Transcript: COVID-19's in Ontario's North and Southwest | Apr 16, 2021

Jeyan sits in the studio. He's is in his thirties, with short black hair and a trimmed beard. He's wearing a gray suit, white shirt, and striped blue tie.

A caption on screen reads "COVID-19 in Ontario's North and Southwest. Jeyan Jeganathan. @JeyanTVO. @theagenda."

A wall screen behind him reads "Ontario Hubs."

Jeyan says WITH A STAY-AT-HOME ORDER IN PLACE FOR EVERY PART OF THE PROVINCE, IT CAN BE HARD TO GET A SENSE OF WHAT'S HAPPENING IN YOUR OWN REGION, LET ALONE BEYOND THAT. HERE TO AT LEAST GIVE US A SENSE OF THEIR AREAS: IN RED ROCK, ON THE NORTH SHORE OF LAKE SUPERIOR: CHARNEL ANDERSON, WHO COVERS THE NORTHWESTERN PART OF THE PROVINCE FOR OUR ONTARIO HUBS...

Charnel is in her twenties, with mid-parted straight brown hair. She's wearing a red shirt.

Steve continues AND IN LONDON, ONTARIO: MARY BAXTER, WHO COVERS THE SOUTHWESTERN PART OF THE PROVINCE.

Mary is in her forties, with chin-length brown hair. She's wearing a black blazer

Jeyan continues WELCOME TO YOU BOTH.

Charnel says THANK YOU.

Mary says HI, JEYAN.

Jeyan says MARY, WE'RE GOING TO START WITH YOU. CATCH US UP TO SPEED. WHAT PROGRESS HAS SOUTHWESTERN ONTARIO MADE IN TRYING TO CONTAIN THE VIRUS?

The caption changes to "Mary Baxter. Southwestern Ontario Hub Journalist."
Then, it changes again to "Virus case control."

Mary says LAST YEAR AT THIS TIME, WE WERE SEEING A LOT OF OUTBREAKS AMONGST THE FARM WORKER COMMUNITIES IN THIS REGION, AND IT WAS VERY CONCERNING. THE OUTBREAKS WERE VERY LARGE. THEY WERE DUE TO A LOT OF DIFFERENT FACTORS. ONE OF THEM BEING CONGREGATE LIVING ON FARMS WHERE THE LIVING CONDITIONS WEREN'T ALL THAT GREAT. IT WAS HARD TO PHYSICALLY DISTANCE. AND THEN THERE WAS THE LACK OF PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT. THIS YEAR THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF WORK DONE ON IT. THERE'S STILL PROBLEMS THAT EXIST. BUT WE'RE ALSO SEEING SOME OF THE BENEFITS OF THAT WORK. SO THINGS LIKE A RECENT INTRODUCTION OF A PROGRAM, A PILOT, A PROVINCIAL PILOT, TO VACCINATE MIGRANT FARM WORKERS AS THEY ARRIVE IN TORONTO, AND THEN THERE'S BEEN MINISTRY OF LABOUR INSPECTIONS OF FARM WORK PLACES. AND WE'VE SEEN A BIT OF A RESULT. YOU CAN SEE IN WINDSOR ESSEX, FOR INSTANCE, THEIR RATE OF INFECTION, THEIR OUTBREAKS IS VERY LOW. OVERALL IN THE PROVINCE, THE OUTBREAKS ON FARM COMMUNITIES IS VERY LOW.

Jeyan says NOW, CHARNEL, YOU WERE ON THIS SHOW JUST A FEW WEEKS AGO. WE WERE TALKING ABOUT A SPIKE IN CASES IN THUNDER BAY. THOSE HAVE SINCE COME DOWN. I WANT TO GET AN IDEA OF WHAT THOSE FEELINGS ARE IN THE CITY. WILL THEY BE ABLE TO KEEP THOSE DOWN?

The caption changes to "Charnel Anderson. Northwestern Ontario Hub Journalist."

Charnel says IN MARCH THUNDER BAY HAD THE HIGHEST RATE OF COVID-19 PER 1,000 PEOPLE IN THE PROVINCE. AND SO SINCE THEN, AT THE BEGINNING OF APRIL, CASES HAVE BEEN ON A DOWNWARD TREND. SO THIS WEEK I BELIEVE THE HIGHEST NUMBER OF CASES WE HAD WAS 13, WHICH WAS ON MONDAY. AND AS OF THURSDAY, THERE WERE FOUR NEW CASES ANNOUNCED FOR A TOTAL OF 61 ACTIVE CASES. SO WE'RE DOING A LOT BETTER THAN WE WERE. HOWEVER, THERE ARE STILL 10 PEOPLE CURRENTLY HOSPITALIZED WITH COVID-19. AND SO THE MEDICAL OFFICER OF HEALTH IS WORRIED ABOUT, YOU KNOW, THAT WE MAY BE LAGGING BEHIND OUR SOUTHERN ONTARIO COUNTERPARTS BECAUSE THERE ARE VARIANTS HERE. THERE HAVE BEEN A NUMBER OF VARIANTS FOUND IN THUNDER BAY. WE'RE NOT SURE WHAT KIND THEY ARE AT THIS TIME. THEY HAVEN'T BEEN IDENTIFIED. BUT THERE HAVE BEEN QUITE A FEW CASES OF THE U.K. VARIANT FOUND IN PLACES LIKE DRYDEN AND KENORA AND THAT'S IN THE NORTHWESTERN HEALTH UNIT. SO IT'S IMPORTANT THAT WE STAY VIGILANT.

Jeyan says NOW, YOU TOUCHED ON DRYDEN. OF COURSE, THUNDER BAY IS JUST A VERY SMALL PART OF THE REGION THAT YOU COVER. HOW ABOUT THE REST OF YOUR REGION? HOW ARE THEY DEALING WITH CASES THERE?

The caption changes to "Charnel Anderson, @charneland."

Charnel says MM-HMM. WE HAVE BEEN SEEING SOME GROWTH IN THE NORTHWESTERN HEALTH UNIT. SO IN PLACES LIKE SIOUX LOOKOUT, THERE'S AN OUTBREAK TO A CHURCH SERVICE IN EMO. RIGHT NOW IN TOTAL THEY HAVE ACTIVE CASES OF COVID-19. SO THE BULK OF THOSE CASES, MORE THAN HALF, I BELIEVE, ARE IN SIOUX LOOKOUT. AND THE MEDICAL OFFICER OF HEALTH, DR. YOUNG, SHE IS CONCERNED. SHE SAYS WE STILL NEED TO ADHERE TO PUBLIC HEALTH GUIDELINES.

Jeyan says MARY, MAYOR HOLDER SAID THE CITY WITHOUT QUESTION SHOULD BE CONSIDERED A PROVINCIAL HOT SPOT BUT SAID THE TARGETED VACCINE ROLLOUT ARE NO SILVER BULLET. HE WAS QUOTED IN THE LONDON FREE PRESS THIS WEEK SAYING...

A quote appears on screen, under the title "Mayor Ed Holder addresses hot spots." The quote reads "The best way to handle this issue is to stop the congregating, to stop the issues around not wearing a mask. The health unit can do everything it does, but until people take individual responsibility, none of this means a damn, hot spot or otherwise."
As quoted in The London Free Press. April 12. 2021.

Jeyan says MARY, HAS THERE BEEN SOME CONFUSION ABOUT HOT SPOTS? OBVIOUSLY A HOT TOPIC. BUT WITH VACCINE DISTRIBUTIONS AS WELL IN LONDON?

The caption changes to "Mary Baxter, @MaryBword."
Then, it changes again to "Vaccination progress."

Mary says WELL, WHEN HOT SPOTS WERE FIRST ROLLED OUT BY THE PROVINCE, THEY WERE BASED ON POSTAL CODE. AND FOR SOUTHWESTERN ONTARIO, THERE WAS ONLY ONE HOT SPOT IDENTIFIED AND THAT WAS IN AND AROUND AYLMER. BUT WHAT'S HAPPENED IN LONDON IS, IN AND AROUND WESTERN UNIVERSITY HAS SEEN A SERIES OF OUTBREAKS IN ITS STUDENT POPULATION. IT'S BEEN SO EXTREME THAT WESTERN HAS SENT STUDENTS HOME EARLY. AND SO IN THE POSTAL CODE AROUND THAT AREA, THERE'S ALSO A VERY LARGE STUDENT POPULATION, AND THEY'VE BEEN SEEING RATES OF POSITIVE COVID-19 TESTS WHICH IS RIGHT AROUND THE TOP OF THE PROVINCIAL IN TERMS OF THOSE INFECTION RATES... OR TESTING RATES, EXCUSE ME. AND SO THAT THAT... THEY WANT TO SEE THAT AREA DECLARED A HOT SPOT, AND NOT ONLY LOCAL POLITICIANS, BUT AREA MPPs AS WELL HAVE BEEN CALLING FOR THAT.

Jeyan says CHARNEL, I WANT TO PICK UP ON THAT. AS WE MENTIONED, YOUR REGION IS QUITE VAST. IS THERE A CONCERN THAT PEOPLE ARE ABLE TO GET TO THE VACCINES IN TIME?

Charnel says WHAT I WILL SAY IS NONE OF THESE REGIONS HAVE BEEN DESIGNATED A COVID-19 HOT SPOT. THAT BEING SAID, THERE DOES SEEM TO BE VACCINE CLINICS POPPING UP, YOU KNOW, QUITE OFTEN. SO THERE ARE A NUMBER OF PHARMACIES IN A NUMBER OF COMMUNITIES IN THE NORTHWEST WHO ARE ADMINISTERING THE ASTRAZENECA VACCINE. BUT THE ISSUE, AS IS AN ISSUE IN MOST RURAL COMMUNITIES WITH A LOT OF THINGS, IS TRANSPORTATION. YOU KNOW, ACCESS TO THESE VACCINES. FOR EXAMPLE, MY NEIGHBOUR, SHE JUST WENT FOR HER FIRST DOSE OF THE VACCINE TODAY, BUT SHE HAD TO GO TO NIP GAN, IT'S ABOUT A 25-MINUTE DRIVE FROM RED ROCK, BUT SHE DOESN'T DRIVE, RIGHT? ACTUALLY MY PARENTS ENDED UP TAKING HER. THIS IS A CHALLENGE FOR PEOPLE LIVING IN SMALLER COMMUNITIES. MAYBE THEY LIVE ALONE. MAYBE THEY DON'T DRIVE. YOU CAN'T JUST HOP ON THE BUS, YOU CAN'T CALL A TAXI. SO I THINK ONE OPTION THAT WOULD BE USEFUL FOR PEOPLE IN THE NORTHWEST WOULD BE PERHAPS A MOBILE CLINIC THAT GOES TO PEOPLE THAT CAN'T GO TO THESE CLINICS.

Jeyan says I ACTUALLY WANT TO PULL UP A CLIP FROM THUNDER BAY, MAYOR BILL MAURO, WHO WAS ON OUR SHOW EARLIER THIS WEEK TALKING TO STEVE PAIKIN. LET'S HAVE A LOOK AT THAT.

A clip plays on screen with the caption "April 12, 2021."
In the clip, Bill Mauro, Mayor of Thunder Bay, speaks on screen. He's in his fifties, clean-shaven, with short gray hair.

He says IF THE MEDICAL ADVICE IS THAT THE LOCKDOWN, STAY-AT-HOME ORDER IS NECESSARY TO CONTAIN THE VARIANT, IF THAT'S WHAT'S DRIVING THE CURRENT POLICY POSITION, THEN I THINK WE CAN ALL ACCEPT THAT. BUT I THINK IF THAT IS WHAT'S DRIVING THE POLICY DECISION THAT THE PROVINCE HAS MADE, THEN IT NEEDS TO BE TIED TO A PLANNED ROLLOUT. BECAUSE IN THUNDER BAY WITH OUR NUMBERS GOING DOWN SIGNIFICANTLY IS INCLUDED IN THIS PAN-PROVINCIAL LOCKDOWN, BECAUSE OF THE VARIANTS POTENTIAL INCREASE IN THE NUMBERS, THEN I THINK WE NEED TO BE ACCOMMODATED THE SAME WHEN IT COMES TO THE VACCINATION ROLLOUT ACROSS THE PROVINCE.

The clip ends.

Jeyan says CHARNEL, HE TOUCHES ON THAT. WHY IS IT IMPORTANT THAT THUNDER BAY GETS ITS SHARE OF VACCINES IN GOOD TIME?

Charnel says I THINK HE MAKES A GOOD POINT. IF THESE RESTRICTIONS APPLY PROVINCE-WIDE, THEN THE VACCINE ROLLOUT SHOULD ALSO REFLECT THAT PROVINCE-WIDE APPROACH. BECAUSE I THINK PEOPLE IN THUNDER BAY, IN THE NORTHWEST GENERALLY, SOMETIMES FEEL LIKE AN AFTER-THOUGHT FROM THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT. ONE EXAMPLE OF THAT WOULD BE BACK IN MARCH WHEN WE HAD THE SPIKE IN THUNDER BAY, A NUMBER OF LEADERS INCLUDING MAYOR BILL MAURO WERE ASKING THE PROVINCE TO DESIGNATE THUNDER BAY A COVID-19 HOT SPOT. WE DID GET AN ADDITIONAL DOSE OF A THOUSAND VACCINES AND THE NUMBERS HAVE GONE DOWN SINCE THEN. I WILL SAY THAT THUNDER BAY HAS DONE A REMARKABLE JOB IN TERMS OF GETTING VACCINES INTO PEOPLE. AT LEAST 45,000 PEOPLE HAVE RECEIVED THE FIRST DOSE OF THE VACCINE IN THUNDER BAY WHICH WORKS OUT TO ABOUT 25 percent OF THE POPULATION, AND SO THAT'S COMPARED TO 15 percent IN THE REST OF THE PROVINCE. YOU KNOW, IT REALLY IS REMARKABLE. WE'RE ON THE RIGHT TRACK. IT'S JUST WE NEED TO GET THE VACCINES FLOWING IN ORDER TO KEEP UP THIS PACE AND KEEP THE CASES DOWN.

Jeyan says VERY GOOD. MARY, I WANT TO ACTUALLY PULL UP A PHOTO THAT YOU TOOK IN YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD IN SOUTHWEST LONDON. THERE'S A SIGN HERE THAT SAYS: NO MORE LOCKDOWNS. IS THIS ANY INDICATION OF HOW PEOPLE ARE FEELING RIGHT NOW?

A picture shows a sign in a front yard that reads "No more lockdowns" under an image of a stick figure imprisoned inside a red maple leaf.

Mary says CERTAINLY THERE'S A LOT OF FRUSTRATIONS OUT THERE. I SPOKE TO SOMEONE ELSE WHO ALSO HAD A SIGN UP ON HIS LAWN. HE IS AMONGST A LOT OF PEOPLE IN OUR AREA, UNFORTUNATELY, THAT THINK THAT COVID-19 IS A HOAX. THERE'S BEEN PROTESTS. THERE WAS ONE IN SIMCOE LAST WEEKEND WHERE HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE TURNED UP. THERE'S RUMOURS OF ANOTHER ONE THAT COULD BE HAPPENING IN STRATHROY THIS WEEKEND. SO THERE'S A LOT OF FRUSTRATION AMONGST PEOPLE IN HAVING TO STAY AT HOME.

Jeyan says CHARNEL, WE HAVE ABOUT 30 SECONDS LEFT. I WANT TO ASK YOU ABOUT... TOUCH ON THAT FRUSTRATION. SMALL BUSINESSES. THEY HAVEN'T BEEN OPEN FOR QUITE A WHILE. WHAT ARE YOU HEARING FROM THEM IN NORTHWESTERN ONTARIO?

The caption changes to "Lockdown fatigue."

Charnel says YEAH. I HAD TO CHECK BECAUSE I DIDN'T EVEN REMEMBER LAST TIME, YOU KNOW, BUSINESSES WERE ALLOWED TO BE OPEN. BUT THERE WAS A PERIOD SINCE ABOUT DECEMBER OF 12 DAYS, THE END OF FEBRUARY, 12 DAYS WHERE BUSINESSES COULD BE OPEN. SO, YOU KNOW, BUSINESS OWNERS ARE FRUSTRATED. WE HAD A SALON OWNER FROM THUNDER BAY ON THE PROGRAM NOT TOO LONG AGO, AND I THINK HE SPEAKS FOR MOST PEOPLE, PARTICULARLY IN THE PERSONAL CARE INDUSTRY, WHO HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO OPERATE THEIR BUSINESS FOR MONTHS ON END NOW. AND, YOU KNOW, AS I SAID, CASES ARE ON THE DOWNWARD TREND HERE, AND IF... I THINK IF THINGS CONTINUE THIS WAY, YOU'RE GOING TO BE HEARING CALLS FOR THE PROVINCE TO GO BACK TO THE REGIONAL RESTRICTIONS.

The caption changes to "Produced by: Carla Lucchetta, @carrletta."

Jeyan says IT WILL BE INTERESTING TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THIS. CHARNEL ANDERSON, MARY BAXTER, YOU GUYS ARE THE ONTARIO HUB JOURNALISTS COVERING NORTHWESTERN ONTARIO AND SOUTHWESTERN ONTARIO. THANK YOU SO MUCH.

The caption changes to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

Mary says THANKS, JEYAN.

An animated slate reads "Ontario Hubs. Ontario Hubs are made possible by The Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust and Goldie Feldman."

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