COVID-19 Updates and Information - April 13th
For many of us, this past long weekend was a big departure from our usual spring celebrations. Still, I hope you were able to spend some time connecting with friends and family over the phone or online. Although it may not always feel like our individual actions are having an impact, it’s important to remember that each and every one of us has a role to play in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in our city. The sacrifices we are making today will save lives tomorrow.
Yesterday the City reported reduced sightings of gatherings in parks and public squares, and increased physical distancing. However, some people continue to use closed park amenities, and continue to gather in groups in our parks. I’m asking you, for the sake of our city, please continue to stay home as much as possible and encourage others to do the same.
This isn’t just about protecting ourselves. It’s also about protecting those in our community who are most vulnerable, and all the front-line workers who care for them.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this is a marathon, not a sprint. This virus will not go away tomorrow, next week, or even next month. As a city, we must rise to meet this test — and I know we will.
City of Toronto Adding Two More Child Care Centers for Essential Workers
As a City, we are doing everything we can to support the front-line workers who are providing essential and critical services, and keeping us healthy and safe. These are our local heroes.
In late March, we opened four emergency licensed child care centres in order to provide free, 24/7 child care to essential workers who are not able to stay home. In the past few weeks, nearly 200 children have been placed in care at the four centres across the city.
Now, in response to demand we are scaling up capacity and opening two more centres this week — for a total of six locations.
The first new centre, located in our Spadina-Fort York community at 34 Bathurst Street, opened today. The second additional centre is located at 1125 Danforth Avenue, and will open later this week.
We will continue to use additional measures, in consultation with Toronto Public Health and the City's Occupational Health and Safety program, to maintain a healthy and safe environment in all child care centers, including daily screening of children and staff, increased disinfection, reduced group sizes, and limiting the number of people in each centre to 50.
Care is provided by City child care workers, and the Province is covering the cost to parents.
Eligibility criteria for emergency child care services are established by the Province of Ontario.
For a detailed description of eligibility, please visit https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/covid-19-social-support/covid-19-child-care-for-essential-workers/.
Anyone who wishes to access emergency child care services can complete the online application to apply. After an application is approved, registration will be confirmed if space is available. Space is limited, but we will continue to scale up service to respond to demand.
Working Together to Ensure Everyone Has Access to Good, Healthy Food
During this difficult time, we must all work together to protect those in our community who are most vulnerable. This includes making sure that everyone has access to healthy food, and that no one goes hungry.
Due to the COVID-19 response, many people are unable to leave their homes and face financial hardship, and many of the community supports they regularly use have closed or altered their services. As more than 40 percent of food bank programs have closed during this crisis, the food programs continuing to operate are under immense pressure to meet demand.
The City of Toronto has established a Food Access Coordination Support Group that meets daily with large-scale community food programs in order to develop a Food Security Strategy. The Strategy is focused on ways to keep existing food programs open and to fill the gaps left by the closure of some programs.
With the Red Cross and the United Way, as of Saturday we have delivered free food hampers to 376 seniors and others in need over the previous week. The call line for deliveries opened again today, at 1-833-204-9952.
We're happy to share that nine food banks are now open at Toronto Public Library locations across the city, in partnership with the North York Harvest Food Bank and the Daily Bread Food Bank. These locations have helped 2,400 individuals secure food for their families.
Through our Food for Kids program, the City and our partners have reached out to the families of 28,000 children to register for grocery gift cards, so that kids can continue to have healthy breakfasts every day.
In response to feedback we’ve been receiving, the City is now asking multi-residential buildings, such as condos and apartments, to allow grocery and food deliveries inside buildings to permit those who are self-isolating or COVID-19 positive to remain inside their units.
The best way for Toronto residents to find information about these food programs and availability is to call 211 directly, or use the online map of local service providers and locations at: https://covid19.211central.ca
I want to thank City staff for their incredible work developing our Food Security Strategy. Residents can also help by dropping off food at food banks and fire halls; restaurants can donate at https://foodrescue.ca; and for corporate and in-kind donations, email TOP@toronto.ca
At this time, we must all do what we can to support those in need. Many people in our community have lost their job or seen their income decline as a result of this pandemic. That means it’s more important than ever that we continue to look out for each other.
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 spoke about her ongoing concern for the spread of COVID-19 in our long-term care homes. Residents of these homes are extremely vulnerable, and this is why it is critical that we all do our part to stay home as much as possible, in order to protect them as well as the staff who work there in caring for them.
Although there are now 39 long-term care homes in our city with one or more confirmed cases, Dr. de Villa shared that with the introduction of advanced outbreak control measures, the rate of new infections in homes where cases were already identified, have slowed.
Dr. de Villa shared that although the increasing number of cases we are seeing are a concern, the measures that have been put in place do take time to take effect. Because COVID-19 can have an incubation period of up to 14 days, this means that you may not know you are infected for up to two weeks. This is why it is critical that everyone do their part in taking physical distancing seriously, and to say home as much as possible.
Dr. de Villa also gave a special thanks to all those who stayed home this past weekend and connected with family and friends through virtual means. This is an important way that we must continue to support one another.
Read all of Dr. de Villa’s statements here.
Update from Fire Chief Matthew Pegg
Today Chief Pegg provided updates on the City’s Emergency Operations Centre which continues to operate at level 3 — the highest level.
Chief Pegg shared that Toronto Fire Services calls are up 17% compared to this time last year. The calls are related to unattended cooking, and smoking in the home. He shared that Toronto Fire Services are undertaking a public education campaign to remind everyone, now that we are all spending more time at home, to always stay in the kitchen while you are cooking, set a timer and check cooking and baking regularly, and if you choose to smoke in your home, to always do so with extreme caution.
Read all of Chief Pegg’s statements here.
City of Toronto Continuing to Prepare for High Lake Levels
Climate change and the resulting extreme weather have greatly impacted the Toronto Islands and our waterfront. We have seen record-breaking flooding over the last three years, and high water levels are anticipated again this year. An annual sandbagging effort cannot be the long-term solution.
This is why we have been working year-round, in partnership with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), to ensure that proactive flood mitigation measures are in place, and that significant investments are made to ensure our waterfront and our Toronto Islands are protected.
The work to protect our waterfront cannot and will not stop due to COVID-19. I am committed, along with the City of Toronto and TRCA, to continuing preparations and mitigation efforts for high lake levels this year as a top priority.
Recent conditions and the updated outlook by the International Lake Ontario-St Lawrence River Board (ILO-SLRB) suggest that, at this point in the season, there are positive signs of more favourable conditions this spring than during the high water years of 2017 and 2019. The worst-case scenarios, which would have seen more extensive impacts on city-side waterfront areas, as well as the Toronto Islands, are starting to look less likely.
Lake levels still remain high, though, and are rising. Inflows from Lake Erie, precipitation, runoff, snowpack, along with the snowmelt in the Ottawa River basin this spring will determine conditions in the coming weeks. We must continue our efforts to be prepared for high lake levels this year.
The City and TRCA continue to monitor these conditions and are advancing preparations to mitigate flooding risks.
- The Office of Emergency Management (OEM) has assigned a response team to focus on the 2020 flood season and coordinate the City’s response with our partners. Emergency response plans are being updated to work under current directives to mitigate COVID-19, and to address needs along the city-side waterfront as well as Toronto Islands.
- All TRCA flood mitigation projects for Toronto's Waterfront and Toronto Islands continue to be categorized as "essential" business under the Province of Ontario's recently updated direction. These works are continuing with appropriate public health-recommended separation protocols for workers.
- On Toronto Islands, the new Ward’s Island beach curbs east and west of Ward’s dock are complete.
- Urgent raising of roads to maintain emergency access in two priority locations is underway: a 300m stretch of Lake Shore Boulevard near Gibraltar Point, and a 200m stretch on Cibola Avenue near the Fire Hall. Preparatory work is complete, and asphalting of the new surfaces is about to begin.
- Engineering assessment work on the sea wall at Algonquin Island continues and will determine a berm or raised wall solution. In the meantime, additional sandbagging will provide protection.
- Twelve aquadams and more industrial pumps have been ordered for installation before extreme lake levels are reached.
- Flood mappings of different lake level elevations have been produced to inform Emergency Management planning. This information will be posted on a public portal on TRCA's website in the coming days.
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.
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 previous updates 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
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:
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
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.