COVID-19 Updates and Information - April 20th

Dear friends,

All of the efforts and sacrifices we have made over the last few weeks are having an impact. By continuing to follow public health guidelines — staying home, ensuring physical distancing, and practicing proper hygiene — we are reducing community transmission. But, even though we are seeing results, now is not the time to slow down. 

This pandemic is having a devastating impact on our city’s most vulnerable. While we have limited the spread of COVID-19 overall, it has intensified in congregate living sites — long-term care homes, shelters, and group homes.

This is why we can’t slow down now. It is up to every level of government, and every individual, to do all we can to defeat this virus. It is the time to stay vigilant, stay committed, and stay home, so that we can continue to reduce transmission and save lives. 


Sincerely, 

Joe


In this Edition

  1. The Impacts of COVID-19 on Our Most Vulnerable
  2. City of Toronto COVID-19 Enforcement Updates
  3. Updates from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health and the Head of the Office of Emergency Management 
  4. City Hall Live Online
  5. DonateTO: COVID-19 Portal to Support Pandemic Relief Efforts
  6. Advice from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Regarding the Use of Masks
  7. Staying Emotionally Healthy and Resilient During the COVID-19 Pandemic
  8. Community and Social Supports for Torontonians 
  9. Supporting Local Businesses
  10. Physical Distancing – We All Need to do Our Part
  11. What is Self-Isolation?
  12. Working Collaboratively for Spadina-Fort York
  13. COVID-19 Information and Resources

The Impacts of COVID-19 on Our Most Vulnerable

We’re all in this together. I’ve said it countless times over the past few weeks. And while we do still need to all work together to defeat COVID-19, it’s increasingly clear that when it comes to this pandemic, not everyone is equal. 

As Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health noted, our public health data shows a story of two different trends for the spread of COVID-19 in our City. One trend applies to the general population, while the other is for staff and residents in our congregate living sites: long-term care and retirement homes, shelters, supportive housing, and group homes. 

Across the general population, the strong physical distancing measures that the City has put in place are helping to flatten the curve and reduce the spread of the virus. This means what we’re doing is working — and we need to keep it up. But in congregate living sites, where many of our most vulnerable reside, cases and fatalities are continuing to rise. 

The reality is that COVID-19 preys on poverty. The physical distancing measures that have helped mitigate transmission in our community aren’t an option for everyone. You can’t stay home, if you don’t have one, and our shelter system wasn’t designed for the current reality. In long-term care homes, where residents may share rooms and other areas, outbreaks have spread rapidly. Front-line workers, including personal support workers, health care aides, and shelter staff, continue to face higher risks than those that can comfortably work from home. The truth is that the impacts of this pandemic are dramatically different, depending on your housing, income, and access to support. 

I’m deeply concerned about the devastating impact of COVID-19 that we are seeing among our most vulnerable residents. As Dr. de Villa noted, City staff have been working with long-term care and retirement homes to implement infection prevention and control measures, including twice-a-day screening of symptoms for staff and residents; enhanced cleaning of surfaces; appropriate use of protective equipment; and cancellation of visitors and group activities. 

We’re pushing the Province to implement proactive testing for all staff and residents in shelters and long-term care homes. We’re also advocating to other levels of government for adequate personal protective equipment for all frontline workers in social and community service settings. 

In the shelter system, clients with symptoms have been relocated to the City’s Isolation Facility for testing, and to our Recovery Centre where they can receive medical care and safely recover. At the same time, we are continuing to transition clients out of shelters and into hotel rooms, community centres, and housing units, in order to facilitate physical distancing. By the end of April, we aim to have relocated 2,000 clients. I’ve also asked the Province to implement a regional plan for shelters and recovery sites, and help us tackle homelessness by investing in supportive housing. 

All of this is a start, but it’s not enough. We must do more, not only to protect people in poverty from COVID-19 now, but to tackle the root causes of inequity that this pandemic has exposed. We can’t do this alone — we need all levels of government on board. But we can’t ignore just how connected access to safe, affordable housing is for the health of all our residents, our community and our City as a whole.


City of Toronto COVID-19 Enforcement Updates

The City’s coordinated COVID-19 Enforcement Team, made up of staff from Municipal Licensing & Standards, Parks, Forestry & Recreation, Toronto Public Health, Toronto Building, and Toronto Police Service, was out all weekend ensuring people and businesses across the city are following public health direction and provincial orders. The City received 25 complaints on Saturday related to non-essential businesses remaining open in contravention of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. Since March 24, Municipal Licensing & Standards and Toronto Public Health have issued 44 tickets and 124 notices to non-essential businesses.

Unfortunately, issues remain with people using outdoor amenities or not practicing physical distancing in parks. Bylaw and police officers issued 28 tickets on Saturday – bringing the total number of tickets issued since April 3rd to 401. 

We know that it is difficult to stay home, especially now that the weather is warming up, and these measures have been in place for weeks. It is understandable that people are getting restless. But we can’t slow down now. It is critical that we continue to spread the message of the importance of staying home. This is about saving lives, and together we will get through this.


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 and other City division leaders have been providing daily updates on the current situation and response to COVID-19 in Toronto. You can view the daily press conferences live at 3:45pm, and access past updates here

Update from Dr. Eileen de Villa

Today Dr. de Villa provided an update on COVID-19 data trends we are seeing in our city. Given the recent provincial changes to testing guidelines including in our long-term care homes, we will see the number of cases go up in the coming weeks as more people are tested. While this may be unsettling, it is not unexpected. More aggressive testing is critical, particularly in long-term care homes as it will help us to identify infections sooner and support our long-term care homes to implement stringent outbreak control measures faster. 

Dr. de Villa shared that there are two distinct outbreaks within our city - one in our broader community and the other in congregate settings, particularly in long-term care. These are distinct because they occur among two different populations with different risk factors for acquiring infection and we see the infections leading to different outcomes in these two settings.  

Looking at the data, we can see that local hospitalizations for COVID-19 have been driven by cases arising in our broader community. While deaths in our community have been driven by the COVID-19 outbreaks we are experiencing in our long-term care homes. In addition, the actions we must take to protect people in these two settings are also different:  

  • In our broader community, the data collected informs physical distancing measures and other public health actions.
  • In long-term care homes and other settings where people are in close proximity to each other, data informs specialized infection, prevention and control measures and more outbreak control measures such as the comprehensive long-term care action plan that was recently released by the province. 

The final update regarding data that Dr. de Villa shared was related to data models. Data models are used to help us gain a better understanding of where we are on the curve of pandemic activity and where we might be going next. Data modeling shows us that we are currently in the peak period for our reported cases. The COVID-19 case doubling rate, which captures the number of days for our case counts in Toronto which has slowed over the past two weeks. This tells us that our pandemic activity is slowing down and this is good news. 

The province has increased testing capacity and will be testing more people, especially in long-term care settings. So we can expect to see more positive COVID-19 cases. It is important to understand how quickly we think this virus is spreading and supports better implementation of virus control measures. However, with this change in testing, it is difficult to project how many more cases we will be seeing.

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

Update from Fire Chief Matthew Pegg

In his update on the City’s Emergency Operations Centre, Chief Pegg shared that Personal Protective Equipment Levels (PPE) remain stable, and that their team is continuing to work hard on sourcing PPE on a go forward basis. 

Chief Pegg also shared that The Works, the City of Toronto operated harm reduction program at 277 Victoria Street, has reopened their supervised consumption services. The reopening of this life-saving health service was prioritized and coordinated with Toronto Public Health in order to ensure safe operations for both clients and staff. Prioritizing the continued operation of this site is a part of the City’s work to ensure that the most vulnerable are being cared for in our COVID-19 response. 

Read all of Chief Pegg’s statements here.


City Hall Live Online

To help support Toronto artists and lift the spirits of residents during this outbreak, the City of Toronto, in partnership with Unison Benevolent Fund, has moved its City Hall Live performance program online.

Since 2016, local artists have performed in Nathan Phillips Square as part of City Hall Live’s music series to provide paid performance opportunities for Toronto musicians across all genres. To date, City Hall Live has showcased more than 150 local artists, working with numerous Toronto music organizations, festivals, and events.

Under the necessary restrictions in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19, artists are taking their shows online. The series will run Monday through Friday, from 12 noon to 1 p.m., with two shows per day until the end of June. More than 100 local artists will be directly compensated for 30-minute performances from their homes, livestreamed via Facebook Live at facebook.com/City-Hall-Live-106149534367134.

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a significant economic impact on Toronto residents and businesses, including the music community, in particular small venues and individual musicians. During each performance, viewers can choose to make a donation, 100 percent of which will support Unison's work to help musicians and music industry workers.


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