Waterloo Region’s Delta-fuelled COVID-19 surge is having the greatest impact on the homeless population

Waterloo Region is grappling with a continued surge of COVID-19 infections bolstered by the highly infectious Delta variant — and the homeless population has experienced the brunt of the outbreak. While Waterloo has not specified which congregate settings have had an outbreak, it’s listed them as the source of 94 cases, by far the largest source of infections in the region. The region told the Star about a dozen congregate sites make up the outbreak, and it’s not considered over.But to get infections under control, Waterloo Region needs to ramp up its strategy with those who use the shelter system and provide further resources to shelters, as more vaccines coming in won’t be enough without a targeted approach that convinces the population to take it, said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease doctor at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton.The region’s medical officer of health said the shelter population has been prioritized from the start of the vaccine rollout. But the homeless are vulnerable and will need extra supports to ensure the two-dose vaccine regimen is followed through, health experts and shelter workers said.“If it’s not being dealt with aggressively, it’s going to get out of control faster than the vaccines can put it back into control,” said Chagla. On Thursday the province announced it will provide mobile teams to run pop-up clinics in hot spot neighbourhoods, and two teams with trailers and tents will arrive in the region next week and remain for two weeks. The purpose of the mobile teams is to send extra help to where the Delta variant is taking hold.In recent weeks there have been a number of social gatherings that weren’t recommended, and that combined with the Delta variant has caused the cases to spike and hit vulnerable populations, said Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, the medical officer of health.“The Delta variant is broadly circulating in Waterloo region and has been for a few weeks,” she said. Waterloo prioritized the homeless early on in the vaccine rollout and worked with community partners, but it can be difficult to convince people to receive a shot, said Wang. She said that 83 per cent of the region’s cases are unimmunized people and 14 per cent are partially vaccinated. “We did everything that was needed to be done in trying to make sure they had isolation spaces, medical care and mobile teams were out for vaccination and testing,” she said. “And there’s been a bit more acceptance of the vaccine among this group, but we’re still working to get that acceptance.”Ontario reported Friday that the region had 85 new COVID cases, the second time this week it had the highest case counts in the province. The province reported 345 new cases, so nearly a quarter of the infections were from Waterloo Region.Cases in the region have been rising since June 3 and continue to spike as the provincial average has sharply declined amid widespread vaccine coverage. As of Friday, Waterloo had a seven-day moving average of 10.9 cases per 100,000 — about four times the province’s average of 2.7 cases.Ontario sped up second doses as of Wednesday in the region as well as Halton, Durham, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph and Porcupine, and it added Hamilton, Durham and Simcoe Muskoka on Thursday. Toronto and Peel have already been prioritized. In those regions, those vaccinated May 30 or earlier with a first dose can now receive a second dose.Elizabeth Clarke, the CEO of the YW Kitchener-Waterloo, which provides community services including shelters for women and their children, said COVID hadn’t hit the shelter system in the region to this degree before.“It’s just raced through the population,” she said. In their shelter they’ve had 18 positive client cases and two positive staff cases, she said, but no new cases in the last week.Waterloo received vaccinations later than other regions because it wasn’t dealing with the brunt of COVID in the province, so there’s some catching up to do in vaccinating the population including those who are homeless, said Clarke. Things should improve now that the focus is on the shelter system, she said. Only recently has there been such a focused effort to vaccinate the homeless, she said. “Now we’re having clinics come right into the shelters.” To better target the homeless population, Stacey Bricknell, the primary nurse practitioner at the Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre, and her team are going to where people are living and eating to offer vaccination outside of the shelter system. Lately it’s been challenging to find people who are not already unwell, she said.“We really have to use the relationships we have with this population to try to educate and encourage people to have immunization, and recognize it will take more than one conversation,” she said.In March, those in emergency shelters were offered first doses and they had a decent supply, but the homeless population is vulnerable and requires further connections from community organizations to be convinced, she said.Br

Waterloo Region’s Delta-fuelled COVID-19 surge is having the greatest impact on the homeless population

Waterloo Region is grappling with a continued surge of COVID-19 infections bolstered by the highly infectious Delta variant — and the homeless population has experienced the brunt of the outbreak.

While Waterloo has not specified which congregate settings have had an outbreak, it’s listed them as the source of 94 cases, by far the largest source of infections in the region. The region told the Star about a dozen congregate sites make up the outbreak, and it’s not considered over.

But to get infections under control, Waterloo Region needs to ramp up its strategy with those who use the shelter system and provide further resources to shelters, as more vaccines coming in won’t be enough without a targeted approach that convinces the population to take it, said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease doctor at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton.

The region’s medical officer of health said the shelter population has been prioritized from the start of the vaccine rollout. But the homeless are vulnerable and will need extra supports to ensure the two-dose vaccine regimen is followed through, health experts and shelter workers said.

“If it’s not being dealt with aggressively, it’s going to get out of control faster than the vaccines can put it back into control,” said Chagla.

On Thursday the province announced it will provide mobile teams to run pop-up clinics in hot spot neighbourhoods, and two teams with trailers and tents will arrive in the region next week and remain for two weeks. The purpose of the mobile teams is to send extra help to where the Delta variant is taking hold.

In recent weeks there have been a number of social gatherings that weren’t recommended, and that combined with the Delta variant has caused the cases to spike and hit vulnerable populations, said Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, the medical officer of health.

“The Delta variant is broadly circulating in Waterloo region and has been for a few weeks,” she said.

Waterloo prioritized the homeless early on in the vaccine rollout and worked with community partners, but it can be difficult to convince people to receive a shot, said Wang. She said that 83 per cent of the region’s cases are unimmunized people and 14 per cent are partially vaccinated.

“We did everything that was needed to be done in trying to make sure they had isolation spaces, medical care and mobile teams were out for vaccination and testing,” she said. “And there’s been a bit more acceptance of the vaccine among this group, but we’re still working to get that acceptance.”

Ontario reported Friday that the region had 85 new COVID cases, the second time this week it had the highest case counts in the province. The province reported 345 new cases, so nearly a quarter of the infections were from Waterloo Region.

Cases in the region have been rising since June 3 and continue to spike as the provincial average has sharply declined amid widespread vaccine coverage. As of Friday, Waterloo had a seven-day moving average of 10.9 cases per 100,000 — about four times the province’s average of 2.7 cases.

Ontario sped up second doses as of Wednesday in the region as well as Halton, Durham, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph and Porcupine, and it added Hamilton, Durham and Simcoe Muskoka on Thursday. Toronto and Peel have already been prioritized. In those regions, those vaccinated May 30 or earlier with a first dose can now receive a second dose.

Elizabeth Clarke, the CEO of the YW Kitchener-Waterloo, which provides community services including shelters for women and their children, said COVID hadn’t hit the shelter system in the region to this degree before.

“It’s just raced through the population,” she said. In their shelter they’ve had 18 positive client cases and two positive staff cases, she said, but no new cases in the last week.

Waterloo received vaccinations later than other regions because it wasn’t dealing with the brunt of COVID in the province, so there’s some catching up to do in vaccinating the population including those who are homeless, said Clarke.

Things should improve now that the focus is on the shelter system, she said. Only recently has there been such a focused effort to vaccinate the homeless, she said. “Now we’re having clinics come right into the shelters.”

To better target the homeless population, Stacey Bricknell, the primary nurse practitioner at the Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre, and her team are going to where people are living and eating to offer vaccination outside of the shelter system. Lately it’s been challenging to find people who are not already unwell, she said.

“We really have to use the relationships we have with this population to try to educate and encourage people to have immunization, and recognize it will take more than one conversation,” she said.

In March, those in emergency shelters were offered first doses and they had a decent supply, but the homeless population is vulnerable and requires further connections from community organizations to be convinced, she said.

Bricknell is reminding the homeless population that the shot could help ease the restrictions they have faced.

“This has had a significant impact on the homeless population in terms of the spaces where they congregate, a lot of them have been closed,” she said. “A lot of folks would like to see a return to normal life.”

Olivia Bowden is a Toronto-based staff reporter for the Star. Reach her via email: obowden@thestar.ca

Source : Toronto Star More   

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MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq: I came to Parliament seeking help for Indigenous people, but no one cares enough to act

I’m glad people are finally listening to what I’ve been saying over and over in my time in federal politics: Nunavummiut live in some of the worst conditions in Canada and the federal government is to blame. We have the highest suicide rate in the world. Housing costs are far beyond the reach of most Inuit. Mouldy and overcrowded public housing is the norm. Many don’t have clean water year-round. There’s a food security crisis. In Iqaluit, a gallon of milk costs $20. Even on an MP’s salary, raising a family in my riding would be extremely challenging.In addition to the racism, sexism and ageism that I’ve faced as a young Inuk woman in Ottawa, the structures of the federal institutions create huge barriers for any MP from Nunavut, no matter who they are or which party they serve in. The largest single-member electoral district in the world cannot be adequately serviced with an office budget that is less than some urban ridings in the south, where constituent outreach can happen by subway or streetcar instead of expensive flights.Dealing with these constraints is one thing, but then I have to listen to flowery rhetoric from Liberal MPs, cabinet ministers and, yes, the prime minister, about “reconciliation” or “transformational change,” all the while seeing little to no real change on the ground.Last summer, I travelled across Nunavut on a housing tour to see the human consequences of the housing crisis firsthand. I heard stories of struggle, loss and resilience from dozens of families that I shared in my housing report. I called it “Sick of Waiting.” Unless something dramatic changes, we will be waiting much longer for even band-aid solutions to the housing crisis that is literally killing people in Nunavut.In the lead-up to the last federal budget, NTI, the Inuit organization that is officially mandated to represent our interests with the Crown, made a formal request for a $500-million emergency housing investment. Nunavut got a $25-million “down payment” for the territorial government to apply for more funding. That’s like needing $5 and being given a couple quarters and told to invest them wisely.Government members have told me over and over that they know action on housing is needed, but in two years they have done almost nothing to address the crisis. The minister for Indigenous Services, Marc Miller, told me that he hadn’t even bothered to read my report and Adam Vaughan, the Liberal point person on the housing file, answers my pleas for immediate assistance by tweeting “more to do, more to come” on social media. The situation is so dire that even the Conservatives are asking hard questions about mouldy homes and federal underfunding of housing in Nunavut during Question Period.Even small proposals with tiny price tags have been dismissed out of hand by the Liberal government. Take my amendment to Bill C-19, which would have put Indigenous languages on election ballots. A COVID-19 election seemed like a perfect time to protect Canadian democracy through adding Indigenous languages on ballots. I thought that breaking down a long-standing barrier would be a no-brainer for the Liberals and Conservatives on the committee. I was wrong. They shot it down.Every time I’ve tried to make change, I’ve been blocked by a Liberal (or a Conservative) who smiles at me and condescendingly compliments my courage while they slam the door on me. Sometimes my work feels meaningless when those with power keep acknowledging that I’m right while they continue to do wrong themselves.And so I’m calling on all my non-Indigenous allies: I urge you, put pressure on the federal government and the politicians who control it. Don’t let them get away with this anymore. They have the power. I want politicians who refuse to use their power to be bombarded by emails, phone calls and meetings with Canadians who will actually defend my right to live a safe life in Nunavut. So if you want to help, do something. Because the federal institutions certainly won’t.I will be forever grateful to Inuit and Nunavummiut who believed in me and elected me to represent them. But I will never again put my faith in these institutions, or in Canada, until I see structural changes happening. Frankly, I couldn’t care less about the thoughts and prayers, the symbolism, the crumbs they throw us when tragedy strikes. They actually sting when they mask more colonial inaction.More and more people across this country are waking up to something that Indigenous people have known for a long time: radical change is needed. It’s time for the federal institutions to give us the basic human rights that Nunavummiut were promised when Canada colonized the territory 70 years ago. And if they don’t give us what we’re owed, it’s time for all Canadians to show their outrage and demand it.Mumilaaq Qaqqaq is the member of Parliament for Nunavut.

MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq: I came to Parliament seeking help for Indigenous people, but no one cares enough to act

I’m glad people are finally listening to what I’ve been saying over and over in my time in federal politics: Nunavummiut live in some of the worst conditions in Canada and the federal government is to blame. We have the highest suicide rate in the world. Housing costs are far beyond the reach of most Inuit. Mouldy and overcrowded public housing is the norm. Many don’t have clean water year-round. There’s a food security crisis. In Iqaluit, a gallon of milk costs $20. Even on an MP’s salary, raising a family in my riding would be extremely challenging.

In addition to the racism, sexism and ageism that I’ve faced as a young Inuk woman in Ottawa, the structures of the federal institutions create huge barriers for any MP from Nunavut, no matter who they are or which party they serve in. The largest single-member electoral district in the world cannot be adequately serviced with an office budget that is less than some urban ridings in the south, where constituent outreach can happen by subway or streetcar instead of expensive flights.

Dealing with these constraints is one thing, but then I have to listen to flowery rhetoric from Liberal MPs, cabinet ministers and, yes, the prime minister, about “reconciliation” or “transformational change,” all the while seeing little to no real change on the ground.

Last summer, I travelled across Nunavut on a housing tour to see the human consequences of the housing crisis firsthand. I heard stories of struggle, loss and resilience from dozens of families that I shared in my housing report. I called it “Sick of Waiting.” Unless something dramatic changes, we will be waiting much longer for even band-aid solutions to the housing crisis that is literally killing people in Nunavut.

In the lead-up to the last federal budget, NTI, the Inuit organization that is officially mandated to represent our interests with the Crown, made a formal request for a $500-million emergency housing investment. Nunavut got a $25-million “down payment” for the territorial government to apply for more funding. That’s like needing $5 and being given a couple quarters and told to invest them wisely.

Government members have told me over and over that they know action on housing is needed, but in two years they have done almost nothing to address the crisis. The minister for Indigenous Services, Marc Miller, told me that he hadn’t even bothered to read my report and Adam Vaughan, the Liberal point person on the housing file, answers my pleas for immediate assistance by tweeting “more to do, more to come” on social media. The situation is so dire that even the Conservatives are asking hard questions about mouldy homes and federal underfunding of housing in Nunavut during Question Period.

Even small proposals with tiny price tags have been dismissed out of hand by the Liberal government. Take my amendment to Bill C-19, which would have put Indigenous languages on election ballots. A COVID-19 election seemed like a perfect time to protect Canadian democracy through adding Indigenous languages on ballots. I thought that breaking down a long-standing barrier would be a no-brainer for the Liberals and Conservatives on the committee. I was wrong. They shot it down.

Every time I’ve tried to make change, I’ve been blocked by a Liberal (or a Conservative) who smiles at me and condescendingly compliments my courage while they slam the door on me. Sometimes my work feels meaningless when those with power keep acknowledging that I’m right while they continue to do wrong themselves.

And so I’m calling on all my non-Indigenous allies: I urge you, put pressure on the federal government and the politicians who control it. Don’t let them get away with this anymore. They have the power. I want politicians who refuse to use their power to be bombarded by emails, phone calls and meetings with Canadians who will actually defend my right to live a safe life in Nunavut. So if you want to help, do something. Because the federal institutions certainly won’t.

I will be forever grateful to Inuit and Nunavummiut who believed in me and elected me to represent them. But I will never again put my faith in these institutions, or in Canada, until I see structural changes happening. Frankly, I couldn’t care less about the thoughts and prayers, the symbolism, the crumbs they throw us when tragedy strikes. They actually sting when they mask more colonial inaction.

More and more people across this country are waking up to something that Indigenous people have known for a long time: radical change is needed. It’s time for the federal institutions to give us the basic human rights that Nunavummiut were promised when Canada colonized the territory 70 years ago. And if they don’t give us what we’re owed, it’s time for all Canadians to show their outrage and demand it.

Mumilaaq Qaqqaq is the member of Parliament for Nunavut.

Source : Toronto Star More   

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