COVID-19 Updates and Information - April 15th

Dear friends,

At the City, we have been working around the clock since January to prepare our COVID-19 response, and we aren’t slowing down. Every single day my focus is on making sure that we are doing everything we can to protect our most vulnerable community members, and those working on the frontlines. No one will be left behind. 

We’ve heard this message repeated many times by now —  stay home to save lives. 

It’s more true now than ever, and this is why it’s so important that we continue to share this message. We know that getting through this will take all of us working together. 

I want to thank everyone who has been doing their part to fight the transmission of this virus. In Toronto we look after each other, and we will get through this together. 


Sincerely, 

Joe


Protecting the Health of People Experiencing Homelessness

Yesterday, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa, along with senior City staff and in partnership with University Health Network, provided an update on the City’s ongoing COVID-19 response to support and protect people relying on our shelter system and those experiencing homelessness. 

The City of Toronto has been working since January to prepare our COVID-19 response, reduce transmission in our shelters, and ensure safe continuation of the services that serve people experiencing homelessness. We have implemented an inter-governmental and cross-sectoral response to COVID-19 involving the city, the province, the federal government, and the community non-profit sector. Our City-Community Response Table meets daily, and includes representation from more than 30 agencies and 11 City divisions. Our work is informed by the goals of reducing spread, saving lives, and protecting our most vulnerable.

Before this crisis, Toronto already had the largest and most extensive shelter system in Canada. We had 72 shelter/respite sites sheltering more than 7,000 people every night, including the almost 3,000 people already sheltered in hotels/family settings.  Eleven of these locations were operated by the City, and 61 programs were operated by community non-profit agencies. 

As of yesterday, there have been 30 confirmed cases of COVID-19 identified in seven City shelters. Our planning has made it possible for City staff to act quickly and relocate these individuals to the City’s isolation facility, which has been expanded into a hotel in order to serve 200 people. 

To facilitate physical distancing in our shelters and respite centres, the City has opened new spaces in community centres, hotel rooms, and permanent housing units. Thus far, City staff have relocated over 1,000 clients to these locations, with nearly 500 people moved from the shelter system into hotel rooms, and more each day.  City staff are working with our partners in the health care sector to identify clients who are most vulnerable, to prioritize their transition. City staff are on track to move another 1,000 people into new spaces by the end of this month.

At our shelters and respite centres, we have put in place measures for Public Health-guided screenings. If a client is experiencing symptoms, we have set up direct transportation to an assessment centre for testing. While waiting for results, clients are taken to our dedicated isolation facility, where medical supports and harm reduction services are available. To date, more than 175 clients have been supported at our isolation facility while waiting for results. The City is continuing to advocate to the Province for increased testing for all shelter clients and staff. 

For clients of the shelter system who test positive for COVID-19, the City has established a dedicated recovery program. This program provides safe hotel accommodation for clients who have tested positive, where they can recover with access to food, laundry, and round-the-clock medical support. The City is in the final stages of working with the Ontario Government to finalize the health supports necessary to launch the program. 

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City has been enhancing our street outreach response. This includes a moratorium on clearing any encampments, with a focus on safety and education. We have also set up portable washrooms and handwashing stations for better access, and provide information through outreach on symptoms, screening and testing options. 

Toronto’s shelter system is the largest in Canada. While City staff manage our shelters and administer services to people experiencing homelessness, participation from all levels of government is required to address this crisis. Limiting the spread of COVID-19 within this vulnerable population necessitates an active partnership between the health sector, the community sector, and the housing sector, as well as funding and support from the City, the province, and the federal government. 

The challenge we are facing today did not occur overnight. It was created through years of inadequate funding for social housing, services for people experiencing homelessness, and access to physical and mental health supports. This crisis is also a chance to fix the longstanding issues of our current system and invest in new solutions, including permanent affordable and supportive housing. 

Any real, long-term solution requires a partnership with the Province and the Federal government. While the City has acted quickly to try to avoid worst-case scenarios in our shelter system, it’s clear that much more needs to be done. I will continue to advocate for more action to protect our most vulnerable, and for all levels of government to step up and do their part. 


Supporting Toronto’s Artists and Live Music Venues

As the Chair of the Toronto Music Advisory Committee, I have been working with our City of Toronto Music Office to ensure that we are supporting our artists and live music venues in dealing with the profound economic impacts of COVID-19. 

On April 3rd, my office shared a number of updates on work that the City of Toronto Music Office has been doing, as well as support programs offered by all levels of government, arts agencies, and industry partners. Today I’m pleased to share updates on changes that the City and community stakeholders have successfully advocated for in supporting our artists and live music venues. 

Support for artists

Canada Emergency Response Benefit Updates
This morning, the Government of Canada announced that they have expanded eligibility criteria for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to include part-time, contract, and seasonal workers. This now means that: 

  • There is no limit on the amount of royalty payments for past works (i.e., those produced by artists before the crisis) that an artist may get while receiving the CERB
  • Someone receiving the CERB can be paid up to $1,000 a month from other sources of income (artist royalty payments aren’t included in that category, and may be earned on top of the $1,000)
  • People who have run out of EI can switch to the CERB

City Hall Live Online
The City of Toronto is launching a livestreamed series called City Hall Live Online. The series will help raise money for Unison Benevolent Fund, while creating paid opportunities for local musicians during this time of closed venues and postponed festivals.

City Hall Live Online streams every weekday at 12:00 noon, and launches tomorrow, Thursday April 16 with a set by The Weather Station: https://www.facebook.com/City-Hall-Live-106149534367134/

Make sure to tune in each day and check out other great Toronto artists like Digging Roots, Colin MacDonald of The Trews, LAL, Sydanie, Luna Li, Ahmed Moneka, Amanda Martinez, Charlotte Cornfield and more.

From April 20 on, City Hall Live Online will feature two separate livestreamed sets each day (12:00 / 12:30), and overall will feature over 100 Toronto artists while supporting the great work of Unison Benevolent Fund. Click here if you're a Toronto musician interested in applying to be considered for bookings through the City of Toronto's Music Office. 

Additional supports:

  • The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) has launched a $2 million emergency relief fund for member songwriters and composers affected by the COVID crisis.
  • Live Nation has launched Crew Nation, a $10 million fund to support live music crew members. 

Support for live music venues

In recent weeks the City has been pushing for changes to the eligibility criteria for small business loans through the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), in order to allow live music venues to apply. We are happy to share that the eligibility criteria has been changed, and live music venues are now eligible.

I recognize that more needs to be done, and my office will continue to work tirelessly with our Toronto Music Advisory Committee stakeholders and the City of Toronto’s Music Office to ensure that we are supporting our artists and live music venues. We will get through this, together.

To contact the City of Toronto Music Office, click here.


City of Toronto Launches DonateTO: COVID-19 Portal to Support Pandemic Relief Efforts 

Over the past month, Ward 10 residents have reached out to my office to ask how they can help with our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, the City launched the DonateTO online portal, making it easy for businesses and residents to make direct donations of products, services, and funds in support of the City’s relief efforts.

Our ongoing response to the pandemic includes new efforts to meet the needs of the most vulnerable in our community, including isolated seniors and people experiencing homelessness. The City is currently working with a range of community partners to enhance much-needed services and supports. 

Residents and businesses can help by contributing donations of personal protective equipment, non-perishable food, other goods and services, and financial gifts. Residents can also use the DonateTO portal to find out about volunteer opportunities in their community.  Any questions about donations can be directed to donate@toronto.ca

In Toronto, we take care of each other. I want to recognize and thank all the Ward 10 residents who have been helping out their neighbours and our community during this difficult time, and all the frontline staff who are working tirelessly to support our City’s relief efforts. 


Working Together to Ensure Everyone Has Access to Good, Healthy Food

At the City we have been working tirelessly to ensure 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. 

As of today:

  • 102 more eligible residents were registered for food hamper delivery through the City partnership with the Red Cross 
  • 127 more hampers were delivered to isolated individuals; the majority are seniors

In the week since the Food Hamper Program launched on April 7:

  • 488 eligible residents were registered for food hamper delivery
  • 290 food hampers were delivered to isolated individuals
  • 70 is the average age of residents using the food hamper service
  • Each food hamper has a 2-week supply of food
  • Additional deliveries are scheduled for this week
  • More outreach will continue to ensure residents know about this service

Nine Libraries are currently serving as food bank locations across Toronto:

  • 791 families have been served
  • 5 of the 9 locations are in Scarborough due to high needs
  • A 10th library location is being used as a food distribution centre

City of Toronto Supports Launch of Distantly.ca to Help Local Businesses

Yesterday, the City of Toronto highlighted the launch of an online donation platform that allows community members to make direct donations to small businesses to help lessen the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This platform allows customers to continue to support local main street businesses impacted by non-essential closures, such as coffee shops, restaurants and hair salons.

Local businesses can visit distantly.ca to set up their free account today or contact their local Business Improvement Association for assistance. Toronto residents who are able, can make a secure online donation to their favourite local business. These contributions will help to alleviate expenses, such as rent and payroll.

City staff are continuing to develop a range of solutions with partners in the community, to help small businesses while also continuing to advocate for additional support from the provincial and federal governments.

Read more about the launch of distantly.ca here


Safe Streets and Sidewalk Access

Safe streets are an essential part of any city. In Toronto, we know that our streets do not serve all residents equally. Simply put, our streets were designed to move cars. Now, in the 21st century, we need to redesign them to move people, and to move people safely.

We need more aggressive measures to achieve the Vision Zero goal of zero serious injuries and fatalities on our roads. This was true before the COVID-19 pandemic and will be true long after. Our streets must work for all road users. That’s why I’ve championed projects like the Bloor Street bike lanes and the King Street Pilot.

Our response to the COVID-19 pandemic is guided first and foremost by the best advice from our public health experts. At this stage, our public health experts have not recommended closing streets or expanding sidewalks or bike lanes. The recommendations from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health have been consistent: the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is for people to stay at home as much as possible, and to go outside only for essential activities. 

I know that for many Ward 10 residents, this can present a significant challenge. None of the measures implemented to stop the spread of COVID-19 are ideal on their own, but they are necessary for everyone’s health and safety. We are constantly exploring options to mitigate the impacts of this pandemic, and as the local situation evolves and our scientific knowledge of the virus advances, our public health experts are updating their advice. I can guarantee that when they do, I will be quick to promote a redesign of our streets so that they can be used safely and comfortably by all.


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 the impact of COVID-19 on our city’s long-term care homes, especially those dealing with outbreaks. Understandably the public is very concerned, and have requested up-to-date numbers on cases in each long-term care home. Dr. de Villa explained the difficulty in providing this information, as often the definitive cause of death in these settings is not immediately available. Often the complete picture in terms of numbers is not clear until after the outbreak is over. Dr. de Villa shared that while the staff at Toronto Public Health must prioritize providing support to long-term care homes in dealing with and preventing outbreaks, they are also working to better provide timely updates on the number of cases. 

Dr. de Villa reminded us that the tragic outcome we are seeing in our long-term care homes dealing with outbreaks, is why it is critical that we all do our part to ensure that our city’s essential workers can remain healthy and can continue to provide care. 

Read all of Dr. de Villa’s statements here

Update from Fire Chief Matthew Pegg

Today Chief Pegg provided an update regarding inquiries that Toronto Police Services has been receiving from local business owners with questions about securing their properties and storefronts which have been partially or fully closed. Toronto Police Services have been engaging local communities and providing education on how businesses can protect their property while they are away from the property and there is less pedestrian traffic. Chief Pegg encouraged business owners to visit the Toronto Police Website which includes advice for businesses, or to contact their local Crime Prevention Officer

Read all of Chief Pegg’s statements here.


City of Toronto Continuing to Prepare for High Lake Levels — April 15th Updates

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.

  • 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 TRCA has completed installation of new flood mitigation beach curbs east and west of Ward’s dock.
  • 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.
  • At Toronto Island Water Treatment Plant, implementation of two berms, a sump pit, and metre bags is underway to protect this vital public infrastructure.
  • Engineering assessment work on the sea wall at Algonquin Island continues, and will determine either 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 to mitigate flooding in low-lying areas of Toronto Islands Park.
  • Technical mapping of flood impacts for different lake level elevations for the whole of Toronto’s waterfront has been produced by TRCA to inform Emergency Management planning. This information will be posted on a public portal on TRCA’s website in the coming days.

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, and 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 proactive mitigation efforts implemented in 2018, including erosion control projects, shoreline infrastructure, trail and pathway work, and asset infrastructure, effectively reduced the impact of the 2019 flooding. The City also used a dozen industrial water pumps, 100-foot aquadams and more than 1,000 metre bags and 45,000 sandbags to prevent further damage. This year’s construction projects will further enhance flooding mitigation.

As I have said many times before, annual sandbagging cannot be the solution. We are committed to doing everything possible to protect our beloved waterfront and Toronto Islands, and will continue to work closely with senior City staff and the TRCA to implement long-term flood mitigation plans.

The City is working closely with TRCA through a dedicated Emergency Management team to monitor the conditions that contribute to high lake water levels as we move through the spring. I will continue to provide updates as they become 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. 


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

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