COVID-19 Updates and Information - April 9th

Dear friends,

I know that under regular circumstances, many of us would have spent time with family in the coming weeks, and made preparations for special meals and gatherings for Passover, Easter, and the start of Ramadan. It is difficult to be apart from loved ones, especially in times like these when we need each other more than ever. But we need to remember that this moment will pass, and by working together, we will get through this. 

Every family is struggling right now, one way or the other, during this pandemic. Yesterday I shared my family’s story — I know we all have one. 

As we head into the long weekend, I’d like to send good wishes from my family to yours. We truly are all in this together.

Sincerely, 

 

Joe


Expanding Access to Mental Health Supports 

These are difficult and uncertain times. In a few short weeks, we have had to adjust to a new way of life, one where many of us are separated from our friends, families, and loved ones.

Many in our community are experiencing isolation and anxiety, both as a result of the pandemic, as well as due to loss of income or employment. It’s okay not to feel okay. 

During this time, it’s important for all of us to remember to care for our own mental health. This is especially true for people who are self-isolating or in quarantine at home. As of March 30, anyone who has recently travelled, has symptoms of COVID-19 or close contact with someone who has, or is age 70 and over, should self-isolate. These people are at additional risk of loneliness, stress, and anxiety. 

To support children and youth, seniors, frontline workers, and those with intersectional identities, such as Indigenous, Black, persons with disabilities, and LGBTQ2S to name a few, who are struggling with isolation, stress and anxiety exacerbated by COVID-19 measures, the City has partnered with mental health service providers to offer targeted support to residents. 

Over the next 12 weeks, residents will be able to call 211, and be connected to one of seven primary mental health service partners for direct phone support. Some supports will also be available by text and online. Mental health service information will also be added online at: http://www.211toronto.ca/

This is an essential service, and there is no fee. Services are free and confidential. 

This mental health referral system complements, and does not replace, existing mental health support models. Existing mental health services will continue providing services to existing clients, and expand services where feasible.

Right now, it’s more important than ever that we continue to take care of each other. Reach out to your friends, family, and neighbours by phone or online to check in. If you need someone to talk to, call 211 to be connected to someone who can listen and provide support. We’re all in this together. 


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 again about how COVID-19 is having a devastating, often fatal impact in our long-term care homes. How does this virus make its way into our long-term care homes? It does so through people — visitors and those who work there. This is an incredibly difficult time for those living in long-term care, who are no longer able to have visitors or see their loved ones. This is why it is absolutely critical that we all practice physical distancing, in order to protect those who work in our long-term care homes, and to prevent further outbreaks. 

Dr. de Villa stated that her message today is simple — that we still have the ability to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our city, and that we all have a collective responsibility to keep our loved ones, and those who look after them safe and healthy. 

Read all of Dr. de Villa’s statements here

Update from Fire Chief Matthew Pegg

Today Chief Pegg spoke about our essential and critical City services that remain operational although many other City programs and services have been suspended. Ongoing services include garbage, recycling and organics collection, safe supply of our drinking water, police, fire and paramedic services, employment and social service support, TTC services, critical infrastructure and maintenance, technology services, 311 availability, facility cleaning and security, purchasing and materials management, legal services, childcare for essential workers, occupational health and safety, shelter services, senior services and long-term care, and many many more. 

The Emergency Operations Centre continues to coordinate the response for all of these services under the guidance of Dr. de Villa and her team. This includes ensuring the health and safety of all of our frontline workers, and that they are properly equipped and trained. 

Chief Pegg gave a special thanks to the entire Toronto public service for the work that they are doing under incredibly difficult circumstances. He also thanked every resident, business owner for doing their part, as we do our very best to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

Read all of Chief Pegg’s statements here.


Working Together to Stop Hunger and Ensure 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.

Earlier this week I shared an update on the work we are doing at the City in partnership with community food programs to develop a Food Security Strategy. 

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.


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. 


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 days, many across our city will be observing Passover, Easter, and the start of Ramadan. Normally this is an opportunity to spend time with family and faith-based communities. However, the City urges everyone to continue to follow provincial orders that have closed places of worship and limited gatherings, and public health recommendations to stay at home and go out 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 today 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 support. 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/. 


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.


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