COVID-19 Updates and Information - April 8th

Dear friends, 

We are continuing to work non-stop to do everything we can to limit the spread of COVID-19, prevent the overwhelming of our healthcare system, and save lives. While we have already taken action to promote physical distancing and to lock down the city as much as we are legally permitted to do, we are still scaling up our work every single day. 

Yesterday, our Medical Officer of Health shared that the City has partnered with a group of volunteer medical students and two members of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto, to help with our COVID-19 response. The students and faculty will begin working with Toronto Public Health this week in order to scale-up our case and contract tracing efforts. 

Additionally, City staff working in departments unrelated to our COVID-19 response will continue to be redeployed, so that we are utilizing every resource available to us. 

Although we have been working around the clock for months now, we are not slowing down. This is why we need each and every Torontonian to do their part, too. We will get through this, together. 

Sincerely, 

 

Joe

 


Taking Action to Protect Individuals Experiencing Homelessness from COVID-19

In Toronto we look after each other. This means ensuring that all members of our community are supported, and doing everything we can to make sure that those most vulnerable remain healthy and safe.

The City of Toronto has, over the past weeks, rapidly mobilized and implemented a plan in response to the risk COVID-19 presents to clients of the city’s network of shelters, respites, and drop-ins. Shelter, Support & Housing Administration (SSHA) continues to work with community partners to further strengthen this city-wide response.

As physical distancing is a top priority, the City has now secured 1200 hotel beds across a dozen sites. Staff are working around the clock to transition clients from shelters into hotels, and had placed 313 people so far at last count yesterday.

Staff are working hard to transition many more residents from shelters to hotels over the next few days, to limit the spread of COVID-19 and keep people safe. City staff are also looking into other suitable sites, including university residences, motels, vacant rental buildings.

We are also working to rapidly re-house people in vacant TCHC units. 17 households have already moved in, another 54 are matched with units and are scheduled to move, and 35 more units are in the pipeline to become available soon to families in need.

The City has created a first-of-its-kind isolation service for people who need shelter but are waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test. While initial capacity was 40 beds, we have now scaled up to a 200-bed isolation hotel that opens tonight.

We are also working to open the City's COVID-19 Recovery Centre. The Centre is for people experiencing homelessness who have tested positive for the virus, and need shelter. At the Centre they can self-isolate while accessing 24-7 medical supports, food, and other essentials.

We know that there is much more work that needs to be done to protect people experiencing homelessness and shelter staff during this pandemic. City staff are working around the clock to implement new solutions.

I will continue to provide updates as information becomes available.


Protecting Yourself and Others from COVID-19 — Advice from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Regarding the Use of Masks 

There have been many questions about the use of masks when out in public over the last few days. 

Our Medical Officer of Health, Dr, Eileen de Villa, has been clear — the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to avoid close contact with others. This means staying at home as much as possible, and when you go out, practicing physical distancing.  

Additionally, you should wash your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to keep your hands clean and free of virus. You should also avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has issued a statement on the use of non-medical masks. They have advised that while wearing a non-medical mask (such as a homemade cloth mask) in the community has not been proven to protect the person wearing it from other people's germs, it may stop you from spreading your germs to other people. This is especially true in situations when it is difficult to keep a distance of 6 feet from others. 

This new advice is based on the emerging science that people may be contagious even if they don't have symptoms.  Dr. de Villa has advised that masks alone are not an effective measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and that this is not a recommendation for everyone to wear a mask at all times.

When you do leave your home to seek medical care, or for essential supplies, practicing physical distancing is the next best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It is also the best way to protect yourself from getting COVID-19. In these situations, wearing a cloth mask can prevent your respiratory droplets and your germs from coming into contact with others. What this means is even if you don't have symptoms, by wearing a cloth mask, you may be better able to avoid spreading your germs to other people. 

Dr. de Villa has been clear:

  • Wearing a cloth mask, or scarf has not been proven to protect the person wearing it from the germs of others. 
  • Wearing a cloth mask, or scarf, is also not a replacement for following proven prevention measures such as staying home, physical distancing and handwashing. 
  • Wearing a non-medical mask is just one more thing you can do, if you choose to, to help protect others.  

If you decide to wear a cloth mask, you should use it properly and safely. This means:

  • Making sure the mask fits your face properly. 
  • Not sharing your mask with others.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before putting it on
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after taking it off
  • Avoid touching your face when you put the mask on and off.
  • Avoid touching the mask while using it. 

Medical masks should be kept for healthcare workers and first responders. We have to ensure that these essential workers have the supplies they need to take good care of us. 

Everyone still needs to do the right things: stay home, stay safe, and continue to take care of each other. 


Ensuring Health and Safety in Long-Term Care Homes

Seniors who live in long-term care homes and retirement homes are at the greatest risk for COVID-19.

Toronto Public Health has been receiving questions from family members of those living in long-term care homes, about whether or not they should be taking their family members out of that setting. There is no easy answer to this question — it is a personal choice, as many who are living in these homes require specialized care and medical attention. 

A core component of Toronto Public Health’s work is ensuring long-term care homes have the proper measures in place to control outbreaks and prevent disease spread. For COVID-19, this means: 

  •  Staff in long-term care homes are directed to only work in one setting to prevent further virus spread.
  • Staff are screened for symptoms of illness when they enter the building and when they leave their shift.
  • All residents in the building are monitored closely, with twice daily checks for any new onset of COVID-19 symptoms. If a resident has these symptoms, they are immediately isolated where possible and tested.
  • There is reinforced physical distancing and increased handwashing in place for everyone in all long-term care homes since Toronto Public Health first learned of COVID-19.
  • Visitors are no longer permitted in these facilities to further protect against the inadvertent introduction of COVID19 in these homes.
  • All residents in a unit with a COVID-19 case are put in room isolation to prevent further virus spread. They receive their meals in their rooms, and staff wear protective equipment.

While Toronto Public Health works to ensure that our long-term care homes have all possible infection prevention and control measures in place, it is critical that everyone does their part to prevent the spread of this virus. We all need to do so in order to protect those most vulnerable, as well as those who care for them. 


Airbnb and Short-Term Rentals Banned During Pandemic

This week, the Ontario Government temporarily banned Airbnb and other short-term rental companies from operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. Short-rental companies are now classified as “non-essential” businesses under the province’s Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. Hosts are only permitted to operate if they are providing emergency housing to those in need during this period.  

Residents can report a violation by calling 311 with a complaint, where it will be processed by the City’s dedicated COVID-19 enforcement team, to be addressed as a priority along with investigating all reports of non-essential businesses that may be operating. 

For three years, I have been pushing for Airbnb and other short-term rental companies to follow the rules that were approved by City Council in 2017. I have spoken about the impact that short-term rentals have had on our rental housing market, and on community safety and cohesion due to the rise of ghost hotels. After the tragic shooting at 85 Queens Wharf Road earlier this year, I once again called on Airbnb to immediately remove the over 9,000 listings on their platform that continue to violate the City’s regulations. 

City staff will implement licensing and enforcement mechanisms for Airbnb and other short-term rental companies, beyond this current period.


City of Toronto Urges Residents to Adapt Faith-Based Holiday Observances During COVID-19 Pandemic

On the advice of Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, the City of Toronto is urging everyone to continue staying at home and keeping their distance from others during the upcoming holidays.

In the coming days, many across our city will be observing Passover, Easter, and the start of Ramadan. Normally this is an opportunity to spend time with family and faith-based communities. However, the City urges everyone to continue to follow provincial orders that have closed places of worship and limited gatherings, and public health recommendations to stay at home and go out only for essential reasons.  

Dr. de Villa is advising all Torontonians to stay home and not host family and friends over the coming holidays. The Government of Canada has also prohibited foreign nationals, including U.S. nationals, from entering Canada for non-essential travel, which includes holiday celebrations. Anyone that does enter the country, including Canadians returning from travel, is required by law to self-isolate for 14 days, regardless of whether they have symptoms of COVID-19. 

The City of Toronto recognizes the importance of spiritual, emotional, and mental wellbeing during these important times. People are encouraged to connect with loved ones, friends, and vulnerable members of the community online or by phone. Many places of worship are hosting services online and implementing innovative ways to connect their communities while staying physically apart. Residents should check the website of their place of worship for information on online services and supports. 

The City’s Emergency Operations Centre has also been working closely with grocery partners. Large grocery chains and smaller local grocers have expressed concerns for the health and safety of their workers and the supply of available goods should demand ramp up for upcoming faith-based holidays. 

Those planning to celebrate a faith-based holiday with a special meal for members of their household should be mindful of the current situation in the wider community. Grocers are anticipating that Thursday and Saturday will be popular shopping days and ask people to limit shopping on these days. 

General advice for grocery shopping remains: 

  • Grocery shop only one day per week and buy only what you need for up to two weeks
  • Respect store hours dedicated to seniors, vulnerable persons, and essential service workers (normally the first hour stores are open)
  • Have a list of items, shop efficiently, and do not casually browse
  • Do not touch food or products you are not intending to buy
  • Practise physical distancing
  • When possible, pay with a card or phone tap rather than cash

There are also many opportunities to foster the spirit of upcoming holidays through donations to local food banks. Residents who are able are encouraged to donate non-perishable food to food banks or drop off food donations at local fire halls. Needed essentials include:

  • Canned fish and meat
  • Canned beans and pulses
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Rice and quinoa
  • Cooking oil
  • Baby formula and diapers

A map of food banks is available on the 211 website: https://www.211toronto.ca/topic/food

Those feeling isolated or anxious during the holidays are encouraged to seek mental health support. Information on COVID-19 crisis and mental health supports are listed on our website at https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/covid-19-health-advice/. 


Updates from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health and the Head of the Office of Emergency Management 

Our Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, the head of the City’s Office of Emergency Management, Fire Chief Matthew Pegg, and other City division leaders have been providing daily updates on the current situation and response to COVID-19 in Toronto. You can view the daily press conferences live at 3:45pm, and access past updates here

Update from Dr. Eileen de Villa

Today Dr. de Villa provided an update regarding the confirmed case of COVID-19 at Seaton House and the City’s response within the shelter system. As was reported yesterday, there has been one confirmed case of COVID-19 at Seaton House. 20 shelter clients were relocated yesterday, and another 80 clients will be moved from Seaton House to new spaces imminently - freeing up 100 spaces for physical distancing.

The individual who tested positive at Seaton House has been relocated to the City's isolation facility, along with another shelter client who was in close proximity. The City has taken swift action in order to protect shelter clients and staff.

City staff are working with Seaton House to make sure that advanced infection prevention and control measures are in place. On-site testing is also taking place to identify if there are any other COVID-19 cases in the shelter.

We know that the City must move quickly to ensure our shelters and respites are safe for all. City staff will continue to work around the clock to protect our most vulnerable, and transition more clients from the shelter system to hotel rooms, TCHC units and other housing options.

Dr. de Villa also provided guidance for the general public regarding the use of masks, which can be found above. 

Read all of Dr. de Villa’s statements here

Update from Fire Chief Matthew Pegg

Chief Pegg provided updates regarding the Emergency Operations Centre, which continues to operate 24/7 to ensure that the City is prepared for any and all scenarios. 

As was reported yesterday, one of the biggest challenges remains obtaining supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE). The supply of quality Personal Protective Equipment in a timely manner is a known concern around the world. All efforts are being made, by all levels of government, to ensure the products being shipped and received meet established standards. 

Read all of Chief Pegg’s statements here.


Advice from Toronto Public Health – Staying Emotionally Healthy and Resilient During the COVID-19 Pandemic 

We’ve all had to endure a great deal of change over these last couple of weeks – from practicing physical distancing, to working from home, to caring for children home from school, to keeping a distance from our elderly family members and friends – it’s an adjustment, and it’s normal to feel overwhelmed. It’s okay to not feel okay. But through all of this, it’s important to remember that we’re all in this together. 

It’s also important for all of us to remember to care for our own mental health during this time. In my last update I shared tips and resources from Toronto Public Health on staying emotionally healthy and resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please click here to view and share. 


Community and Social Supports for Torontonians 

Although many places across Toronto have been closed due to physical distancing measures, there are still social services supports available for residents in need. Through 211, operators can connect residents to income supports, distress lines, and mental health supports to name a few. Call 211, text 21166, or live chat with 211 agents Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., or visit 211toronto.ca to search for services.

A City-Community Response Table meets daily and includes representatives from more than 30 agencies across Toronto and 11 City divisions. This group is working together to identify new and emerging issues affecting vulnerable Torontonians during the COVID-19 emergency and to plan city-wide responses to address and resolve these issues. 

Residents who need to access, or are seeking information on, social and community supports and services, should call 211 for non-emergency requests and information. 211 is a 24/7 help line and web service that connects residents to social and community services.

211 is working closely with community agencies to ensure they are continually updating their database with the most up-to-date programming and resource information.


Resources for Seniors

For seniors not living in long-term care facilities, the City continues to provide essential support services to seniors requiring assistance with personal care, medication reminders, and safety checks through our Supportive Housing program. Many community agencies offer supports to seniors including Meals on Wheels, transportation to appointments, personal support, and adult day programs. Seniors and caregivers should check with the individual agencies to confirm continuity of service delivery. Call 211 (available 24/7 in 150+ languages) to obtain up-to-date information.

Other resources for seniors include:

  • Toronto Seniors Helpline:416-217-2077 or 1-877-621-2077, for support and referral to services

  • Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) Home Care: 310-2222 (no area code required) to find out about services in their area

  • Distress Centres of Toronto: 416-408-4357, 416-408-HELP

  • Seniors Safety Line (Elder Abuse Ontario): 1-866-299-1011


Physical Distancing  We All Need to do Our Part

To reduce the spread of COVID-19, we need everyone to stay home, as much as possible. Avoid close contact and keep a distance of 6 feet (2 metres) from others. Everyone has a role to play. The actions you take will protect you, loved ones and those most vulnerable in our community. It’s time to step up, not out. #StayHomeTO

Limit your trips outdoors

  • Minimize trips for groceries, medication and other essentials, ideally to once a week
  • Offer to pick up essentials for neighbours, especially vulnerable community members
  • Ideally, order supplies online
  • Avoid crowded places when exercising or walking the dog outdoors
  • Consider doing aerobics or online exercise classes at home
  • Limit the number of people in elevators to keep distance and use an elbow to press buttons
  • Wash or sanitize your hands when entering and exiting buildings
  • Use tap to pay rather than handling money
  • Greet others from a distance with a wave or a nod

When taking transit or taxi

  • Travel during non-peak hours to avoid prolonged close contact with others
  • Take shorter trips rather than one long trip
  • With taxi and ride share, sit in the back and open windows
  • Wash or sanitize your hands often and avoid touching your face

Avoid physical gatherings

  • Work from home, if possible
  • Facilitate virtual meetings (video or teleconferencing)
  • Cancel all group gatherings, parties or playdates with other children
  • Gatherings with more than 5 people are not allowed (excluding people who live together)
  • Do not go to playgrounds
  • Schedule virtual parties or playdates
  • Connect with loves ones by phone, email video or social media
  • Do not visit loved ones in long-term care homes, retirement homes or other care settings

If sick, stay home and self-isolate

  • People are most contagious when they are sick, or 48 hours before they show symptoms
  • Limit contact with household members
  • Refer to fact sheets on how to self-isolate

What is Self-Isolation?

Self-isolation is when you have been instructed not to leave your home and to separate yourself from others, with the purpose of preventing the spread of the virus, including those within your home. 

You must stay home and self-isolate if you have:

  • A lab-confirmed COVID-19 infection, do not require hospitalization, and a medical practitioner has indicated that you can recover at home
  • Symptoms of COVID-19, even if you have not been tested
  • Been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or has symptoms
  • Travelled outside of Canada, including the United States, within the past 14 days

For your protection, you should self-isolate if:

  • You are over 70 years of age
  • You have a weak immune system
  • You have a medical condition

Read more about how to self-isolate here


Working Collaboratively for Spadina-Fort York

The rapidly-evolving COVID-19 response requires all levels of government to work closely together. 

I am in regular contact with my Provincial and Federal counterparts regarding the evolving COVID-19 response and how to best support Spadina-Fort York residents, businesses, institutions, and organizations.

Please visit their websites for more information on the Provincial and Federal responses:

MPP Chris Glover
MP Adam Vaughan


COVID-19 Information and Resources

Now is not the time for panic or misinformation. Now is the time 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

City of Toronto
Province of Ontario
Government of Canada

Telehealth Ontario
Call if you develop symptoms.
Telephone: 1-866-797-0000

Toronto Public Health Hotline
8:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Call if you have questions about COVID-19.
Telephone: 416-338-7600
TTY: 416-392-0658
Email: PublicHealth@toronto.ca

311 Toronto
Outside City limits: 416-392-2489
Call if you have questions about City services.
Telephone: 311
TTY: 416-338-0889