COVID-19 Updates and Information - April 6th

Dear friends,

From our Prime Minister, premiers, mayors and public health officials, the message is unequivocally clear – “stay at home.”

More than ever, these past few weeks have proven that having a home is absolutely essential to the health and well-being of our city, province and country.

For the 8,000 people experiencing homelessness in Toronto, the direction to “stay at home” rings hollow. There’s no home to stay in. Many people rely on the emergency shelter system, which was designed for a different era. Others are trying to get by outside, by sleeping in parks and ravines, with nowhere else to go.

Yesterday, Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão and I published an op-ed in the Toronto Star on how the COVID-19 crisis has exposed the limitations of our city’s shelter and housing systems. This crisis has clearly shown that a city cannot truly be resilient in the face of a pandemic without permanent, affordable housing solutions for all residents.

Canadians have rallied behind the battle cry to “stay at home.” We have an absolute imperative in the days and weeks ahead to continue this effort.

Secure, affordable housing is crucial to this success. As we move from fighting the pandemic to building a better future, let us continue to work collectively to achieve permanent and affordable housing for all.

It’s more important than ever that we continue to look out for each other. As a City we will continue working non-stop to ensure the most vulnerable members of our community are supported. No one will be left behind.

Sincerely, 

 

Joe

 


Working Together to Stop Hunger and Ensure Everyone has Access to Food

During this difficult time, we must all work together to protect those in our community who are most vulnerable. This includes making sure that everyone has access to healthy food, and that no one goes hungry. 

Due to the COVID-19 response, many people are unable to leave their homes and face financial hardship, and many of the community supports they regularly use have closed or altered their services. As more than 40 percent of food bank programs have closed during this crisis, the food programs continuing to operate are under immense pressure to meet demand.

The City of Toronto has established a Food Access Coordination Support Group that meets daily with large-scale community food programs in order to develop a Food Security Strategy. The Strategy is focused on ways to keep existing food programs open and to fill the gaps left by the closure of some programs. Elements of our Strategy are outlined below, and it will continue to evolve over time.

The best source for up-to-date information on food program availability is 211toronto.ca. Food listings are updated daily as information is received from providers. Residents can call 211 directly, or view the map of open food bank locations at: https://covid19.211central.ca/gta-food-banks/

Free food hamper delivery for seniors

As of March 30, anyone age 70 or over, along with people who have symptoms of COVID-19 or who have recently travelled, is required to self-isolate. The City is working with the Red Cross and other partners to provide food hamper delivery to seniors and others in need who are self-isolating and unable to leave their homes to access food.

Beginning Tuesday, April 7, the Red Cross will be accepting calls at 1-833-204-9952 for those who require this service. With support from United Way Greater Toronto, this service is made available for seniors that do not have alternative access to food and are not receiving assistance from another community food program.

The Red Cross operates a user-friendly telephone registration system, with a live operator and customer service in multiple languages. This is an essential, free service. There is no fee for the cost of the groceries, or for the delivery.

Financial need is not a requirement for this service. However, residents who have the ability to purchase delivery services or rely on alternate supports like friends, family, or other delivery programs, are urged to do so. This will help make sure that these supports can get to the people who need them most.

Access to food banks in Libraries

Four food banks are now open at Toronto Public Library locations, which had previously been closed in support of City efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19. The first library food bank location opened on March 25 in partnership with the North York Harvest Food Bank. Three opened this past week in partnership with the Daily Bread Food Bank. 

Eventually, nine library locations will open to host food banks across Toronto. The City is also facilitating food banks in Toronto Community Housing buildings to be available to tenants and in specific community centres where possible.

These food bank locations are staffed by City employees. Personal protective equipment and hand sanitizers are provided on-site. The physical set-up ensures physical distancing is maintained, and security is provided at each location. Special cleaning is done after each opening.

Food for kids

The City is working with student nutrition program partners to repurpose resources to support the Food for Kids program, which will get grocery gift cards to families of children in need.

Indigenous communities

The City is providing support for the Toronto Aboriginal Support Services Council (TASSC) to coordinate food access for Indigenous communities facing similar challenges created by the COVID-19 response, including increased access to food and financial support. 

Providing equipment to community food programs

The City is providing requested equipment to support community food program operators to help maintain operations and serve residents. To date, the City has provided City-staff forklift operators to Daily Bread Food Bank to assist with warehouse operations and has trucks and drivers on standby to help transport food.

 All Torontonians are encouraged to reach out to their neighbours to offer help and to ask for help during the COVID-19 emergency. Residents who are able, are encouraged to donate to food banks or drop off food donations at local fire halls. Restaurants or food businesses with surplus food are encouraged to donate to foodrescue.ca

At this time, we must all do what we can to support those in need. Many people in our community have lost their job or seen their income decline as a result of this pandemic. That means it’s more important than ever that we continue to look out for each other. 


City of Toronto Urges Residents to Adapt Faith-Based Holiday Observances During COVID-19 Pandemic

On the advice of Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, the City of Toronto is urging everyone to continue staying at home and keeping their distance from others during the upcoming holidays.

In the coming weeks, many across our city will be observing Passover, Easter, and the start of Ramadan. Normally an opportunity to spend time with family and faith-based communities, the City urges everyone to continue to follow provincial orders closing places of worship and limiting gatherings, and public health recommendations to remain at home, leaving only for essential reasons.  

Dr. de Villa is advising all Torontonians to stay home and not host family and friends over the coming holidays. The Government of Canada has also prohibited foreign nationals, including U.S. nationals, from entering Canada for non-essential travel, which includes holiday celebrations. Anyone that does enter the country, including Canadians returning from travel, is required, by law, to self-isolate for 14 days regardless of whether they have symptoms of COVID-19. 

The City of Toronto recognizes the importance of spiritual, emotional, and mental wellbeing during these important times. People are encouraged to connect with loved ones, friends, and vulnerable members of the community online or by phone. Many places of worship are hosting services online and implementing innovative ways to connect their communities while staying physically apart. Residents should check the website of their place of worship for information on online services and supports. 

The City’s Emergency Operations Centre has also been working closely with grocery partners. Large grocery chains and smaller local grocers have expressed concerns for the health and safety of their workers and the supply of available goods should demand ramp up for upcoming faith-based holidays. 

Those planning to celebrate a faith-based holiday with a special meal for members of their household should be mindful of the current situation in the wider community. Grocers are anticipating that tomorrow and the upcoming Thursday and Saturday will be popular shopping days and ask people to limit shopping on these days. 

General advice for grocery shopping remains: 

  • Grocery shop only one day per week and buy only what you need for up to two weeks
  • Respect store hours dedicated to seniors, vulnerable persons, and essential service workers (normally the first hour stores are open)
  • Have a list of items, shop efficiently, and do not casually browse
  • Do not touch food or products you are not intending to buy
  • Practise physical distancing
  • When possible, pay with a card or phone tap rather than cash

There are also many opportunities to foster the spirit of upcoming holidays through donations to local food banks. Residents who are able are encouraged to donate non-perishable food to food banks or drop off food donations at local fire halls. Needed essentials include:

  • canned fish and meat
  • canned beans and pulses
  • canned tomatoes
  • rice and quinoa
  • cooking oil
  • baby formula and diapers

A map of food banks is available on the 211 website, https://www.211toronto.ca/topic/food

Those feeling isolated or anxious during the holidays are encouraged to seek mental health supports Information on COVID-19 crisis and mental health supports are listed on our website at https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/covid-19-health-advice/. 


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, the head of the City’s Office of Emergency Management, Fire Chief Matthew Pegg, 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 how COVID-19 is most severe and often fatal for members of our communities who are most vulnerable. This includes our seniors who live in long-term care homes and retirement homes. She indicated that Toronto Public Health has been receiving questions from family members of those living in long-term care, and whether or not they should be taking their family members out of that setting. Dr. de Villa stated that there is no easy answer to this question — it is a personal choice, as many who are living in these homes require specialized care and medical attention. This is why it is critical that everyone does their part to prevent the spread of this virus, in order to protect those most vulnerable, as well as those who provide care for them. 

All long-term care homes have enhanced protocols in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more details on protocols in long-term care homes, watch Dr. de Villa’s April 6th update here

Read all of Dr. de Villa’s statements here

Update from Fire Chief Matthew Pegg

Chief Pegg provided an update on the City’s enforcement activity over this past weekend of the physical distancing bylaw pertaining to all City of Toronto parks and squares. While most are aware of the bylaw, there remain issues with respect to physical distancing in some of our city’s busiest parks. By following the physical distancing bylaw, and encouraging others to do so as well, we are all helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Read all of Chief Pegg’s statements here.


City of Toronto Continuing to Prepare for High Lake Levels

Climate change and the resulting extreme weather have been acutely felt on the Toronto Islands and along our waterfront. We have seen record-breaking flooding events over the last three years, with more record high water levels anticipated again this year. An annual sandbagging effort cannot be a long-term solution.

This is why we have been working year-round, in partnership with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), to ensure that proactive flood mitigation measures are in place, and that significant investments are made to ensure our waterfront and our Toronto Islands are protected. 

The work to protect our waterfront cannot and will not stop due to COVID-19. I am committed, along with the City of Toronto and TRCA, to continuing preparations and mitigation efforts for high lake levels this year as a top priority.

  • 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.
  • All TRCA flood mitigation projects for Toronto's Waterfront and Toronto Islands continue to be categorized as "essential" business in 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 Wards Island beach curb east of Wards dock is complete. The beach curb west of the dock is nearly complete. Urgent raising of roads to maintain emergency access in two priority locations is underway: a 300m stretch of Lake Shore Blvd near Gibraltar Point, and a 200m stretch on Cibola Avenue near the Fire Hall. Two weeks of preparatory work will be completed this week, and construction will follow.
  • Engineering assessment work on the sea wall at Algonquin Island continues and will determine a berm or raised wall solution.
  • Flood Mapping of different lake level elevations have been produced to inform Emergency Management planning. This information will be posted on a public portal on TRCA's website in the coming days.

The proactive mitigation efforts implemented in 2018, including erosion control projects, shoreline infrastructure, trail and pathway work, and asset infrastructure, effectively reduced the impact of the 2019 flooding. The City also used a dozen industrial water pumps, 100-foot aquadams and more than 1,000 metre bags and 45,000 sandbags to prevent further damage.

As I have said many times before, annual sandbagging cannot be the solution. We are committed to doing everything possible to protect our beloved Toronto Islands, and will continue to work closely with senior City staff and the TRCA to implement long-term flood mitigation plans.

The City is working closely with TRCA to monitor the conditions that contribute to high lake water levels as we move through the spring. I will continue to provide updates as they become available.


City of Toronto to Resume Yard Waste Pickup for Two Weeks

The City of Toronto is resuming yard waste collection for a period of two weeks, beginning Monday, April 6 to Friday, April 17. The start of seasonal yard waste collection was suspended as part of the City’s COVID-19 response to ensure staffing levels to continue the core collection of garbage, blue bin (recycling) and green bin (organics).

Residents are asked to put their yard waste out before 7 a.m. on their regularly scheduled garbage/yard waste collection day. To ensure health and safety, residents should only use yard waste bags, not open-top containers.

If yard waste is not picked up on collection day, residents are asked to leave it out. There is no need to call 311 to report a missed collection. Crews will be making their way across the city. Yard waste should not be brought to drop-off depots, which remain closed to the general public.

After the two-week period, the City will assess if it can continue to maintain the service during the COVID-19 response.

For more info about the COVID-10 impacts to Solid Waste Management Services, click here.


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 my last update 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.


Resources for Seniors

For seniors not living in long-term care facilities, the City continues to provide essential support services to seniors requiring assistance with personal care, medication reminders, and safety checks through our Supportive Housing program. Many community agencies offer supports to seniors including Meals on Wheels, transportation to appointments, personal support, and adult day programs. Seniors and caregivers should check with the individual agencies to confirm continuity of service delivery. Call 211 (available 24/7 in 150+ languages) to obtain up-to-date information.

Other resources for seniors include:

  • Toronto Seniors Helpline:416-217-2077 or 1-877-621-2077, for support and referral to services

  • Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) Home Care: 310-2222 (no area code required) to find out about services in their area

  • Distress Centres of Toronto: 416-408-4357, 416-408-HELP

  • Seniors Safety Line (Elder Abuse Ontario): 1-866-299-1011


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