COVID-19 Updates and Information - April 17th

Dear friends,

We must use every possible tool at our disposal to combat COVID-19. Yesterday, Toronto Public Health launched a brand new information management system for case and contact tracing. Called the Coronavirus Rapid Entry Case and Contact Management System, this tool will help our Toronto Public Health team access and analyze data in real time, helping to limit transmission. We are the first municipality in Ontario to have created a new information management system in response to COVID-19. 

Case and contact tracing are essential parts of public health work. This data shows where cases are occurring, how the virus spreads, and how long it can incubate. The new system makes it possible for staff to quickly and easily document each case investigation, and share the information with the Ministry of Health. It can also prioritize cases that require urgent follow-up, such as those for healthcare workers, and makes it possible for more City staff to work remotely during this time. 

Previously, the Ontario Government mandated that Toronto Public Health use the provincial information system, which had been in place since 2005. When City staff realized that it didn’t fully meet our data needs during a pandemic, we found a new solution. 

In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, staff from Toronto Public Health and Information Services designed and built our very own new data management system. The City has received provincial approval to implement the new system. It’s been road tested, it’s now been implemented, and it will have a significant impact on our COVID-19 response.

This is the type of innovation we are committed to, in order to ensure that our COVID-19 response is as rapid and comprehensive as possible. The health and safety of all Torontonians is our top priority, and with all of us working together, we will get through this. 


Sincerely, 

Joe


In this Edition

  1. Protecting Residents and Staff in Long-Term Care Homes
  2. Impact of COVID-19 Response on the City’s Finances 
  3. City of Toronto Expands Digital Main Street Program to Support Local Businesses
  4. Updates from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health 
  5. Update on Enbridge Gas Pipeline Proposal on Queens Quay
  6. Gardiner Expressway - Westbound Ramp Changes
  7. DonateTO: COVID-19 Portal to Support Pandemic Relief Efforts
  8. Advice from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Regarding the Use of Masks
  9. Staying Emotionally Healthy and Resilient During the COVID-19 Pandemic
  10. Community and Social Supports for Torontonians 
  11. Supporting Local Businesses
  12. Physical Distancing – We All Need to do Our Part
  13. What is Self-Isolation?
  14. Working Collaboratively for Spadina-Fort York
  15. COVID-19 Information and Resources

Protecting Residents and Staff in Long-Term Care Homes

Despite the best efforts to mitigate outbreaks, COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on those who work and reside in long-term care homes, nursing homes, and other institutions where our most vulnerable receive care.

The City of Toronto operates 10 of the more than 80 long-term care homes in Toronto. Since we first learned of this virus, we have made it a priority to provide guidance and support to both our City-owned long-term care homes, and the rest across our city. To date, there have been outbreaks in three of the 10 homes operated by the City.

In mid-March, the City of Toronto’s Seniors Services and Long-Term Care (SSLTC) Division, which cares for approximately 2,600 residents, began asking staff to select the City as their primary employer in order to limit work locations and, therefore, minimize COVID-19 exposure for both themselves and residents.

On Tuesday, recognizing that this sector-wide challenge required additional measures, the Ontario Government restricted long-term care staff from working in more than one care home, retirement home, or health care setting, effective as of 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, April 22, 2020.

To assist staff in their decision to work for City long-term care homes, SSLTC has offered additional hours (up to full-time hours) for part-time staff, and posted an 18-week schedule. Today, SSLTC staff working in one of the 10 long-term care homes will be asked to confirm their decision to work solely for the City. Staff unable to commit to the City will be placed on an unpaid leave of absence, for the length of the emergency order. Their position of employment remains secure following the end of the pandemic.

SSLTC has identified staffing shortages in all of its departments arising from staff illness, isolation due to international travel, and childcare needs. On March 14, SSLTC stopped all non-essential services, and redirected resources to the essential long-term care operations, maximizing part-time frontline staff and using overtime to meet staffing needs during outbreaks. The City has also hired 50 nursing students and Personal Support Worker-certified individuals to support and backfill positions.

More than 80 City employees from across Divisions have been redeployed to SSLTC, and another 80 will be starting soon, with additional staffing support from the Emergency Operations Centre.

While Toronto Public Health is ensuring 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 need to continue to stay home, in order to protect those who are most vulnerable, as well as the workers who care for them. 


Impact of COVID-19 Response on the City’s Finances 

The City of Toronto has been on the frontlines of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since January, our rapid response team has been working around the clock to stabilize services, limit transmission, and help our most vulnerable.

Over the past month, we opened six free, round-the-clock childcare facilities for essential workers; launched food security programs and mental health supports; and relocated over 1,000 people out of the shelter system and into alternate accommodation in hotel rooms, community centers, and TCHC units, with plans for 1,000 more by the end of April. 

This response has had a significant impact on the City’s finances. Numbers announced today confirm that our COVID-19 response is costing the City close to $65 million each and every week. This cost is a combination of increased spending on front-line services, as well as lost revenue. The most significant element is the estimated $20 million the City is losing each week in TTC revenue, due to decreased ridership. 

Looking forward, much of these costs will continue. Under staff estimates, a three-month lockdown period for the City, combined with a six-month recovery period, would cost as much as $1.5 billion. This is currently our best case scenario; a longer lockdown period 9 months, for example would cost the City close to $3 billion. 

This is the greatest financial challenge the City has ever faced. Reducing services and cutting supports when residents are most in need is not an option. We will need other levels of government to step in with assistance. 


City of Toronto Expands Digital Main Street Program to Support Local Businesses

Our small and independent businesses are vital to the fabric of our city. It’s critical that we support them as much as possible during these difficult and uncertain times. 

Yesterday, the City announced the expansion of the Digital Main Street program to help local businesses develop or expand their online services. 

Digital Main Street was created by the City of Toronto and the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) in 2016 to assist local businesses in growing their operations through technology with easy to use tools and resources. 

Working with TABIA and other community partners, the program has helped small businesses with everything from websites and social media, to launching e-commerce platforms and using data to drive new business opportunities.

Digital Main Street offers a range of ways for businesses to embrace digital transformation virtually, including online tools, connections to trusted digital vendors, structured online learning and a Digital Service Squad, who provide one-on-one assistance to help businesses grow and manage their operations.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, funding for Digital Main Street has been tripled. The budget for the program will go from $240,000 to $825,000 this year. The funding will be used to expand the Digital Service Squad to support Toronto’s main street businesses through one-on-one virtual support.

Since its launch, the Digital Main Street program has engaged more than 6,000 Toronto businesses and provided direct one-on-one support to 2,159 businesses, delivering more than 9,200 hours of support, training and education. Prior to working with the Digital Main Street program, 30 percent of businesses had no online presence. These businesses now do, and an additional 66 percent of businesses expanded their existing online presence.

Local businesses can complete the Digital Main Street onboarding process and receive a free Digital Assessment and recommended to-do list at https://digitalmainstreet.ca/toronto/


Updates from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health 

Our Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa and other City division leaders have been providing 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 updates regarding expanded testing that the Province, which is responsible for testing for COVID-19, is now undertaking in long-term care homes and within the shelter system. She explained that this will most likely mean that we will see an increase in confirmed case numbers. She acknowledged that although an increase in numbers is jarring, it is important to remember that data is a core way that we will address this pandemic, and the more information we have, the better. 

Dr. de Villa also provided guidance on transportation to and from hospital and COVID-19 testing centres for people with COVID-19, COVID-19 symptoms, suspected of having COVID-19, and close contacts of people with COVID-19:

  • If you need urgent medical attention always call 911
  • Do not take public transit 
  • Drive yourself if possible 
  • If you can’t drive yourself, get a ride from a family member or friend
  • If getting a ride is not possible, and you need to take a taxi, notify the taxi company when requesting a driver so that they may take appropriate precautions
  • When you are in the vehicle wear a mask or scarf
  • Open all the windows in the vehicle 
  • Keep a record of the taxi company and vehicle number 

As always, Dr. de Villa reminded us that the most important thing we can all do remains staying home, staying safe, and taking care of each other. 

Read all of Dr. de Villa’s past statements here.


Update on Enbridge Gas Pipeline Proposal on Queens Quay

Our central waterfront, with Queens Quay at its heart, is a special place in our city. After two decades of work, the area was transformed with a renewed connection to the lake, making it more accessible for all. It’s critical that we continue to protect our waterfront spaces.

In February, I wrote a letter to Enbridge Gas, outlining my serious concerns regarding their consideration of Queens Quay as a potential route for a new natural gas pipeline across Toronto’s waterfront, along with other alternatives.

I strongly opposed any plans that would tear up our newly revitalized Queens Quay, disrupting an important streetcar and cycling route, and undoing the careful construction coordination that was orchestrated by Waterfront Toronto to ensure the long-term integrity of this public asset.

After considering feedback from the City, Waterfront Toronto, and extensive community input, I am pleased to report that Enbridge has not moved ahead with the Queens Quay route proposal. Instead, the Lake Shore Boulevard alternative has been selected as the preferred project route.

An Environmental Study with the recommended route will be submitted to the Ontario Energy Board, and, subject to regulatory approval, construction will commence in spring 2021.

I want to thank our residents, businesses, City staff, and Waterfront Toronto for their advocacy to protect our public realm. I will share further project updates as they become available.


Gardiner Expressway — Westbound Ramp Changes

The Gardiner Expressway's westbound Sherbourne/Jarvis off-ramp will reopen on Sunday, April 19, at 12:01 a.m. The off-ramp, closed since October 2019, was replaced as part of Gardiner Expressway Strategic Rehabilitation Plan.

On Saturday, April 18, beginning at 12:01 a.m., crews will work to readjust construction staging to prepare for the reopening of the westbound off-ramp to Lower Sherbourne/Lower Jarvis Streets and the simultaneous closure of the westbound off-ramp to Yonge-Bay-York Streets.

During this time, two lanes will be closed on the southbound Don Valley Parkway (DVP) and westbound Gardiner Expressway starting from just south of the Richmond Street East exit on the DVP to the Jarvis Street on-ramp on the Gardiner Expressway.

On Saturday, April 18, to ensure a safe transition of the construction staging:

  • Both westbound off-ramps (Lower Sherbourne/Jarvis and Yonge-Bay-York) will be fully closed
  • Two lanes will be closed on the southbound Don Valley Parkway (DVP) and westbound Gardiner Expressway starting from just south of the Richmond Street East exit on the DVP to the Jarvis Street on-ramp on the Gardiner Expressway
  • The on-ramp to the westbound Gardiner Expressway from Lake Shore Boulevard East near Logan Avenue will be closed
  • The westbound Jarvis Street on-ramp will be the first opportunity for traffic on Lake Shore Boulevard East to access the westbound Gardiner Expressway

Click here for more information.


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. This week, 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 homelesness. 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. 


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.


Supporting Local Businesses

Our small and independent businesses are vital to the fabric of our city, and it’s critical that we support them as much as possible during these difficult and uncertain times. Here are some ways we can all do our part:

  • Shop local: although businesses have had to close their doors to the public to allow for physical distancing, many are still offering takeout and delivery options. Many local fitness studios and gyms are offering online classes. Some businesses that provide in-person services are offering pre-booking and gift cards for future use. Contact your favourite local business to see how you can support them during this challenging time. 
  • Donate through distantly.ca: the City of Toronto is highlighting 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. Visit distantly.ca to learn more and donate. 
  • Participate in #TakeOutDay: a Canada-wide campaign, #TakeOutDay is now every Wednesday as a show of support for our favourite local restaurants. Restaurants are doing their part by staying open for takeout. Now it's your turn to take an active part in support of an industry that employs millions of people across our country. Let's make Wednesdays #TakeoutDay. Learn more at canadatakeout.com

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