faced, the Ontario government decided it is the moment to push down substantially the compensation for nurses and other primarily female essential workers (i.e., police and firefighters excluded). This is not only reckless policy – it is also insulting. It also ridicules the government and employers’ thankfulness “to our heroes.” We don’t have heroes – those are for the history books. What we have are committed and knowledgeable professionals who must be recognized in concrete terms – no more patience for rhetoric and platitudes! Nurses need the tools (adequate PPE according to scientific evidence), human resources (to enable safe and quality nursing care) and compensation that is commensurate with our RN, NP and RPN responsibilities.
Let’s be clear. The latest musings by Premier Ford about “potential staff and nursing shortages because of mandatory vaccines” are disingenuous. The premier knows that the shortages are related to Bill 124 and poor working conditions. Let’s help him face reality by signing the action alert. We already surpassed 7,000 signatories!
Bill 124 caps compensation increases for a broad range of public sector workers, including nurses, at just one per cent. In real terms, that means nurses’ incomes are not keeping up with the cost of living.
Join us! Call on the premier to immediately repeal Bill 124.
Throughout the past 19 months of this pandemic, health-care workers across Ontario – especially nurses – have selflessly cared for citizens of Ontario while confronting fears for their own health and safety and that of their loved ones. Nurses are exhausted. They are burnt out. They are leaving the profession. And, Bill 124 is in large part to blame.
The departure of nurses from our profession will lead to even longer wait times for already backlogged procedures and surgeries, compromising people ’s health and threatening the effective functioning of Ontario’s health system. The growing prevalence of hiring and retention bonuses is a band-aid solution, causing instability in the workforce and disrupting continuity of patient care.
Public officials have uttered words of appreciation. We are “heroes” we are told. But meaningful and tangible signs of appreciation have been sparse. So, join us! Call on the premier to immediately repeal Bill 124.
A crucial moment for global public health: The November climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland
RNAO participates in the global movement of health organizations and workers who understand that climate change is the largest public health emergency the world has ever faced, and who are pushing politicians and governments to take emergency action at the upcoming COP26 conference in Glasgow. The following is a segment from an October 15 CBC News backgrounder article on COP26 by Tesa Arcilla.
"A turning point for humanity."
That's what the upcoming COP26 climate summit will be, at least according to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who made the statement in a recent address to the United Nations General Assembly. As the U.K. gets ready to host this year's conference in Glasgow, Scotland, Johnson has called on world leaders to "recognize the scale of the challenge we face" on climate issues.
This past summer, much of the Northern Hemisphere was battered by a succession of record-breaking natural disasters, from severe heat waves in North America to deadly flooding in parts of western Europe, India and China to uncontrollable wildfires in the Mediterranean.
The latest report by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that the Earth was heating faster than previously thought, calling it "code red for humanity."
What is COP26?
Every year since 1995, the UN has brought together nearly every country in the world to address climate change at what is called the Conference of Parties (COP). Simply put, it's the biggest, most important climate conference on the planet, and COP26 has been hailed as "the world's best last chance" to stave off the worst effects of the climate crisis.
Last year marked the 26th year of COP, but the global pandemic delayed the gathering, so it is taking place this year from Nov. 1 to 12. It will bring together more than 20,000 participants in Glasgow, including heads of state, negotiators, climate experts, business leaders and citizens.
COP26 is seen as the important follow-up to COP21, held in Paris in December 2015, which gave birth to the Paris Agreement.
Why is the Paris Agreement important?
Under the Paris Agreement, each nation committed to setting out a plan to reduce their carbon emissions, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Countries also agreed to update their NDCs every five years to reflect the most ambitious and achievable target at that time.
COP26 is the first time since Paris that countries will have to present their updated NDCs. Canada's updated NDC is reducing emissions by 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, an upgrade on the original pledge to cut emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.
COP26 has four key aims:
- Secure global commitments to net zero emissions by 2050 and keep 1.5 degrees within reach, specifically by taking measures like phasing out coal, switching to electric vehicles and stopping deforestation.
- Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats.
- Mobilize finance to make good on the promise to pool at least $100bn in climate finance per year by 2020.
- Work together to deliver on these goals.
How far is the world from reaching its climate targets? Still quite far. Critics have warned that current updated national pledges to reduce carbon emissions will miss climate targets by a long shot. According to an expert analyst, "At the moment, we're only 15 per cent closer than we were two years ago to being on track for 1.5 degrees if no more NDC revisions are made ahead of the Glasgow summit."
Read the remaining of the CBC News backgrounder on COP26 here.
Climate change the new public health emergency
The following is a July 11 article by Pegeen Walsh and Kim Perrotta. The original article in the The Hamilton Spectator can be found here. Pegeen Walsh is the Executive Director for the Ontario Public Health Association. Kim Perrotta is the editor of the Climate Change Toolkit for Health Professionals, the former Executive Director (ED) for the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), and the ED for the Canadian Health Association for Sustainability and Equity (CHASE).
The last week [in early July] has been a harsh reminder that while we are close to getting one public health emergency under control, we have done far too little to address climate change, the public health emergency that threatens the livability of the planet.
This has been a terrifying week. Record-breaking temperatures across B.C. and the Prairies have left a trail of despair and destruction. Nearly 500 heat-related sudden deaths have been reported in B.C. Lytton, the hottest town in B.C., was consumed by flames with frightening speed. And 180 wildfires are burning across B.C. in the wake of last week’s “heat dome.” The week has driven home some hard realities.
First, no one is safe from climate change. It is already harming the physical and mental health of people across Canada with heat waves, wildfires, smoke-filled skies, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and droughts that have become more frequent and more intense as global temperatures have increased. The Canadian Institute for Climate Choices estimates that, within the next 30 years, a few climate-related impacts alone — increasing levels of smog and increasing temperatures — could produce nearly $100 billion in health-related impacts each year in Canada.
Second, climate change amplifies the health inequities that already exist in our society. As was the case with COVID-19, the health impacts of climate change will not be experienced equally. Some people are more sensitive to climate-related impacts. Young children, older people, and people with pre-existing health conditions are more sensitive to extreme heat, air pollution and toxics. Some people will be more exposed to climate-related impacts. People living on low incomes, for example, are less likely to have air conditioning in their homes and workplaces and less likely to have access to pools and green space. People living in the North — particularly Indigenous people who rely on the land for food — will have their lives disrupted by melting permafrost, thinning ice, and rising sea levels.
Third, Canada is not properly prepared to protect people from climate-related impacts that are now inevitable. We need planning, policies and programs to prepare for the climate-related impacts that might occur in different regions of the country with the 1.1 C of global warming that we are currently experiencing and for the 1.5 C of warming that could be our reality within the next decade. These policies and programs must mitigate the impacts of climate change on essential services, protect public health, and reduce the health inequities that put so many people at increased risk. They might preserve green space to reduce flooding, increase trees and shade across a community, or require the installation of high efficiency heat pumps that can cool and heat air in long-term-care facilities and apartment buildings.
Fourth, we must phase out the use and extraction of fossil fuels as quickly as possible. Scientists around the world agree that we must eliminate climate emissions by 2050 and that we must make significant steps toward this goal by 2030. Too few Canadians realize that Canada has been one of the top 10 emitters of climate emissions for decades. We are one of the climate laggards; we have not yet met one of the international commitments we have made on climate change.
One quarter of our emissions in Canada come from the extraction of oil and natural gas; a sector that continues to receive billions of dollars in subsidies from our governments and billions in investments from our pension funds. Another quarter comes from the transportation sector. Zero emission vehicles that are run on electricity will help reduce these emissions, but we also need to make significant investments in fast passenger rail service, public transit, cycling and communities that foster walking, cycling and public transit. Buildings, heavy industry, electricity and agriculture are responsible for 10 or 11 per cent of our emissions each. We need dramatic reductions from every sector of the economy and we will need them fast.
The current federal government has done more to fight climate change than any previous federal government, and yet their actions fall far short of the dramatic steps that are needed if we are to leave our children and grandchildren a livable planet.
The good news is that many of the policies needed to fight climate change will produce immediate health benefits, reduce health inequities and improve social cohesion in our communities. This will reduce air pollution, increase physical activity, decrease social inequities and foster social interaction. For example, a recent study has estimated that air pollution from fossil fuels burned in this country is responsible for approximately 34,000 premature deaths each year. Those are early deaths that could be avoided by phasing out coal, oil, diesel and natural gas. In fact, the fight to save the planet might be the greatest public health opportunity of our time.
Statement from health organizations around the world: Urgent climate action required to protect people’s health
The 2021 United Nations climate negotiations in November (COP26) are a critical moment and opportunity to put the world on a path that protects people from catastrophic climate change. The health community around the world is coming together to send a message to national leaders and country delegations, calling for real action to address the climate crisis.
Over 450 organisations representing over 45 million health workers, together with over 3,400 individuals from 102 different countries, have written an open letter to Heads of State around the world as well as every nation’s lead climate negotiator, calling for urgent climate action to protect people’s health.
Individual health professionals can add their signature to the open letter here.
Dear Heads of State and National Delegations,
The climate crisis is the single biggest health threat facing humanity. As health professionals and health workers, we recognize our ethical obligation to speak out about this rapidly growing crisis that could be far more catastrophic and enduring than the COVID-19 pandemic. We urge governments to live up to their responsibilities by protecting their citizens, neighbours, and future generations from the climate crisis.
Wherever we deliver care, in our hospitals, clinics and communities around the world, we are already responding to the health harms caused by climate change.
- Air pollution, most significantly from burning fossil fuels which also drives climate change, is causing more than seven million premature deaths each year, that’s 13 deaths every minute. Forest fires, waste burning, and harmful agricultural practices are also polluting our air and lungs;
- Changes in the weather and climate are causing increases in food-borne, water-borne and vector-borne diseases;
- Increasingly frequent extreme weather events including heatwaves, storms and floods are taking the lives of thousands, disrupting the lives of millions more each year, and impacting our own healthcare facilities. This year alone, major climate change-related health disasters occurred in China, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Canada, Germany, Belgium and many other nations;
- Food systems are increasingly disrupted by extreme weather which is exacerbating food insecurity, hunger, and malnutrition;
- Rising sea levels are destroying homes and livelihoods, which are critical to supporting people’s health;
- Climate change impacts are taking a serious toll on peoples’ mental health, causing post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety, and worsening existing conditions.
In the 2015 Paris Agreement governments committed to take the necessary actions to hold global temperature rises well below 2°C, aiming for 1.5°C, by 2050. The most current scientific assessments make clear that to avert catastrophic health impacts and prevent millions of climate change related deaths, the world must limit warming to 1.5°C.
The world is currently on a trajectory to warming of 2.7-3.1°C this century alone. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report makes clear that governments must act now to make and implement decisive climate commitments that have a strong likelihood of limiting temperature rises to 1.5°C. Every tenth of a degree in excess of 1.5°C will take a serious toll in people’s lives and health.
While no one is safe from these risks, the people whose health is being harmed first and worst by the climate crisis are the people who contribute least to the problem and who are least able to protect themselves and their families against it—people in low-income countries and communities. Those people and nations who have benefited most from the activities that caused the climate crisis, especially fossil fuel extraction and use, have a great responsibility to do everything possible to help those who are now most at risk.
Integrating health and equity into climate policy will protect peoples’ health, maximise returns on investments, and build public support for the urgently needed climate actions. Cleaner air and water, healthier and more secure food supplies, a resilient, low-carbon health sector, and greener transportation and community design are all beneficial to people, here and now. Furthermore, the health cost savings will offset the costs of taking these actions.
We call on the leaders of every country and their representatives at COP26 to avert the impending health catastrophe by limiting global warming to 1.5°C, and to make human health and equity central to all climate change mitigation and adaptation actions.
- We call on all nations to update their national climate commitments under the Paris Agreement to commit to their fair share of limiting warming to 1.5°C; and we call on them to build health into those plans;
- We call on all nations to deliver a rapid and just transition away from fossil fuels, starting with immediately cutting all related permits, subsidies and financing for fossil fuels, and to completely shift current financing into development of clean energy;
- We call on high income countries to make larger cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, in line with a 1.5°C temperature goal;
- We call on high income countries to also provide the promised transfer of funds to low-income countries to help achieve the necessary mitigation and adaptation measures;
- We call on governments to build climate resilient, low-carbon, sustainable health systems; and
- We call on governments to also ensure that pandemic recovery investments support climate action and reduce social and health inequities.
The actions called for in this letter—which are necessary although not sufficient to fully address the climate and health crises—will go a long way toward protecting people worldwide. We urge our leaders to implement them, and we call on decision makers at COP26 to act now, and to act decisively.
These climate actions must be taken now to protect the planet, and the health, wellbeing and prosperity of all people alive today and for generations to come.
#HealthyClimate Prescription Signatories
POLICY UPDATES FOR ALL TO ACT ON & MUST JOIN EVENTS – OPEN TO ALL
Let’s Talk About Anti-Black Racism and Discrimination in Nursing
October 18, 2021, 6:30pm - 8:00pm
This webinar, originally scheduled for September 20, has been re-scheduled due to the federal election for October 18, 6:30-8:30 pm.
This is a webinar series designed for members of the public interested in receiving updates on RNAO’s Black Nurses Task Force and to engage them in meaningful conversations that will inform the work of the Task Force. The Black Nurses Task Force has a mandate to tackle anti-Black racism and discrimination within the nursing profession.
Oct. 18, 2021, 6:30-8:00 pm
Topic: The Lived Experiences of Black Nurses Using Mental Health Services in Ontario
- identify barriers in accessing mental health services in Ontario
- explore strategies to access mental health services in Ontario
- discuss resources that assist Black nurses in accessing mental health services
- Dania Versailles, RN, MScN, CPMHN (C), Director of Clinical Services of Outreach, Canadian Mental Health Association - Ottawa
- Amina Joseph, RPN
- Nadeisha Pinnock, RN, APN, MN
Watch and read about earlier webinars here.
MOH EOC Situational Report
We are posting each day the Daily Situational Reports from Ontario's MOH EOC at RNAO’s website. That way, you can access the Ministry’s guidance at any time.
For a detailed Ontario epidemiological summary from Public Health Ontario, you can go here.
According to the latest Situation Report #534 for October 15, the case count was as follows: 593,933 total, +496 change from yesterday; 9,809 deaths, +2 change from yesterday.
- On October 15, 2021, Ontario introduced its enhanced vaccine certificate with QR code for individuals and released the Verify Ontario app for businesses. See news release for more information.
- Ontario has also released guidance to support the enhancement of the proof of vaccination policy. A supporting Q&A document has also been posted.
Staying in touch
Keeping in touch remains important as ever. Feeling that we are part of a community and that we have each other’s backs helps us get through challenging times, becoming better people in the process. We are eager to hear how we, at RNAO, can best support you. Send us your questions, comments, and challenges. Recommend ideas for articles and webinars. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and copy my executive assistant, Peta-Gay (PG) Batten at email@example.com. RNAO’s Board of Directors and our entire staff want you to know: WE ARE HERE FOR YOU!
We thanks you again and again for being there for your community – everywhere and in all roles! Together, in solidarity, we are stronger. Please keep encouraging your colleagues, their loved ones and your communities to be fully vaccinated. We must not forget, however, about our privilege. Canada has purchased more vaccines than what it needs, while the majority of the world’s population has almost nothing. Like with other challenges we face – systemic discrimination and climate change – we are not safe until everyone is safe. Vaccines for all – literally for all, across the world – must guide policy in the upcoming months. Let’s learn from the 20-month pandemic and take real action to build a better world.
To everyone – THANK YOU! Please take care of yourself and know that RNAO always stands by you!
Here’s one constant throughout the pandemic. The silver lining of COVID-19 has been to come together and work as one people for the good of all. Let’s join efforts to demand that political leaders protect patients, students, and workers – and secure #Vaccines4All.
Doris Grinspun, RN,MSN, PhD, LLD(hon), Dr(hc), FAAN, FCAN, O.ONT
Chief Executive Officer, RNAO
RECENT BLOG ITEMS:
10 Oct - RNAO launches new, evidence-based online implementation toolkit – go here.
10 Oct - Media release: Mandate vaccinations and establish safe zones – go here.
10 Oct - A renewed call: Prime minister, stop the court battle with First Nations children! – go here.
10 Oct - The inherent racism of anti-vaxx movements – go here.
3 Oct - RNAO’s continuing media profile: The September 2021 report – go here.
3 Oct - RNAO commends move to mandate vaccination for long-term care staff; urges for more – go here.
3 Oct - Action Alert – Stop fighting First Nation children in court: Concrete action on Truth & Reconciliation – go here.
25 Sept - Accelerating knowledge uptake and sustainability – learning from the Leading Change Toolkit – go here.
25 Sept - Connecting the dots – far right extremism as a serious health threat – go here.
25 Sept - How anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists, and the far-right came together over COVID – go here.
25 Sept - The anti-vax movement is being radicalized by far-right political extremism – go here.
19 Sept - Nurses urge Canadians to vote – go here.
19 Sept - Keeping schools open and safe – learning from Spain’s exceptional experience – go here.
11 Sept - Vote in the federal election! Nurses vote for a healthy recovery for all Canadians – go here.
11 Sept - Federal election: Which party has the best climate plan? Here’s where they stand – go here.
11 Sept - Where the parties stand on gun control in the 2021 federal election – go here.
4 Sept - RNAO condemns protests outside health organizations – go here.
4 Sept - RNAO’s continuing media profile: The August 2021 report – go here.
4 Sept - RNAO welcomes important steps to implement vaccine certificates – go here.
28 Aug - Mandatory vaccination in process; vaccine certificates coming to Ontario – go here.
28 Aug – MSF on boosting global vaccine supply – go here.
21 Aug - Nurses call on voters to vote for a healthy recovery for all – go here.
21 Aug – RNAO calls for a stronger vaccine mandate and action on vaccine certificates – go here.
21 Aug - WHO condemns rush by wealthy nations to give Covid vaccine booster – go here.
21 Aug - Calling on Canada to back WHO Moratorium on Booster Shots and Donate Vaccines – go here.
15 Aug - Why is Delta such a worry? – go here.
15 Aug - This is what we know about the Delta variant and kids – go here.
15 Aug - RNAO welcomes mandated vaccination for health care workers – go here.
8 Aug - COVID-19 vaccine boosters: is a third dose really needed? – go here.
8 Aug - RNAO calls to implement vaccine passports to help reopen Canada – go here.
8 Aug – School reopening plan: additional measures needed to stave off worst effects of fourth wave – go here.
1 Aug - RNAO’s continuing media profile: The July 2021 report – go here.
1 Aug - Preparing for the fourth wave – go here.
We have posted earlier ones in my blog here. I invite you to look.