COVID-19 Updates and Information - April 29th

Dear friends,

At the City we are continuing to work non-stop on our pandemic response and recovery. While you have been doing your part by staying home and stopping the spread of this virus, we have been working to ensure that our city comes out of this stronger than ever. 

Below you will find updates on how we are supporting our most vulnerable communities right now, and how we are planning for long-term recovery. Tomorrow, City Council will meet virtually so that we can advance critical response items, including the Toronto Modular Housing Initiative to help people transition out of homelessess. 

Please do not hesitate to reach out to my office should you have any questions on the information here or on the City’s pandemic response. My team and I are working seven days a week to ensure that we are doing everything we can to support our community, and end this pandemic as quickly as possible. 


Sincerely, 

Joe


In this Edition

  1. New Housing Initiatives to Help People Transition out of Homelessness
  2. Expanding Internet Access to Those in Need
  3. City of Toronto Prepared for Safe Distribution of Ontario Works Cheques
  4. Virtual Cherry Blossom Bloom to Ensure Physical Distancing 
  5. Updates from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health and the Head of the Office of Emergency Management 
  6. Toronto COVID-19 Resource Map
  7. City Hall Live Online
  8. DonateTO: COVID-19 Portal to Support Pandemic Relief Efforts
  9. Advice from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Regarding the Use of Masks
  10. Staying Emotionally Healthy and Resilient During the COVID-19 Pandemic
  11. Community and Social Supports for Torontonians 
  12. Supporting Local Businesses
  13. Physical Distancing – We All Need to do Our Part
  14. What is Self-Isolation?
  15. Working Collaboratively for Spadina-Fort York
  16. COVID-19 Information and Resources

New Housing Initiatives to Help People Transition out of Homelessness

We need a range of tools and housing options in order to truly tackle the homelessness crisis in our city. That’s why we need to move forward with plans to create new modular housing units that can be built rapidly to provide supportive housing to those in need. 

Modular housing refers to housing units that are pre-fabricated, so they can be assembled quickly and relocated to different areas. 

This week, City staff are putting forward a proposal to create 110 new modular rental units by September, followed by another 140 units next year. These units would help people transition from homelessness into secure housing, along with the provision of support services for individuals experiencing mental health and addictions challenges. The City plans to partner with non-profit housing providers to operate the first phase of the units. 

Modular housing has proven successful in other cities, especially in Vancouver, which has used modular units to expand access to affordable housing.

To help meet immediate needs for shelter, the City is also launching a new program to provide temporary, interim housing to people who currently sleep in encampments and parks outdoors. 

Through the Streets to Homes Satellite Program, these clients will be provided with immediate access ​to a furnished and self-contained unit at no cost, 24/7 supports, and case management to develop a plan to secure long-term housing and address immediate needs. ​For this program, the City is leasing a currently-vacant apartment building, with 125 housing units and two offices for Streets to Homes program staff. 

The above initiatives are examples of the multi-faceted approach required in order to end homelessness and expand access to affordable housing in our city. 


Expanding Internet Access to Those in Need

During these difficult times, technology and the internet have become especially important. For many of us, it’s how we are able to work, how our kids are keeping up with school and homework, how we access reliable information, and how we can connect with loved ones — all while staying home. But for Torontonians without internet access, the isolation, disconnection and inability to access information is harder than ever.

That’s why the City of Toronto has announced our comprehensive plan to ensure those who need access to the internet — whether to connect with loved ones, access the news, or make appointments and access benefits — have it. 

The City has partnered with technology and telecommunications companies to provide free temporary internet access for many of our vulnerable residents, including in the following locations: 

Long-Term Care Homes

As visits from family and friends are currently suspended to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care homes, many residents are not able to connect with their loved ones in person. Wi-Fi hotspots in the homes are making it possible for seniors to stay connected. 

All of the 10 City-operated long term care homes in Toronto now have 24/7 Wi-Fi access throughout the buildings. This includes the following homes: Bendale Acres, Carefree Lodge, Castleview Wychwood Towers, Cummer Lodge, Fudger House, Kipling Acres, Lakeshore Lodge, Seven Oaks, True Davidson Acres and Wesburn Manor. Previously, free Wi-Fi was only available in common areas.

Shelter Sites

To facilitate physical distancing within the shelter system, the City has opened up new temporary sites. Now, free public Wi-Fi has been made available at five temporary shelter locations, and access to Wi-Fi has been expanded to entire buildings in four permanent shelter locations, for a three-month period (there is free public wifi currently in common areas of all permanent shelter locations).

With the closure of most public Wi-Fi locations, including libraries, malls, and restaurants, many vulnerable people no longer have access to the vital supports they need. The delivery of Wi-Fi at shelter sites will help to bridge this gap during this period. 

High-Rise Access in Low-Income Neighbourhoods 

A new partnership between the City and telecommunications companies will connect 25 large residential apartment buildings in low-income neighbourhoods with temporary free internet access for one year, with the first buildings starting in early May.

Buildings will be identified for this service based on the size and location of the building, proportion of low-income residents, and residents without internet access and technology feasibility. Technical solutions and signal strength may vary throughout each building. While the aim of the program is to provide enough coverage and strength to read news, submit online forms, and use messenger apps, the signal strength will be limited and not enable streaming of most media or games. 

Cell Phones for Vulnerable Torontonians

The City of Toronto has partnered with a range of organizations, including United Way Greater Toronto, to provide free cell phones and data plans through Telus Mobility for vulnerable Torontonians. The phones and plans are making it possible for residents experiencing challenges to stay connected to community-based social service and mental health providers, when they cannot meet in person. These resources were distributed through FOCUS Toronto service agencies and the Toronto Mental Health Support Plan to program clients, based on assessment of need. 

I believe that everyone has a right to be connected to information, supports, and their loved ones, and I will continue to advocate to increase internet access for everyone in our city. 


City of Toronto Prepared for Safe Distribution of Ontario Works Cheques

For the second month in a row, City staff have been refining a plan to reduce in-person contact for Ontario Works cheque distribution. Thanks to their hard work and dedication, the number of cheques to be picked up in person this week is approx. 16 — down from 700 last month.

Ontario Works cheque distribution began today and goes through Friday, while ODSP distribution starts tomorrow, with City staff providing support to the Province. 

In this pandemic, we must work non-stop to ensure the most vulnerable members of our community are supported. All services and supports have to be rapidly reorganized for everyone’s safety.

More information is available on the City’s website here


Virtual Cherry Blossom Bloom to Ensure Physical Distancing 

Based on the recommendations of the Medical Officer of Health, the City is taking action to prevent crowding and gathering during the cherry blossom season. 

With the peak bloom period about to begin, the City of Toronto is closing High Park starting tomorrow, April 30. During the park closure, residents will be able to enjoy the cherry blossom bloom virtually. The cherry blossom area at Trinity Bellwoods Park is now enclosed by fencing, with enforcement patrols occurring during bloom period. If required, City enforcement officials and Toronto Police Services may patrol other smaller sites of cherry blossoms in Toronto.

Throughout the closure period, the City will provide a continuous livestream of the cherry tree grove in High Park, plus multiple live events and videos featuring virtual walk-throughs of the blossoming Sakura (cherry blossom) trees.

BloomCam, the continuous live stream, is now live. The timing of live events is weather-dependent and will be announced on the City’s website and social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

During two 30-minute livestream events, Indigenous Knowledge Keeper André Morrisseau will recognize the traditional territories of the Indigenous Peoples through a Land Acknowledgement, and experts from the High Park Nature Centre will guide viewers through nature and history walks focused on Toronto's cherry blossom trees.

For more information and links to the videos, visit toronto.ca/cherryblossoms.


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 her ongoing concern for the most vulnerable in our city, including those experiencing homelessness. Quality, stable housing is critical for good health and overall wellbeing, and a top objective for Toronto Public Health is to end homelessness. Dr. de Villa spoke about the importance of the new program launched by the City today to provide temporary, interim housing to people who currently sleep in encampments and parks outdoors. 

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

Update from Fire Chief Matthew Pegg

Today Chief Pegg shared that the City’s Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) has been operating for 50 days, which is the longest continuous activation to date. The EOC continues to ensure that critical and essential services are ongoing without interruption. 

Chief Pegg also shared that the EOC has continued to work with City staff at Toronto Employment and Social Services to reduce in-person contact and to ensure safety during Ontario Works cheque distribution, which began today. 

Read all of Chief Pegg’s statements here.


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. 


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