COVID-19 Updates and Information - April 22nd

Dear friends,

I know the last few weeks have been challenging, but we are successfully flattening the curve, and we need to keep going. 

Yesterday, our Medical Officer of Health Dr. de Villa shared that the number of COVID-19 cases to date across the country, in Ontario, and locally in Toronto, is lower than originally forecasted. This is due in part to the strong public health measures that were put in place early in the outbreak, and the fact that our community is taking these measures seriously. 

I want to thank everyone who has been staying home, staying informed, and encouraging others to do so as well. At the City we are doing everything we possibly can to mitigate the spread and impact of this virus, and to ensure that we come out of this stronger than ever. But we can’t do that without help from each and every one of you. 

As I shared earlier this week, while it is good news that we are flattening the curve within the general population, we are seeing a different story for staff and residents in our congregate living sites: long-term care and retirement homes, shelters, supportive housing, and group homes. This is why we need to keep up with the public health measures that we have been following, not only to protect ourselves, but to protect those most vulnerable. 

Let’s all continue to work together and do our part. I know we will get through this. 


Sincerely, 

Joe


In this Edition

  1. Toronto Taking the Lead on Collection of Race-Based Data for COVID-19
  2. BusinessTO Support Centre to Help Support Toronto Businesses 
  3. Ensuring Physical Distancing During Cherry Blossom Season 
  4. Updates from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health and the Head of the Office of Emergency Management 
  5. City Hall Live Online
  6. DonateTO: COVID-19 Portal to Support Pandemic Relief Efforts
  7. Join the Garment District Neighbourhood Association and Support COVID-19 Charities
  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

Toronto Taking the Lead on Collection of Race-Based Data for COVID-19

It is essential that we have access to comprehensive public health data in order to fully understand and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. We should be collecting as much information about COVID-19 as possible, including disaggregated race-based data, so we can better understand how this virus impacts different groups of people.

As Chair of the Toronto Board of Health, this morning I sent a letter to Board Members regarding how Toronto Public Health is responding to the Ontario Government’s decision not to collect data on race or ethnicity in relation to transmission of COVID-19. The province has jurisdiction over COVID-19 testing, but has indicated that tracking data based on race or ethnicity is not a current priority. 

I believe this is the wrong approach. We know that the biggest indicator of one’s health status is their postal code — not because of where we live, but because of what it can say about who we are. We also know that in Toronto, marginalized groups, including the elderly and people experiencing homelessness, are at an increased risk for COVID-19. 

In other countries, we are increasingly seeing disproportionate impacts of this pandemic on racialized and ethnic groups, including African Americans and Latinx communities in the United States. Access to comprehensive ethno-racial data in Ontario is crucial in order for us to understand COVID-19 and its connection to systemic inequities. 

In response to this absence, Toronto Public Health is partnering with hospitals and other organizations to collect local race-based data and additional information to inform our response. Toronto Public Health is also conducting analysis linking home addresses of COVID-19 cases and area-based estimates of sociodemographic characteristics, in order to examine connections between COVID-19 impacts and socio-demographic groups in Toronto. We are also tracking occupation-based data, in order to understand if some workers and industries are at greater risk of the virus. 

Information is power — especially when it comes to tracking infectious diseases. In addition to Toronto Public Health’s own work,  I will continue to advocate that the Province urgently find a way to provide more detailed data on COVID-19 tests and cases to Toronto Public Health and other local health units. We need all the information we can get to work together and stop the spread of COVID-19. 


City of Toronto Launches BusinessTO Support Centre to Help Support Toronto Businesses 

Today the City of Toronto launched the BusinessTO Support Centre to provide virtual one-on-one support to Toronto businesses during this unprecedented time. 

The City's new BusinessTO Support Centre will be available for all sectors, including not-for-profit, creative/cultural, manufacturing, technology, retail, hospitality, tourism, main street businesses and consulting services.

The centre will help businesses apply for government support programs such as:

  • Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy Program
  • Canada’s Work-Sharing Program
  • Canada’s Emergency Business Account Program

In addition to this virtual one-on-one support, the BusinessTO Support Centre will offer a weekly webinar series to provide information about these available government programs and the requirements to apply.

The centre will also inform businesses about how they can support the City's COVID-19 response and provide general business support and information about other City programs.

The BusinessTO Support Centre is available at https://www.toronto.ca/covid19BusinessTO

Sign up to schedule a conversation with a business advisor by video or phone, and a business advisor will be in contact within 24 hours.


Ensuring Physical Distancing During Cherry Blossom Season

Cherry blossoms mark the beginning of spring, and every year thousands of people flock to parks across the city to view and take photos of the blossoms. Called sakura in Japan, these beautiful trees bloom at the end of April to early May. 

Cherry trees also have a historical significance for Toronto. In 1959, the Japanese ambassador to Canada presented 2,000 trees to the people of Toronto on behalf of the people of Tokyo. The trees were planted in appreciation of Toronto becoming home to relocated Japanese-Canadians following the Second World War.

The most well known location for cherry blossoms in Toronto is High Park, but we also have cherry trees at parks across the city, including at Trinity Bellwoods Park. We know that every year, many people look forward to spending time in parks appreciating the cherry blossoms, but this year we must take special precautions to ensure physical distancing. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, High Park will be closed during the pre-bloom and peak bloom period of the cherry blossom trees, as maintaining proper physical distancing will not be possible. The park closure dates are weather-dependent and will be announced when the bloom period is determined. High Park is already closed to vehicle traffic. 

The City will also be implementing physical distancing measures at Trinity Bellwoods Park that will include: 

  • Closing off the south end of the park where the trees are located
  • Additional signage 
  • Increased bylaw officer patrols to promote physical distancing and inform residents of the closure of the cherry tree area

The City is working on a virtual walk-through of the blossoming trees. Residents will be able to experience this year's cherry blossom season through multiple livestream events and videos.

As we have already had to do with many of our traditions and routines, we encourage everyone to appreciate the cherry blossoms online this year. The more we stick to public health guidelines, the sooner we will be able to enjoy our much loved parks again. 


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 spoke about the importance of keeping up with the public health measures that are in place, even though we are beginning to see positive results from all of our efforts over the past number of weeks. She reminded us that it is our collective responsibility to protect our city, and our essential workers who make sure we are safe. When the time is right, we will be able to begin easing back public health measures, but that time is not now. We all want to know when that time will be, but the more we work together, the sooner we can make it happen. 

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

Update from Fire Chief Matthew Pegg

Today Chief Pegg announced that the Emergency Operations Centre has been working closely with Technology Services on the development of a comprehensive, city-wide personal protective equipment (PPE) management portal and dashboard to support the City’s response to COVID-19. It is expected that this new tool will be formally launched later this week. 

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. 


Join the Garment District Neighbourhood Association and Support COVID-19 Charities

The Garment District Neighbourhood Association (GDNA) is offering extended memberships for residents of the neighbourhood (Queen to King, Bathurst to Spadina) who donate $25 to a registered Canadian charity that provides goods or services towards COVID-19 response efforts. Click here to learn more, or contact membership@gdnatoronto.org 


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