COVID-19 Updates and Information - April 24th
This pandemic has forever changed us. It’s exposed the cracks in our health care system, our services, and how we treat the most vulnerable. It’s also shown our compassion, courage, and resiliency. Let’s use these lessons as we work together to face our next big challenge: recovery.
As I shared earlier this week, although 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. We may have turned a corner, but we are not out of the woods. We will continue to be at high risk for future COVID-19 outbreaks, and overwhelming our healthcare system would still be disastrous.
As we start thinking about what recovery might look like, we must do so through a public health lens. A key part of any recovery will be investing in cities. Read my recent op-ed in The Globe and Mail on how we can use this crisis as a turning point to address some of Toronto’s biggest challenges.
I’ve included more information on the City’s recovery planning below, and how we are working to ensure that we come out of this stronger than ever.
For those celebrating the holy month of Ramadan, I wish that happiness, peace, and joy find you. Ramadan Mubarak.
In this Edition
- Planning for the Next Phase in our COVID-19 Response
- New Developments in our Food Security Strategy
- City of Toronto COVID-19 Resource Map
- Updates from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health
- Flood Mitigation and Preparing for High Lake Levels
- Advancing the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal Revitalization
- Targeted Spring Cleanup Across the City Begins
- City Hall Live Online
- DonateTO: COVID-19 Portal to Support Pandemic Relief Efforts
- Join the Garment District Neighbourhood Association and Support COVID-19 Charities
- Advice from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Regarding the Use of Masks
- Staying Emotionally Healthy and Resilient During the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Community and Social Supports for Torontonians
- Supporting Local Businesses
- Physical Distancing – We All Need to do Our Part
- What is Self-Isolation?
- Working Collaboratively for Spadina-Fort York
- COVID-19 Information and Resources
Planning for the Next Phase in our COVID-19 Response
It was less than three months ago that the first case of travel-related COVID-19 was detected in Toronto. Even before the case was identified, Toronto’s response, led by our Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa and Toronto Public Health, was underway. Our initial response was swift, persistent, and effective, delaying community spread.
In mid-March, Toronto moved into the second phase of the COVID-19 response: Mitigation. On the advice of our public health experts, the City of Toronto declared an emergency and implemented the boldest measures we have at our disposal to slow community spread of the virus, including physical distancing. I know that it has been a tremendously challenging time for everyone -- most of all for our front-line workers, who continue to go out every day to keep us safe and healthy, to keep trucks and buses moving, and to run grocery stores and pharmacies.
Earlier this week, Dr. de Villa shared the latest modelling from Toronto Public Health. This data showed that two different pandemics are occurring in our city, which are on different trajectories. For the general population, physical distancing efforts have been largely successful at flattening the curve of community transmission. Our data indicates that we are near the peak rate of increase, and can hope to reach a point shortly where we see fewer new cases each day.
The pandemic trend in congregate living sites is different. It is becoming increasingly clear that COVID-19 preys on poverty.
Transmission has surged in areas where physical distancing is nearly impossible, and these sites have become ground zero for the fight against COVID-19. Staff and residents in long term care and retirement homes, shelters, group homes, and supportive housing buildings are at high risk of infection, and fatalities – particularly in long term care homes – continue to rise. These sites are also home to some of our most vulnerable: the frail and elderly, people with cognitive and developmental disabilities, people experiencing homelessness, and mental health or addiction challenges.
In order to continue to mitigate transmission in the general community, and to help contain outbreaks in congregate living sites, we must continue to physically distance ourselves and stay home. We may have turned a corner, but we are not out of the woods. We will continue to be at high risk for future COVID-19 outbreaks, and overwhelming our healthcare system would still be disastrous.
At the same time, we need to start planning for the next phase of our COVID response: Recovery. I want to be clear that recovery will not happen all at once. Most of our population still has no immunity to the virus, and a full return to normal life will not be feasible until there is a vaccine for COVID-19. In the meantime, though, we must consider which activities and operations may slowly resume, and which ones we need to continue to delay. Preparing for the Recovery phase means, first and foremost, looking at the challenge through a public health lens.
A new separate recovery planning team has been established within Toronto Public Health. Dr. David Mowat, one of Canada’s leading public health professionals, has joined Toronto Public Health on an interim full-time basis to oversee this recovery planning team by providing public health guidance and direction to inform our recovery. Over the course of his career, Dr. Mowat has served as the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario, the Deputy Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, and the Medical Officer of Health for Peel Region. Our Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa will continue to oversee all aspects of Toronto Public Health's response, along with Chief Matthew Pegg who is responsible for the City of Toronto's operational response.
Dr. Mowat’s leadership will directly inform the recovery of the entire City of Toronto. The City's recovery team, operating within the City Manager's office, will be led by Saad Rafi, who was previously the CEO of the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Parapan Am Games and served for 24 years in the Ontario Public Service, in a number of Deputy Minister roles. Based on public health advice from Dr. Mowat, Mr. Rafi’s team will determine when and how to resume city operations, while leading engagement with external stakeholders across sectors.
During the Recovery stage, public health data and advice will inform when city services resume operations, and what rules are in place in order to contain any future outbreaks and keep all of us safe.
These decisions range from when to open our parks and libraries, to how to practice safe distancing on the TTC, to ensuring protection for seniors and people experiencing homelessness. The recovery planning team will have to closely consider what the "new normal" needs to be in every aspect of what we do in order to maintain control over the virus and protect our health. Even the design and use of our streets, sidewalks, and bike lanes will have to be reconsidered, in order to facilitate safe physical distancing for pedestrians, cyclists, and other road users.
I know that the past few months have not been easy. I understand that many in our community want to see a return to our lives before the pandemic. But if we stop physical distancing and open the city right away, we’ll squander all our efforts and sacrifices of the past five weeks.
Now is not the time to ease up. It is the time to stay vigilant, stay committed, and stay home -- and continue to reduce transmission and save lives.
The dedication and sacrifice of each and every one of you has gotten us to where we are today. Let’s not waste it.
New Developments in our Food Security Strategy
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Toronto’s Food Access Coordination Group has been hard at work on a Food Security Strategy. Today, I wanted to share additional updates on our work thus far.
To expand access to food banks, the City has added another two pop up locations in Toronto Public Library branches, for a total of 11. The tenth location is at the Jane and Dundas branch, and the eleventh location is at Runnymede and Bloor, beginning today. A total of 5,685 people (or 2,259 households) have been served through these locations to date.
Our Food Hamper delivery program in partnership with the Red Cross has delivered 754 hampers of free groceries to low-income seniors and others in need since it launched on April 7. Staff delivering the hampers noticed that many senior residents were also in need of support and companionship. Beginning today, the Red Cross will also be offering psychological support from their Safety and Wellbeing Team to all senior recipients of the program, through information flyers in each hamper. Seniors and others who are self-isolating and need assistance getting food can call 1-833-204-9952 to request this service.
The next stage of our Food Security Plan includes launching a system for preparation and delivery of cooked meals, which will go to community agencies providing direct support to residents. In partnership with United Way, the Hawthorne Training kitchen has begun preparing 3,000 meals per week, which will be delivered to community agencies through Second Harvest. City staff are working to scale up this delivery in response to need.
In addition, our partnership with Food for Kids has registered over 35,000 student families across the city for $50 grocery gift cards. An additional 700 more cards are being provided to newcomer families in need through community agencies. The City has also leveraged over $200,000 in donations to more than 65 community organizations and local partners, and facilitated the donations of over 10,000 hygiene kits, 800 cases of pastries, and 200,000 cans of water to vulnerable Torontonians.
Residents in need can register for food programs and get up-to-date information by calling 211 directly, or visiting 211toronto.ca where food listings are updated daily.
While staff at the City and our community partners have accomplished a great deal in a short period of time, we know that more still needs to be done. No one in our city should face hunger or food insecurity. I will continue to work with our local partners to address the needs of our most vulnerable during this difficult time.
City of Toronto COVID-19 Resource Map
The City of Toronto has created a COVID-19 Essential Service Mapping Tool.
This tool has up-to-date service listings across Toronto, including food banks, meal delivery programs, community health services and more. Additional layers and details are being updated daily by 211 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 stressed the importance of keeping up with the public health measures that we have all been doing — staying home, ensuring physical distancing if we do have to go out, and washing our hands frequently. Everything that we have been doing is working, but we need to keep going. We know that with the weather getting nicer, and the weekend approaching, it is difficult to stay home, but your actions will help save lives and reach the end of this period more quickly. Dr. de Villa also thanked all Torontonians for everything you are doing to protect our city.
Read all of Dr. de Villa’s past statements here.
Flood Mitigation and Preparing for High Lake Levels
This week, Chief Pegg from the City's Office of Emergency Management (OEM) provided an update on the Office’s work monitoring Lake Ontario levels and preparation for the 2020 flood season.
The OEM is working with City divisions including Parks, Forestry and Recreation, Toronto Fire, Police and Paramedics, Toronto Water, and Strategic Communications, along with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, and my office, on this file.
Formal Lake Ontario water level triggers have been established, and plans are in place for if the levels rise above 75.5 metres. If this occurs, emergency teams will immediately work to assess impacts and implement flood mitigation plans.
As of April 23, authorities are now forecasting lower levels than we experienced in 2017 and 2019, based on observed conditions. Although Lake Ontario levels are seasonally high, spring precipitation and snowmelt conditions are lowering lake level projections for the coming weeks.
The City will continue to work on flood mitigation projects, including on Toronto Islands and Bluffer's Park. This work will continue alongside the Emergency Operation Centre's ongoing work on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- 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. The road bed raising work has been completed, and asphalting of the new surfaces is scheduled to begin shortly.
- 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 has been completed. TRCA has recommended implementation of a 1m berm on the sea wall, along the edge of Seneca Avenue. Design work is underway, and construction is scheduled to be completed in June. In the meantime, previously installed metre-bags and new sandbagging will provide protection from wave action.
- 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.
Advancing the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal Revitalization
The Jack Layton Ferry Terminal is the gateway to Toronto Island Park, one of our city's most treasured destinations, with more than a million visits every year. On busy days in the summer, up to 20,000 people ride the ferry in a single day. However, it has long been recognized that the ferry terminal isn't reaching its potential as a welcoming and functional transportation gateway.
Today, the Board of CreateTO approved recommendations to move ahead with negotiations on a new long-term lease for the City-owned property at 11 Bay Street (currently the site of the Harbour Castle Hotel Convention Centre). The negotiations include a proposal to revitalize the hotel convention centre and construct a new office tower, with revenues being directed toward implementing the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal revitalization.
As I wrote in my letter to the CreateTO Board, the recommended lease negotiation represents an opportunity to continue the city-building work of Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell and the community to revitalize the Ferry Terminal into a functional gateway to the Islands, an attractive public place befitting how special and important our waterfront is for all Torontonians, and an iconic landmark, raising Toronto's tourism profile and promoting City-wide economic development.
Today's approval to proceed with negotiations is a first step in a process that will include several stages of public engagement. The proposed redevelopment of the convention centre and new office tower will be subject to a full City review process under City Planning, and will include required public meetings and City Council approval. Lease agreement terms will be brought back to the Board of CreateTO, and then to City Council for final approval.
I will provide updates on this important infrastructure project as they become available.
Targeted Spring Cleanup Across the City Begins
The City of Toronto is doing targeted spring cleanups across the city over the next few weeks.
Spring cleanup activities include:
• Illegal dumping cleanup
• Boulevard and laneway cleaning
• Litter and debris removal in parks
• Fence-line litter clearing
• Street sweeping to clean up dirt and debris from Toronto’s streets.
Unfortunately, the annual Clean Toronto Together community cleanup campaign was cancelled this year due to COVID-19.
During the pandemic, the City has been working hard to keep public spaces clean and safe. Staff are out each day picking up litter, emptying street and park waste bins, and sweeping streets.
Litter can have harmful effects on the environment and pose risks to both animals and people. There has been an increase in the littering of personal protective equipment, such as masks and gloves, in Toronto’s public spaces. The public can do their part to help keep Toronto clean and safe by properly disposing of items in available bins and not littering on the ground. The public can also report litter hotspots by calling 311.
If residents find personal protective equipment or other trash discarded on their property, they are advised to use gloves to pick it up and to discard it in the garbage, along with the gloves, and then thoroughly wash their hands.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com
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
Working Collaboratively for Spadina-Fort York
The rapidly-evolving COVID-19 response requires all levels of government to work closely together.
I am in regular contact with my Provincial and Federal counterparts regarding the evolving COVID-19 response and how to best support Spadina-Fort York residents, businesses, institutions, and organizations.
Please visit their websites for more information on the Provincial and Federal responses:
COVID-19 Information and Resources
Now is not the time for panic or misinformation. Now is the time to stay informed through credible sources, and to follow the advice of our public health professionals. Together we can limit the spread of COVID-19.
Please visit the Toronto Public Health COVID-19 website for the up-to-date information and resources: toronto.ca/covid-19
Government COVID-19 websites
Call if you develop symptoms.
Toronto Public Health Hotline
8:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Call if you have questions about COVID-19.
Outside City limits: 416-392-2489
Call if you have questions about City services.