COVID-19 and Ward 10 Updates - December 18th
While this has been a year unlike any other, all across our city Torontonians have come together to take care of one another. We are a resilient city, and I know we will get through this.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel. But there’s still a great deal of work to be done. I remain committed to ensuring our most vulnerable are cared for through every step of our COVID response, and that our city comes out of this stronger than ever.
In this Edition
- Rising COVID-19 Cases in Toronto
- Toronto Board of Health Approves COVID Equity Action Plan
- Supporting Overdose Prevention in Toronto’s Shelters
- A Vacant Homes Tax is Coming to Toronto
- New Park Coming to Spadina and Adelaide
- Updates from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health
- City of Toronto COVID-19 Vaccine Website
- Toronto Public Health Holiday Guide
- Shop Local to Support Our Small Businesses
- City of Toronto COVID-19 Resource Map
- COVID-19 Information and Resources
Rising COVID-19 Cases in Toronto
This week Toronto reached a grim milestone: over 50,000 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in our city since the beginning of the pandemic.
While the majority of Torontonians who have contracted this virus have recovered, over 1,700 people have died due to COVID-19 – family members, friends, neighbours, and loved ones who have lost their lives during this devastating year.
This month, Health Canada's approval of the first COVID-19 vaccine has given us all hope. But this does not mean that the fight is over. While all three levels of government prepare for the largest immunization campaign in our country's history, the vaccine rollout will take time to implement. Part of its success and efficiency will depend on how well we have contained the virus in the meantime.
As we look ahead to January and February, we have to prepare ourselves for what could be the worst months of this pandemic, in terms of case counts and hospitalizations.
Right now, our priority must be to beat this second wave. We know what needs to be done — other jurisdictions around the world have shown us the way:
- We need enhanced strict public health measures to reduce contact between people, and cooperation at both the individual and collective levels.
- We need enhanced protections for essential front-line workers and marginalized communities from all three levels of government. That includes measures like paid sick leave and income supports.
- We must all – all levels of government - continue to scale up and strengthen our core public health test, trace, and isolate systems.
- And we need enhanced resources to help people cope with this difficult period. It's cold, it's lonely, and people have been struggling for a long time. We need to ensure that people have the supports they need and the resources to promote positive mental health and wellbeing.
With all of these measures, we can still prevent a brutal January and February. We can reduce case counts and save lives. But if we fail to act, I fear that we are headed towards a very dark and difficult winter.
When the City of Toronto first assembled the COVID-19 emergency task force back in January, it was difficult to imagine that we would reach this total of 50,000 cases. This is a stark reminder of the power and spread of this virus. But if we all do our part to protect ourselves and one another, we will get through this together.
Toronto Board of Health and City Council Approve COVID Equity Action Plan
This week, the Toronto Board of Health and City Council approved the COVID-19 Equity Action Plan. The Plan includes 25 actions to address the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on people who identify with a racialized group, people who live in a low-income household, and communities in the northwest and northeast areas of the city.
Toronto's COVID-19 Equity Action Plan is the first plan in Canada to put equity front and centre in the pandemic response. Data on race and income collected by Toronto Public Health has revealed that Torontonians who identify with a racialized group are more than three times as likely to contract COVID-19 as white Torontonians, and those who live in low-income households are more than twice as likely to get the virus as someone who doesn't.
The Equity Action Plan builds upon the City's work since March, including the opening of Canada's first voluntary isolation centre, the transformation of city-owned facilities for pop-up COVID testing sites, and the implementation of food access programs for people isolated at home.
The Plan also includes a series of Targeted and Enhanced COVID-19 Equity Measures, which have been launched in the northwest and northeast areas of the city. These measures include increased supports for COVID testing; community outreach to facilitate safe isolation for families; food security and digital access programs; and increased capacity on busy bus routes to reduce crowding.
The Board of Health also reiterated our call for other levels of government to do more to protect vulnerable residents and communities. Specifically, the Board called on Federal and Provincial Governments to ensure access to paid sick leave for all workers, enhanced income support, and a moratorium on residential evictions.
Supporting Overdose Prevention in Toronto’s Shelters
Residents of our shelters have told us they need more than a safe and warm place to sleep at night — they need wrap-around health services.
This week the City announced a series of new overdose prevention and harm reduction services opening in Toronto’s shelter hotels.
The only way to successfully tackle the overdose crisis in our city is through a public health approach that is grounded in evidence and the best advice of our public health experts. We know that supervised consumption sites and harm reduction programs help people to manage and recover from opioid addiction.
Integrating harm reduction programming into our shelter system and ensuring that clients have full access to the supports they need is critical to addressing this public health emergency and saving lives.
In Ontario, the Province is responsible for health care, including mental health and addiction services. But we can't afford to wait. That’s why the City is investing $7.6 million to fund harm reduction services now.
A Vacant Homes Tax is Coming to Toronto
City Council voted this week to implement a vacant homes tax in Toronto as a way to help ensure that homes and apartments in our City are being used for housing, and not just as investment vehicles. This is an important step, and one more tool to help us build a more affordable and equitable Toronto.
Toronto was struggling with an affordable housing and homelessness crisis even before the pandemic, but now it’s even more dire for many in our city. The cost of housing has skyrocketed in recent years, making Toronto increasingly unaffordable for families, essential workers, and too many others.
This tool has already been used successfully in other cities. In the first year of Vancouver's vacant homes tax, the number of vacant units decreased by more than one fifth, opening up apartments and other homes for people to live in.
New Park Coming to Spadina and Adelaide
Parks and green space are what make our neighbourhoods vibrant and livable, especially in the rapidly-growing downtown core. That's why I have been working over the last couple of years to turn the surface parking lots at Spadina and Adelaide into a new, 1,000 square metre public park.
I’m pleased to share that this week, City Council approved recommendations to allow us to move ahead with creating this new public space in our downtown core.
Updates from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health
Our Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, and other City division leaders have been providing twice-weekly updates on the current situation and response to COVID-19 in Toronto. You can view the press conferences live at 2pm, and access past updates here.
This week in her update Dr. de Villa shared a presentation that demonstrates the importance of staying home as much as possible in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Through mobility data, we now know that in recent months people aren't staying at home as much as they did back in the spring. This means people are out and about more, creating more opportunities for virus spread.
The call to action has never been clearer. Dr. de Villa again strongly recommended that everyone only celebrate with people that they live with, and not any other households. This holiday, from now into the new year, it is vital that we all find a way to connect but commit to staying apart.
City of Toronto COVID-19 Vaccine Website
The City has launched a website to keep residents up to date on COVID-19 vaccines.
Visit toronto.ca/covid19vaccine for real time and updated information.
Toronto Public Health Holiday Guide
The holidays will look different this year, but they can still be filled with joy. As our Medical Officer of Health Dr. de Villa has advised, the safest way to celebrate is with our household members only, and virtually with everybody else.
It’s important to remember that people are contagious before they show symptoms, and so we need to continue keeping our distance from each other as much as we can. We can show kindness to others by limiting contact with people we don’t live with and staying home as much as possible. There are many other ways for us to safely show our holiday spirit and make this season memorable. Click here for Toronto Public Health’s Holiday Guide to planning a safe celebration.
Shop Local to Support Our Small Businesses
This year, it’s more important than ever to shop local and support our small and independent businesses. Consider purchasing gift cards from retailers, restaurants, and service providers in your community for curbside pickup or delivery. Let’s come together to support small Toronto businesses this holiday season.
Toronto Businesses can still access one-on-one virtual support through the City’s BusinessTO Support Centre. Click here to learn more and access the BusinessTO Support Centre.
City of Toronto COVID-19 Resource Map
The City of Toronto has created a COVID-19 Essential Service Mapping Tool.
This tool has up-to-date service listings across Toronto, including food banks, meal delivery programs, community health services and more. Additional layers and details are being updated daily by 211 Toronto.
COVID-19 Information and Resources
It is important to stay informed through credible sources, and to follow the advice of our public health professionals. Together we can limit the spread of COVID-19.
Please visit the Toronto Public Health COVID-19 website for the up-to-date information and resources: toronto.ca/covid-19
Government COVID-19 websites
Call if you develop symptoms.
Toronto Public Health Hotline
8:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Call if you have questions about COVID-19.
Outside City limits: 416-392-2489
Call if you have questions about City services.