September 4 2021 COVID-19 report
Dear Colleagues: Welcome to our Saturday, September 4 report during this nineteenth 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.
In this update we share: (1) RNAO’s media release in response to protests outside health organizations; (2) RNAO’s media release responding to the announcement of an Ontario vaccination certificate; and (3) our report on RNAO’s media presence during August.
RNAO condemns protests outside health organizations
RNAO issued today the following media release in response to the recent protests.
TORONTO, Sept. 4, 2021 – Nurses condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the disruptive protests held outside health organizations in recent days. Health professionals have been called names, harassed and threatened. Access to health facilities has been disrupted, ambulances have been obstructed and patients’ lives endangered.
Health workers in those facilities, patients in need of care services and the families accompanying them all have enough stress already. They don’t need hostile people calling to ignore health advice and scientific knowledge, shouting misinformation and yelling obscenities. This appalling behaviour has no place in our society at any time and especially not in the midst of a pandemic that has claimed the lives of 9,545 people in Ontario.
RNAO expresses grave concern about the escalating violence and the inadequate action to avert these situations by local authorities and police services. There should be strong action attached and consequences against those who transgress the law. Charges must be vigorously pursued against those who attack health workers, engage in acts of violence, or express hate.
Authorities must make sure the right of people to protest does not disrupt the functioning of health organizations, the rights of health workers to access their workplaces peacefully, and the rights of patients and their families to focus on getting well.
The commitment Ontario’s health professionals have demonstrated to their patients, to their work and to our communities over the past year and a half should be applauded not denigrated. They have worked incessantly, many of them without days off, and at the expense of time with their families. If we want health workers to be there when we need them, we must collectively stand up for them when they are attacked and vilified.
Nurses and other health professionals are not the enemy. The enemy is COVID-19. Our health professionals are doing everything in their power to combat a relentless virus and its highly transmissible variants.
RNAO welcomes Premier Ford taking important steps to implement vaccine certificates
Toronto, Sept. 1, 2021. The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) welcomes the Ontario government’s vaccine certificate plan, declaring it an essential move to protect vaccinated persons and encourage vaccination among those who have yet to be fully immunized against the deadly COVID-19 virus and its variants. Ontario reported 656 new cases today and 13 more deaths (some of which occurred earlier).
RNAO first raised the idea of a vaccine passport in May and has since discussed specifics with government officials, opposition parties and in the media. To press for action, RNAO’s board of directors passed a motion on Aug. 5 calling for a mandatory passport and delineating the requirements to ensure broad applicability and address issues of equity, safety and the privacy of individuals.
Under the government’s plan, people will be required to show proof they have received both COVID-19 vaccinations before they can enter high-risk indoor public settings such as bars, casinos, gyms, theatres, and indoor dining at restaurants. It is not required for people who access personal care services such as salons and barber shops, retail stores and places of worship – something RNAO says is a missed opportunity – although the government’s mandatory masking policy remains in place.
“As we have said on numerous occasions, nurses and health-care workers are exhausted. They have been battling the pandemic since March 2020 and there is no end in sight,” says Dr. Doris Grinspun, RNAO CEO. “The vaccine certificate system announced today by Premier Ford is needed to encourage those who have yet to protect themselves fully and those they come in contact with. It will also add a layer of protection to customers and allow businesses to operate safely. All of this is necessary to transition out of the pandemic. And for this, we thank the premier for changing course.”
RNAO President Morgan Hoffarth commends the government for allowing an exemption to the vaccine requirement for medical reasons only (in addition to children under 12). “However, in this case, proof of a negative test should be required, in addition to the medical note specified in the government’s announcement,” insists Hoffarth.
As it rolls out its vaccine certificate plan, Hoffarth also cautions the government “to keep in mind that not everyone has access to the Internet or a cell phone. “That’s why the government must put a system in place that makes it easy for people who are vaccinated to obtain proof of their vaccination status, while respecting people’s privacy and security.”
RNAO’s continuing media profile: The August 2021 report
RNAO‘s top priority in August was to urge the provincial government to mandate vaccination for health-care workers, teachers and education staff, as well as implement vaccine passports for all eligible Ontarians. Our media activity reflects that purpose. The announcement of a vaccine certificate system on Sept. 1 demonstrates the power of speaking out. As media presence goes, it was another busy month and there’s no sign September will slow down.
Vaccine certificates are a vital tool that should be implemented to help slow the spread of the Delta variant. On Aug. 5, RNAO’s board passed a motion calling on the Ontario and federal governments to enact vaccine certificates. In a media release published on the same day we urged the government to take this measure to avoid another lockdown. “We must address the fourth wave without lockdown measures. We must take this …step so people can resume their lives and the things they enjoy, while at the same time remaining vigilant.”
Responding to massive public pressure, on Sept. 1, Premier Ford announced the government will implement a vaccine certificate system beginning Sept. 22. Ontarians will be required to show proof they’ve received both COVID-19 vaccinations before entering high-risk indoor public settings, including bars, casinos, gyms, theatres and indoor dining in restaurants. The plan does not require people to show proof to access personal care services, retail stores and places of worship, which RNAO says is a missed opportunity in our Sept. 1 media release. I told the London Free Press on Sept. 2 that Ontario must extend this system to include more non-essential services and also move fully with mandatory vaccination for all health-care workers, teachers and education staff. “We welcome the announcement (and) all that is in it, and we will continue to ask for more,” we said.
We are continuing our #Fully Vaccinated campaign. Our president penned a letter to the editor in the Toronto Star on Aug. 4 reminding us that vaccine hesitancy must be addressed with facts, evidence and accurate information. “Shaming people who hesitate to take the vaccine is not the way to change their mind,” said Morgan Hoffarth, “We all have a role to play in addressing vaccine hesitancy in a way that informs and educates, rather than shames.”
A new school year is just days away and the government must ensure students remain safe during in-class learning. On Aug. 3, my op-ed was published in the Toronto Star calling on the government to provide more details on its school reopening plan. “Protecting children, their families and our communities must be our government’s laser focus. There has been ample time to plan ahead for the upcoming school year,” I wrote. On the same day, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore shared the government’s school reopening plan. It includes indoor masking for grades one through 12, self-screening and cohorting. On Aug. 4, the government announced $25 million in funding to improve ventilation in schools.
In response to the school reopening plan, RNAO issued a media release on Aug. 3 to highlight measures we recommend the government adopt, as well as to raise concern about the lack of physical distancing guidelines and mandated masking for all education settings – including for children in daycare and kindergarten. We were also disappointed to see only one paragraph dedicated to the importance of vaccination in the plan, encouraging vaccination rather than mandating it for teachers and other education staff. Minister of Education Stephen Lecce had said in past press conferences that vaccines won’t be mandated in schools, but as I told inSauga.com on Aug. 4, “Given how effective vaccines are in the face of the highly transmissible Delta variant and the emerging Lambda variant, nurses will continue to insist on mandatory vaccination for all education staff unless they have a medical exemption.” I told QP Briefing (Aug. 26), “it’s time to move. Every day is a life too late.” On the Rob Snow Show (Aug. 31) I reiterated to the host that “it is essential to use all the tools that we have at our disposal to protect the reopening of schools.” On Aug. 17 the government announced that teachers, health providers and other public employees will uphold vaccination policies, meaning, those who refuse or are medically unable to vaccinate will be subjected to regular testing instead.
As part of our three mandatory asks, RNAO continues to speak on the need for mandatory vaccination for all health-care workers across all health sectors and settings. On Aug. 8, Dr. Moore said the government is mandating vaccine policies for workers in hospitals, home care and ambulatory care as well as long-term care, which had been announced previously. Those who don’t show proof of vaccination must be tested for COVID-19 once per week and participate in an education session. However, this is not mandatory vaccination. The government is giving responsibility to individual health organizations to incorporate vaccine policies, which will likely lead to further confusion, inconsistencies across health sectors, and social divisiveness. This approach is too lenient. RNAO President Morgan Hoffarth told inSauga.com (Aug. 18) that “proof of full vaccination must be provided and the only exception should be for people with a medical exemption.” RNAO is calling for exempted staff to be required to provide a negative test a minimum of twice a week (or 24 to 48 hours prior to work for part-time and casual workers) instead of only once a week.
Earlier in the month, I spoke about why mandatory vaccination for health-care workers protects vulnerable populations. “This is about the seniors that are 80 plus in long-term care and out in the community that are at huge risk because of those who are unvaccinated”, I told CP24 on Aug. 10. RNAO board member and RN Deb Lefebvre told Ottawa Citizen (Aug. 23) that patients are worried. “I can’t tell you how many times I get asked if I am double vaccinated by patients,” said Lefebvre. RNAO is calling on the Ontario government to be a leader and mandate vaccination for health-care workers. Many hospitals have already shared their plans, including Toronto’s University Health Network (UHN). UHN is giving its staff until Oct. 22 to get vaccinated or be terminated from their roles. A group of major for-profit LTC home operators have come out with their policy that requires all staff to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 12 or be put on unpaid absence, with one company saying those who refuse to be vaccinated will risk losing their jobs. AdvantAge Ontario, the association for non-profit LTC home operators has also called on the government to mandate vaccines for health-care workers. UHN‘s policies and the policies of the LTC groups highlight the need to ensure that health-care workers, patients and residents are safe during this fourth wave. On CP24 (Aug. 27), I said the news about LTC operators is fantastic but we need the premier to take charge and mandate this across all health sectors.
Acknowledging nurses’ exhaustion and burnout is a top priority for RNAO. I said to Capital Current on Aug. 5 that I understand the public wants to have their surgeries done, and safely. However, “nurses have run out of gas in the sense that they have been working 17 months without any reprieve.” With insufficient numbers of RNs, I said, the healthcare system can barely keep up with current demands. We need to bring more RNs into operating rooms, as well as recovery rooms, ICUs and critical care units. I told iHeart Radio on Aug. 10 that RNAO is calling for a slowdown on the resumption of medical services across the province to give nurses a chance to breath.
I spoke to the Financial Post on Aug. 19 about the toll of the pandemic on nurses, the growing RN shortage and the need to admit many more students to the BScN program. What you need most in a nurse is expertise and compassion. This means the ability to put yourself in the patient’s shoes and to prioritize their needs. “Some of [the patients] were dying [during COVID] and without the families there, nurses became not only the expert professional, but also the compassionate professional, and the human being trying to connect them and the family through an iPad,” I said. “Or simply hold the hand of the patient… so that person would feel more comfortable.” I also stressed the intelligence and mental flexibility required for nurses. We also need to address basic working conditions and remuneration. The government needs to repeal Bill 124, which caps wage increases for nurses at one per cent a year, lower than inflation, which is at 3.7%. This is driving nurses elsewhere, I said.
The next federal election happens on Sept. 20. RNAO released its election policy platform on Aug. 20, which features four priority areas and asks Canadians to vote for health. RNAO has asked the leaders of the major federal parties for their views on the issues and will publish them on our website as we receive them. In a media release about the platform, RNAO highlighted that many vulnerable groups need attention from the next federal government. “Canada’s most vulnerable populations, especially LTC residents, individuals experiencing homelessness and those struggling with substance use must receive our dedicated attention. Our injustices with racialized communities and Indigenous communities must be fully recognized and repaired.”
RNAO continues to speak out for all of our RN, NP, and nursing student members and on behalf of Ontarians. The fall will bring new challenges as people move indoors and in-school learning resumes. Rest assured that RNAO will continue to use our collective voice to get nurses’ messages heard. Together, we are a force to be reckoned with. This past month, our voice resulted in 623 media hits. To view our media coverage, visit our COVID-19 Press Room.
POLICY UPDATES FOR ALL TO ACT ON & MUST JOIN EVENTS – OPEN TO ALL
Sign the Action Alert calling on premier Ford to Implement the 3 Mandatory Asks of Nurses: 1) #MandatoryVaccination for health-care workers (unless medical exemption); 2) #MandatoryVaccination for teachers and educational staff (unless medical exemption); and 3) #MandatoryVaccinePassports for everyone (unless medical exemption). In addition, we are asking for indoor masking for children two years old and up.
Webinar: COVID-19 Webinar Series
, 2:00pm - 4:00pm
Topic: COVID-19 amidst back to school and a federal election
School is back in session, vaccine mandates and passports are being rolled out, and the federal election is upon us. What does this mean for Ontario nurses, families, teachers, community members and those deciding how to vote on Sept. 20?
Join us on Monday, Sept 13 at 2 p.m. for a discussion with RNAO CEO Dr. Doris Grinspun who will share updates, latest news and pressing issues related to COVID-19. Learn how to use RNAO’s non partisan federal election policy platform to inform your election decisions, and hear about current calls to action that support a Just Recovery for All.
Watch and read about earlier webinars here.
Let’s Talk About Anti-Black Racism and Discrimination in Nursing
Sep 20, 2021, 2:30pm - 4:00pm
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.
Sept. 20, 2021, 2:30-4:00 pm - Details and registration link coming soon.
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 more detailed Ontario epidemiological summary from Public Health Ontario, you can always go here.
Here is a segment from the last Situation Report #507 for September 3:
Case count as of September 3, 2021 / Nombre de cas le 03 septembre 2021
Area / Région
Case count / Nombre de cas
Change from yesterday / Changement par rapport à hier
Deaths / Décès
Change from yesterday / Changement par rapport à hier
** 2 of the deaths occurred more than 2 months ago and were updated based on data cleaning
Staying in touch
Keeping in touch remains important as we face the pandemic and other challenges in Ontario, in Canada and elsewhere – in particular, in Africa and Latin America – two of the continents most affected by COVID-19 and its variants – delta and lambda. Feeling that we are part of a community and that we have each other’s backs helps us get through these challenges, 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!
Thank you for being there for your community – everywhere and in all roles! Together, in solidarity, we are strong and resilient. In Canada we see hope at the end of this long pandemic tunnel. 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 9 out 10 countries have almost nothing. Like in other challenges we face, such as racism, Islamophobia, and other forms of discrimination, we are not safe until everyone is safe. Vaccines for all – literally for all, across the world – must guide policy in the upcoming 12 months. Let’s learn from the 17-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 political leaders bring about #Vaccines4All!
Doris Grinspun, RN,MSN, PhD, LLD(hon), Dr(hc), FAAN, FCAN, O.ONT
Chief Executive Officer, RNAO
RECENT BLOG ITEMS:
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.
25 July - Action Alert: Mandate COVID-19 vaccination for all health-care workers, premier! – go here.
25 July - Are we preparing for a safe school reopening? – RNAO asks once again – go here.
17 July - Mandatory vaccination for health-care workers – Exploring issues, challenges and supports – go here.
17 July - #FullyVaccinated campaign and mandatory vaccination for health-care workers – go here.
10 July - A Detailed Study of Patients with Long-Haul COVID – go here.
10 July - Prolonged brain dysfunction in COVID-19 survivors – go here.
3 July - RNAO’s continuing media profile: The June report – go here.
3 July - RNAO celebrates virtual 96th Annual General Meeting – go here.
We have posted earlier ones in my blog here. I invite you to look.