COVID-19 Updates and Information - March 20th

Dear friends,

In Toronto we look after each other, and we will rise to the test of this critical moment together. This means ensuring that all members of our community are supported, and doing everything we can to ensure that all Torontonians remain healthy and safe. 

Today we announced additional measures that the City of Toronto is taking to assist essential service workers and vulnerable members of our community. In partnership with the community and social service sector, we are working with the Province to provide child care for essential service workers, increasing support for vulnerable residents, including seniors, coordinating food security for those in need, and coordinating supports for those dealing with trauma, mental health and addictions.

While there are many essential components to our City's response to COVID-19, perhaps the most important measure of our work is how well we care for the most vulnerable members of our community. This is a top priority, and we are working around the clock to ensure no one is left behind.

This week has been a whirlwind, and all the changes to our daily lives are an adjustment. But while we are physically distancing ourselves, we are still a community. It has been heartening to hear stories of our community looking out for one another over the past number of days. As a City, the health of all Torontonians is our top priority, and together, we’ll get through this.

 

Sincerely,

Joe


Additional Supports for Essential Service Workers and Vulnerable Residents 

In Toronto we look after each other, and we will rise to the test of this critical moment together. This means ensuring that all members of our community are supported, and doing everything we can to ensure that all Torontonians remain healthy and safe.

Today we announced additional measures that the City of Toronto is taking to assist essential service workers and vulnerable residents such as seniors; people affected by untreated trauma, mental health and addictions; people in need of housing supports and emergency food access; and people with disabilities. 

After months of preparation, the City's response to this rapidly evolving situation is ongoing. As we go through this challenging time, one important measurement of how well we did, will be how we took care of our most vulnerable community members, and our frontline workers. This is a top priority, and we are working around the clock to ensure no one is left behind.

Child care for essential service workers

In the midst of this pandemic, there are many workers across our city who do not have the option to self-isolate. They are on the frontlines, working 24/7 ensuring that we are prepared for any scenario. I want to give my deepest thanks to all those on the frontlines working to ensure that our community is safe and healthy. As a City we are doing everything we can to support you.

We are working closely with the Province in order to make child care accessible specifically for children of essential and core service workers such as emergency service, public health, and shelter and support staff. Details will be released in the coming days. 

Support for vulnerable residents

As we enter this critical moment together, we are working to ensure that all members of our community are supported. No one will be left behind. 

To ensure that the needs of vulnerable residents are met during the COVID-19 emergency, the City is working in partnership with social service agencies to address issues that arise in the community service sector.

Just as our economic resilience requires partnership between our business community and the City, equally, our response to the needs of the most vulnerable Torontonians, requires joint partnership between the City and community and social service organizations.

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, for example, food security and community resource needs.

The City has also partnered with the United Way to establish a community connection model that will involve dedicated coordinators going into neighbourhoods. The coordinators will help agencies and groups communicate with each other so they can continue to do their important work of serving Torontonians as well as communicate with Councillors and other service providers. Toronto Aboriginal Social Services Council (TASSC) is also leading the coordinated Indigenous response and will collaborate with the City and United Way.

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, friendly visiting, transportation to appointments, personal support, 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

Food Security Table to ensure access to food

Access to food is a significant challenge for many vulnerable residents across our city. Community Food Programs, which include food banks are a vital aspect of our communities, especially in times of crisis. To ensure that Toronto’s food programs can stay open during the outbreak, the City has convened a Food Security Table (including Second Harvest, Daily Bread Food Bank, North York Harvest Food Bank and Red Cross) to receive updates and find solutions for food access issues.

The City is calling on all restaurants that are still providing take-out and delivery services and businesses that sell food to consider donating any type of unsold, good food through foodrescue.ca. Residents who are able are also encouraged to donate essentials to their local food bank.

Volunteers to help deliver essential services

Non-profit agencies in the community-based sector are also facing a shortage of volunteers to help with delivering essential services. The City is urging non-profit organizations and agencies do the following to help facilitate connecting residents willing to volunteer to organizations and agencies who need the help:

  1.   Update or add information about current operations to 211’s database
  2.   Register volunteer needs through Spark Ontario at https://www.sparkontario.ca/ and/or with Volunteer Toronto at https://www.volunteertoronto.ca/. Volunteer Toronto has waived the fee associated with posting volunteer positions.

Residents interested in volunteering should register with the above-mentioned websites to get alerts for volunteer opportunities (some of which may be remote), call Volunteer Toronto at 416-961-6888 or email info@volunteertoronto.ca to connect with an advisor to discuss volunteer opportunities. Non-profit organizations and agencies’ staff are practicing infection prevention measures within their operations and volunteers would be required to do the same.

Although many places across Toronto have been closed due to social 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.

Please continue to check https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/ for details and updates as they are made.


March 20th - 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. Click here to read past updates

New confirmed COVID-19 cases

Toronto Public Health continues to investigate all new cases of COVID-19, and have reported today that they are actively investigating individuals newly infected, including a resident in a City-owned long term care home, a paramedic and an individual experiencing homelessness.

I understand that this news is concerning. It's important to know that after months of preparation, and anticipated community transmission, the City of Toronto has moved quickly in response to these new cases. 

Emergency response by paramedics continues unaffected, and Toronto Public Health is working directly with Toronto Paramedic Services regarding the paramedic who is self-isolating at home. 

Paramedics are equipped with Personal Protective Equipment, and are highly-trained in approach, screening and assessment of those with symptoms of suspected infectious disease. Dispatchers screen all patients calling for emergency service and communicate any risk to responders.

The diagnosis at the long-term care home initiated outbreak protocols. Seniors Services and Long-Term Care staff are working with Toronto Public Health to contain the risk of spread and protect residents. Communication with residents and concerned family members remains a priority. 

All City-operated long-term care homes continue to provide 24-hour care and service. A provincial direction has limited visitors to long-term care homes to those who are essential to allow staff to focus on resident care rather than visitor screening and monitoring. 

Prior to identification of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Toronto’s shelter system, Shelter, Support and Housing Administration (SSHA) implemented protections for individuals experiencing homelessness, and they continue to scale up further.

Shelter, Support & Housing Administration, with the help of the City’s Emergency Operations Centre, has opened eight new facilities to create more space for social distancing. Screening for illness and travel history continues both by phone during intake and in-person. 

Anyone wanting to access the shelter system identified as requiring a health assessment is being referred to one of the assessment centres at local hospitals. Infection Prevention and Control practices remain a priority at all shelter and respite sites. 

After months of preparation, the City's response to this rapidly evolving situation is ongoing. As we go through this challenging time, one important measurement of how well we did, will be how we took care of our most vulnerable community members, and our frontline workers. This is a top priority, and we are working around the clock to ensure no one is left behind.

Full details on these new cases available here

Encouraging social distancing at non-essential businesses

Toronto Public Health is reinforcing the importance of social distancing in preventing the spread of COVID-19. 

In addition to the requirement that dine-in restaurants, bars, theatres, and nightclubs close temporarily, many non-essential businesses have done the same. But now is the time to take social distancing even more seriously. 

Every social interaction that doesn't happen, helps prevent the spread of COVID-19. Toronto Public Health is encouraging non-essential businesses, such as nail salons and clothing stores, to do their part in promoting social distancing.

Please do your part to protect those most vulnerable - practice social distancing, and encourage your family and friends to do the same. We're all in this together.


Preparations For Extreme Weather - City of Toronto Ready to Respond 

Environment and Climate Change Canada has issued a special weather statement for Toronto warning of rain and strong winds, with the possibility of thunderstorms, followed by a drop in temperature. The City of Toronto remains prepared to respond to extreme weather.

Transportation Services staff will ensure roadways remain safe and passable for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians during and after any rain event. Right now, staff are proactively clearing debris from catch basins and monitoring roadways prone to flooding. In the event of a sudden temperature drop, staff and salting equipment are at the ready.

Parks, Forestry and Recreation has 55 Urban Forestry crews able to respond to fallen trees and branches. These crews prioritize safety hazards, blocked roads and assistance to Toronto Hydro. Additional crews will be on standby.

Toronto Hydro crews are prepared to respond to any damaged hydro infrastructure. To report a power outage, call Toronto Hydro at 416-542-8000. Anyone encountering a downed powerline should treat the powerline as live and stay back at least 10 metres and call Toronto Hydro or 911 immediately.

Residents are encouraged to secure loose objects in yards and on balconies. In the event of basement flooding, homeowners should contact Toronto Hydro at 416-542-8000 to shut off power and then call 311. Road flooding and fallen trees or branches can be reported to 311.

In response to COVID-19, Toronto Public Health continues to encourage all residents to stay home and avoid non-essential travel. Staying in is also the safest choice during periods of very strong winds and rain.

More information on special weather statements and warnings is available from Environment and Climate Change Canada at https://weather.gc.ca/warnings/.


Affected City Services & Facilities

Based on recommendations from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, to help slow the rate of COVID-19 infection in Toronto and protect vulnerable populations including seniors, people with compromised immune systems, and individuals experiencing homelessness, the City of Toronto has cancelled most City-operated programs and closed a number of City facilities.

Essential and/or critical services will remain operational. Examples of these essential services include emergency services, shelters, and Toronto Water. 

Preparations and planning for these types of service changes have been underway since lessons learned during SARS. As a city we will continue to base our actions on the best experts and evidence, and will continue working closely with all levels of government to keep our community safe and healthy.  

Updates on impacted City services can continue to be found here: https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/affected-city-services/ 


60-day Grace Period for City of Toronto Payments for Residents and Businesses

Today the City announced a 60-day grace period for City of Toronto property tax, water and solid waste utility bill payments for all residents and businesses.

Homeowners and other residential property owners will have a 60-day grace period on their City of Toronto property tax, Toronto Water, and Solid Waste bills as of March 16, 2020.

A 30-day grace period for businesses on tax and utility bill payments introduced earlier this week is being extended to a 60-day grace period as well.

Late payment penalties for residential and business properties will be waived for 60 days, starting March 16, 2020 to reflect these relief measures.

Utility bills (water and solid waste), are normally due 21 days after the billing date, but the City will extend that date an extra 60 days.

These measures will ensure that residents and businesses who find themselves facing financial hardship due to COVID-19 can defer their next property tax instalment without penalty. Property tax accounts will be adjusted as necessary to reflect these relief measures.

On Monday, the Mayor's Economic Support and Recovery Task Force was launched to identify immediate and longer-term economic recovery strategies for residents and businesses, with a focus on supporting those segments of the economy that are most strongly impacted by COVID-19, such as tourism, hospitality and entertainment.


What is Social Distancing? We All Need to do Our Part

Every Torontonian must do their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Staying informed, being rigorous about strong individual hygiene practices, and enacting social distancing are measures we must all take. But what is social distancing?

Social distancing involves taking steps to limit the number of people you come into close contact with. This will help to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

Social distancing includes, but is not limited to:

  • talking to your supervisor, manager, or employer about the possibility of working from home where possible
  • avoiding visits to long-term care homes, retirement homes, supportive housing, hospices and other congregate care settings unless the visit is absolutely essential
  • avoiding non-essential trips in the community
  • keeping the windows down if you have to go into the community for an essential trip via taxi or rideshare
  • limiting or cancelling group gatherings
  • holding virtual meetings
  • spending time outside and in settings where people can maintain a 6 feet distance from each other

Please note: that these guidelines are not meant to say “you must stay in your home!”

You can still go outside to take a walk, go to the park, or walk your dog. If you need groceries, go to the store. We simply recommend that while outside you make sure to avoid crowds and maintain a distance of 6 feet from those around you. 

Remember: While you may not feel sick, and while we know these measures are an inconvenience, please be mindful of the members of our community who are more vulnerable to COVID-19 than others. We are all in this together.


What is Self-Isolation?

Self-isolation is when you have been instructed to separate yourself from others, with the purpose of preventing the spread of the virus, including those within your home. If you are ill, you should be separated from others in your household to the greatest extent possible.

Even if you do not have symptoms, it is recommended to self-isolate for 14 days if: 

  • You have travelled anywhere outside of Canada (including the United States of America).
  • You live with, provided care for, or spent extensive time with someone who has:
    • Tested positive for COVID-19, OR is suspected to have COVID-19, OR who has respiratory symptoms (fever, cough, or shortness of breath) that started within 14 days of travel outside of Canada.

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 follow the Toronto Public Health COVID-19 website for 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