Vaccine booking system a nightmare

The usual fiasco is happening for booking appointments for 70-plus adults. We hoped that being in Fonthill, we could book to have our vaccine given at the Meridian Centre. Lucky for me, I got the 2nd last appointment for April 8. My husband saw he could book, but when he finally got a person to speak with it turned out the Meridian Centre wasn’t even listed as being available after April 8, and the other sites—Port Colborne, etc., all the way down—were not available! How are people supposed to book when there is nothing available?

Why, in Toronto, is Mayor Tory saying on the news there is so much vaccine available—or is it just in their area? First we couldn’t get information for Niagara COVID-19 updates, now we can’t book our appointments. When will the people in charge get their act together. It’s been over a year, cases are rising, variants are getting worse and we won’t have enough people vaccinated in our area in time.

Doug Ford, in his wisdom, cancelled March break for everyone and moved it until April. Hospitals will be overwhelmed and families will be in jeopardy. It would make much more sense to vaccinate households than go by age if you ask me. That way, at least the family is safer and all in one place.

I hope our Mayor Junkin, or someone in the Niagara Region, can give us some answers as to why we are, it seems, always at the end of the queue.

R. Obelnycki
Fonthill

Open letter to Pelham Town Council

Happy spring! Hoping all is well with you and your family.

It has been awhile since we have communicated. We would like to thank Councillor John Wink for presenting his motion, and council for passing the motion for not allowing any more road crossings on the Town’s trails. We are proud of Councillor Wayne Olson’s efforts to get Pelham recognized as a centre of a United Nations Geopark. These are major wins for citizens of our town and the peninsula. We are confident that all of you are very aware of the volume of pedestrians, cyclists, runners, bird watchers, and other nature seekers that use our green spaces, which include the Steve Bauer Trails.

As you are aware, in mid February we sent you a petition with over 850 signatures from Pelham and another one with 300 from Welland due to our citizens who actually live in Pelham that have a Welland mailing address. We hope you have viewed the 19 elementary school children posters from St. Alexander, Glynn A. Green, and A. K. Wigg that were in the package. We also hope you enjoyed our video starring Steve Bauer with a lot of Pelham residents. We are concerned residents who value nature and stand by protecting our community’s natural spaces for all.

The following are updates on more accomplishments that have been done and are ongoing with the Steve Bauer Trail (SBT). We have created not only a Facebook group page but also a website to educate and to inform the general public of the issues of trees in Pelham and our issue with the SBT. Because of the planned residential development on both sides of the trail south of Port Robinson Road, there are concerns about the future of the sidewall trees and shrubs. That begs the question— will they be preserved? For this reason the Pelham Tree Conservation Society has conducted a tree count from Port Robinson to Merritt Road, with help of a tree professional. This was conducted in late January and early March. A trail clean-up was organized and completed during the weekend of March 14 so as not to destroy emerging spring vegetation. Many pictures have been taken of both regular and occasional users of the trail. These have been posted on both Pelham Tree Conservation Society sites. We are currently establishing a pictorial record of the entire length and width of the trail that is the focus of our concern.

Recording of birds and frogs have been taken as our migrating birds have been returning from the winter homes, and frogs awakening from hibernation. We are now working with other environmental groups through the Region and the Province to help preserve natural areas and to oppose Schedule 3 of Provincial bill 257.

We are asking on behalf of over 900 residents of Pelham who signed the petitions, the 19 children who made posters, and the 457 members of the Pelham Tree Conservation Society, what besides receiving our petition, poster and video for information are you doing about our petitions? We want respectful and responsible developers to make our Town to be a better place to live. The following issues from the petition have been left unanswered:

1) To permanently protect the tree, shrub, and other vegetation of the SBT between Port Robinson Road and Merritt Road.

2) To work with the Kunda Park / Forest Park developer to preserve the SBT in its present form and minimally disturb its natural setting.

3) To replace the roadways crossings with entrance access (non- motorized) for pedestrian users and new residents of the development.

4) To move the proposed storm water management drainage ditch running alongside the STB off Town of Pelham land and locate it on the developer’s property.

5) To further preserve the Town of Pelham’s trees and natural landscape by the addition of a natural buffer zone between the SBT and the road, by the relocation of the planned Station Street extension by offsetting this new road by an additional 10 metres to the east.

6) To ensure that any SBT closure necessitated due to the construction be kept to an absolute minimum.

With all due respect, our organization, citizens, and children of Pelham, and the 5000 people (people from all over the globe as well as from Pelham) who signed, are anxiously waiting to hear from you of what you are doing with their signatures on their petitions and the unresolved issues.

Mike Jones
Pelham Tree Conservation Society

 

Better place to install arches?

How do the proposed arches fit within parameters of Infrastructure Canada? Tucked away on a Fonthill street close to properties which will be developed with likely much higher structures, i.e., Toronto Dominion. the arches will become a moot point.

If Pelham is to be wholly inclusive, the arches should be located in a more visible and public space.

L. Morgan
Fonthill

 

Coronavirus frustration

Where to start?

This pandemic is getting ridiculous and exhausting. I would like to have a normal Canada Day in Pelham this year. It is looking less likely with coronavirus cases rising once again. Large gatherings at parks and residences will lead to more cases. The original virus was contagious enough, but now we have these three variants to deal with. I have been lucky that I have evaded getting infected so far. There is no guarantee I won’t end up in the intensive care unit if I somehow catch this dreaded virus. I may be a healthy 32-year-old, but my view differs from a lot of young adults who think they are invincible.

My main frustration is with the vaccines— when do I get my COVID-19 shot? If I receive my first shot soon, I will be very thankful. My chances of getting severely or even mildly sick from the virus will drop considerably. I want to know when we can travel out of province again without having to self-isolate for two weeks. Public health officials are still advising against non-essential travel within Ontario, but you don’t have to self-isolate when travelling to another region or municipality within the province. Will the Atlantic provinces finally get rid of their screening checkpoints by summer? Wearing a non-medical mask and getting even one dose of a vaccine offers all of us substantial protection from getting severely ill. I’m against getting rid of Provincial mask laws for the rest of this year and even into 2022. If the mask mandates are kept, then out-of -province travel should be allowed to resume soon.

On the topic of the Canada-United States border, it would be nice to see it reopen by July. Congressman Brian Higgins of south Buffalo is pressuring Justin Trudeau to reopen the border. The moment that the border is reopened, I would like to go for a day-trip to one of the southern towns in western New York. Going to the various attractions and then going to the Cracker Barrel restaurant are my plans for my next trip across the border. It is scary in some of the US states because they have abolished their mask mandates. I will continue to wear a mask to protect myself and others, even if it is no longer required by the state or local government where I’m vacationing. Brian Higgins and other Democrats are working with Republicans and President Joe Biden on plans to reopen the border safely. Justin Trudeau and the premiers have to be convinced that travel can resume safely between Canada and the United States.

In conclusion, the COVID-19 pandemic is getting outrageous and gruelling. All I can say is I hope this is the final wave of the virus. Please continue to follow public health advice and don’t plan on hosting any large parties. There could be potential consequences at these super-spreader events.

Brendan Young
Fonthill

 

COTE’S COMMENTS | Larry Coté

Some cheers and jeers during the pandemic

Throughout this pandemic, there have been a number of unsung heroes and heroines. Too many to list here but there are some that deserve to be heralded for keeping the larger population safe from harm. Then there are a few others who scared the beejebers out of the larger population.

At the top of any such complimentary list are the frontline healthcare workers who risked their lives to keep people from contracting or succumbing to this terrible virus. The doctors and nurses who work in the hospitals were the most at risk and deserving of a virtual standing ovation. Sadly, some few of these professionals contracted this deadly disease, and many others were so overworked that they suffered from fatigue levels ranging from episodes of sleep deprivation to PTSD. The rest of the population owes a great debt of gratitude to this group.

Grocery clerks and other food store staff, who risked contracting the virus due to their frequent exposure to the many shoppers who frequented their stores, form another under-recognized group. From among the large number of shoppers there were likely some who may have been asymptomatic but potential carriers of the disease. Some measures were taken to protect these workers with PPE, but this novel virus proved to be among the wiliest and worst of the bunch. There was some effort to increase the compensation of these workers during the severest period of the virus. They were certainly deserving of that little extra in their pay packets.

There is another group that needs be identified—not for heroism but rather for not heeding the medical community. This is the small number of people who, in spite of scientific evidence to the contrary, refused to wear protective masks during this pandemic. Such a refusal was a slap in the face to those who worked to reduce the spread and duration of this deadly disease. It is difficult to fathom what the rationale might have been for this rebellious minority. Fortunately, there were few of them who believed they knew better than the scientists and medical experts about healthcare regimes. Some people were unable to wear masks for valid reasons and these persons are free from any disapproval.

Finally, for now, our hats are off for those who worked so diligently to develop the vaccines to protect people from being infected. The short time frames to create these vaccines and the efficacy these potions render are near miraculous in scope. These vaccine developers are worthy of the highest of acclaim for they are truly life-savers and high on any list of heroes.

The vaccination protocols appear to be working as planned and the light at the end of the tunnel is a bit brighter. Those who designed that system are also deserving of high praise. Regrettably, medical experts predict It will take months to achieve that so-called herd immunity status. Many a sermon has proclaimed patience is a virtue. We may be called upon to put into practice what is preached.

 

REGIONAL COUNCIL UPDATE | Diana Huson, Regional Councillor for Pelham

COVID caseload evolves as vaccination access increases

In what seemed like a cruel April Fool’s joke, we received news on April 1 that the Province was applying a province-wide “emergency brake” in response to the escalating caseloads and greater prevalence in new variants. This meant that effective last Saturday the colour-coded zones were paused. The Province will reevaluate our situation after one month to determine if restrictions should be lifted or extended.

Regional Council receives regular updates from Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hirji regarding Niagara’s caseload, vaccination schedule and response. Based on the update provided last Thursday, we learned that the new variants now represent about 35 percent of our COVID caseloads. These new variants carry a 60 percent greater risk of hospitalization, double the risk of ICU admission, and nearly 50 percent greater risk of death. These information workshops are posted publicly online, are approximately one to one-and-a-half hours in length, and are well worth the watch if you’d like to keep informed on how the pandemic is evolving in Niagara and our public health response to it.

Vaccination statistics have also been added to the Region’s website to help keep everyone informed on the number of doses administered and also the percentage of age groups vaccinated with either the first or second dose. Niagara has now vaccinated 78 percent of our 80-plus population, 53 percent of our 75-79 aged population, and 18 percent or our 70-74 aged population. As a bit of good news Niagara has vaccinated about 11.6 percent of our population overall, which seems low but is actually higher than the provincial average.

New variants are primarily responsible for pushing Ontario into this third wave as they spread more quickly and are more severe in nature. We’ve been told we cannot vaccinate our way out of a third wave and need restrictions to help temper the impacts. We have seen a shift in who now represents our caseloads. We’ve seen an escalation of cases amongst those 59 years or younger and a subsequent decrease of cases amongst the 60-plus population. This shift may be attributable to the impact of variants or may show that vaccinations are starting to take effect.

We’re also seeing the majority of spread taking place in the community instead of being attributable to specific spaces such as workplaces, the agricultural sector, or restaurants. There’s also been an escalation of cases in schools, which now represent the majority of our outbreak locations.

Another good news item is that Thursday the Province opened up appointments for the AstraZeneca vaccine in select pharmacies for eligible people aged 55 or older, including in Niagara. You must have an appointment to get vaccinated at a pharmacy and contact the participating pharmacy to book the appointment. Where can we find these pharmacies? You can search online based on postal code at https://covid-19.ontario.ca/vaccine-locations

In the meantime, this means we should all continue to follow public health protocols, limit close contact to your household, and limit trips outside of the home except for necessities. In hindsight, I never thought we’d be still be dealing with public health protocols a full year out. Last March seemed to last for years and this March flew by in a matter of days. What a year it has been! I hope everyone took the time to rest and recharge over the Easter holiday weekend and find solace in that fact that warmer weather is ahead, and with it comes spring flowers, sunshine and fresh air. Stay well, everyone.

 

PELHAM AND COVID-19 | Mayor Marvin Junkin

Vaccination clinics continuing during lockdown

It is important to note that Niagara Region Public Health vaccination clinics will continue to be open during the Province-wide shutdown. As more and more clinics open and run simultaneously in the Region, there is the problem of unused doses at the end of the day. These doses cannot be refrozen and must be used within a certain time frame. The Health Unit must try to make use of these unused vaccines. To this end, they are compiling standby lists. To qualify for the current standby list, Niagara residents must be 65 and over and must be able to arrive at a pre-chosen clinic within 30 minutes of receiving the notification call. Residents are asked to sign-up even if they already have an appointment, and are still encouraged to book an appointment through the Provincial booking system, as those on the standby list are not guaranteed to get a vaccine.

As of last Thursday, the total number of vaccine doses administered in Niagara was 77,984.

When word of the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine was first announced months ago, I was on the fence as to whether or not I would get vaccinated. Having been raised on a farm surrounded by a lot of different animals and a lot of time getting up close and personal with various forms of their manure, I felt that my immune system, like all other farm-raised kids, was stronger than average. However, with these new variants being more contagious and having the potential to more adversely affect those they infect, I have changed my tune and will get vaccinated whenever the offer is given. As always, visit www.niagararegion.ca/health/ for up-to-date information.

On the Town front, staff were very disheartened to have to completely shut down the community centre for this latest lockdown, especially when residents were returning in droves to use the facility. Health officials are quick to point out that residents must continue to get outside for exercise, do their walks, or runs, while maintaining social distance. Hang in there, everyone—that light is getting brighter every day!

Until next time…