COVID-19 Updates - July 16th

Dear friends,

We've come a long way – but Toronto is not at the same place as other parts of Ontario when it comes to COVID-19. That's why we need a cautious, measured approach for re-opening in our city. While other parts of the province may be moving ahead, Toronto Public Health and City staff are examining what Stage 3 will look like for Toronto, for when we are eventually ready.

In other cities around the world, we're seeing outbreaks that are tied to crowded indoor settings, especially bars and nightclubs. Indoor areas where people come into close contact pose greater risks for virus transmission – not just for customers, but for those who are working.

There's no 'fix' or 'solution' to COVID-19. Until we have an easily-accessible vaccine, outbreaks can and will happen. We have to learn to live with this reality, and do so in a way that protects the people at greater risk, including front-line and customer service workers. 

As our city continues to open up more we must remain vigilant so we can get to a point where we can safely move into Stage 3. I know it hasn’t been easy, but we need to continue to stay focused so that we can all move forward together. 

Sincerely, 

Joe


In this Edition

  1. Taking Action to Protect Torontonians Experiencing Homelessness
  2. Ontario’s Transition to Stage 3 in the Province’s Reopening Framework
  3. City of Toronto Community Centres and Indoor Pools to Open Next Week
  4. CaféTO Installation Blitz
  5. Transforming City-owned lands into a new park, affordable housing, and cultural animation space
  6. Updates from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health
  7. Advice from Toronto Public Health on Safely Using Masks 
  8. Toronto COVID-19 Resource Map
  9. COVID-19 Information and Resources

Taking Action to Protect Torontonians Experiencing Homelessness 

The most important part of our COVID-19 response is taking care of our most vulnerable. This means ensuring that all members of our community are supported, and doing everything we can to ensure that all Torontonians remain healthy and safe.

As part of the comprehensive COVID-19 response plan for people experiencing homelessness, the City of Toronto and community partners mobilized a strategy for outreach to people staying in encampments that prioritizes health and safety.

Since April, the City has:

  • Moved at least 550 people from 43 encampments to inside safe spaces including interim housing, hotels and shelter
  • All of these spaces offer physical distanced accommodations and include supports such as meals, programming and housing case management
  • Outreach included offers to coordinate transportation to accommodation for individuals

Since mid-March, the City has successfully moved more than 1,300 people who were homeless into permanent housing. This is through a combination of housing allowances and rent-geared-to-income units.

Moving people from outside to inside spaces is done with dignity and a plan to support each individual’s needs. It takes careful planning and time to secure hotels, interim housing and additional shelter space including staffing and programming; contracts for linens, meals, laundry and cleaning; and coordinating transportation for clients and their belongings. 

The Streets to Homes program continues to have street outreach teams engage with people experiencing homelessness on a daily basis. Most people living outdoors are in a very vulnerable situation, and they need a lot of support. Street outreach workers are trained to connect people who are experiencing homelessness with the broad range of supports they may need. 

City staff continue to explore options to secure additional hotels and apartment buildings, and are in active negotiations with a number of private landlords. Recently, City Council approved a modular housing pilot project that will create 110 new affordable housing units by September of this year for people experiencing homelessness, and we hope that the pilot will be a success so more homes can follow soon after.

Everyone should have access to shelter, care, and supports — not just during a pandemic, but all the time. Our health as a city and community depends on how we treat our most vulnerable. Going forward, we need to implement housing solutions that put people’s health first.

Any real, long-term solution requires a partnership with the Province and the Federal Governments. While the City has acted quickly to try to mitigate transmission, it’s clear that much more needs to be done. The only solution to homelessness is for governments to invest adequately in social services and affordable housing. I strongly believe that we have a responsibility as a society to make these investments, and I will continue to work hard to that end. 


Ontario’s Transition to Stage 3 in the Province’s Reopening Framework

On Monday, the Ontario Government announced that much of our province will be transitioning to Stage 3 in the Province's Reopening Framework on Friday, July 17. On behalf of the Toronto Board of Health, I welcome the Province's regional approach and confirmation that Toronto will be waiting to move to Stage 3 at this time.

As a city, we have come a long way since March, when the provincial emergency orders were first issued. We have successfully flattened the curve, reduced transmission, and managed not to overburden our hospitals and health care system. This success has come at a cost to all of us. We have cancelled plans, avoided our loved ones, and adjusted almost every aspect of our regular lives to keep one another safe. I know that it has not been easy.

Our hard work has paid off. But while new cases are decreasing in Toronto, we continue to be in a different place than the rest of the province, where some areas have had no new infections for days. On Monday, for example, an estimated 75% of new COVID-19 cases in Ontario were located in Toronto, Peel Region, and Windsor. This is why we need to take additional precautions.

The City of Toronto and Toronto Public Health are actively studying the Province's Framework and our local public health data to determine what moving to Stage 3 will look like for our city. We are also examining what's happening in other areas as they move to reopen. One early conclusion is that new outbreaks are often tied to crowded indoor settings, especially bars and nightclubs where alcohol is served.

There are a number of reasons for this: the risk of virus transmission is higher in indoor areas; most bars and nightclubs have difficulty ensuring that people practice appropriate physical distancing; and the effects of alcohol can further reduce compliance with rules and guidelines. Outbreaks in cities like Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, and Seoul have been directly connected to nightclubs and bars, and both Montreal and California have rushed to add new restrictions after re-openings led to spikes in new cases.

This doesn't mean that businesses in Toronto will stay closed forever, or that we won't eventually transition back to dining and drinking in bars and restaurants. But it does mean that we need to be cautious, and consider the risks involved – to ourselves, of course, but especially to those most vulnerable to infection: the staff who are serving the public.

As we continue to enjoy summer in our city, we need to move forward cautiously, one step at a time. Our response must be tailored to Toronto's unique conditions and be guided by the data and indicators that Toronto Public Health continues to monitor. I am confident that if we keep following the advice of our Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa and our team at Toronto Public Health, we will have the tools we need to manage virus spread and protect one another.

Finally, we have to remember that there is no "fix" to this pandemic. Areas of our country that reported no new cases in May and June are now seeing new infections. This is a virus that will not go away. The risk of COVID-19 will stay with us until there is a readily-available vaccine. Our work now is about learning to live with it, and doing so in a way that considers the needs of those more vulnerable than ourselves. 


City of Toronto Community Centres and Indoor Pools to Open Next Week

Yesterday it was announced that the City’s community centres, recreation centres, and indoor pools will be reopening on Monday, July 20. The community centres, recreation centres, and indoor pools were closed in March to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

As Toronto remains in Stage 2 of the Province’s reopening plan, a total of 119 community and recreation centres, including 29 locations with indoor pools, will reopen to the public for limited use. Indoor pools will reopen for drop-in lane and leisure swimming.

People will be able to visit community recreation centres and make use of lounges, meeting and multi-purpose rooms, computer labs, and washrooms. Opening these locations will provide more recreation opportunities and help increase Torontonians’ options for relief from the summer heat and prevent heat-related illnesses.

When the centres open, the following amenities will not be available:

  • gymnasiums
  • fitness or active areas (including walking tracks)
  • kitchens and studios
  • saunas and whirlpools

At this time, the City’s community centres cannot offer or facilitate indoor sports, fitness and wellness activities, singing and dancing programs, as well as food preparation, distribution, or dining activities where equipment or supplies are passed or shared amongst participants. This includes activities like card games, chess, or dominoes. The City anticipates that some of these amenities and activities will resume when Toronto reaches Stage 3 of reopening.

Visitors to the City’s community centres should expect changes similar to those in place at other City amenities and indoor public spaces. Visitors will be screened upon entry and will be asked for contact information for contact tracing, should it be required. Click here to read the full announcement


CaféTO Installation Blitz

Last weekend and throughout this week the City launched a CaféTO installation and expansion blitz to rapidly increase outdoor dining space for local restaurants and bars during the COVID-19 pandemic.

CaféTO is a quick-start program that makes it easier for restaurant and bar owners to open patios, expand them, and access additional space for physical distancing during the summer months ahead. The program provides more outdoor dining areas by identifying space in the public right-of-way and expediting the current application and permitting process for sidewalk cafés and parklets in accordance with public health guidelines.

The CaféTO blitz has seen City staff accelerate the installation of verified CaféTO applications across multiple BIAs. An increase in the number of streetscape-based curb lane closures will take place across the city. City staff continue to work with BIAs and the local business community to fast-track as many restaurant registrations and curb lane installations as possible. Click here for more information about CaféTO


Transforming City-owned lands into a new park, affordable housing, and cultural animation space

Today, a report to the CreateTO Board is recommending moving ahead with two important city-building projects that will create much-needed new parkland, affordable housing, and cultural animation space in our city. 

Parks and green space are what make our neighbourhoods vibrant and livable, especially in the rapidly-growing downtown core. That's why I have been working to turn the surface parking lots at Spadina and Adelaide into a new, 1,000 square metre public park.

The King-Spadina area has grown from approximately 945 residents in 1996 to a population of 22,000 in 2018. These residents along with tens of thousands of workers, students, and visitors need services, cultural outlets, and outdoor space to exercise, relax, and play.

At the same time, we desperately need more affordable housing in our city. We have an opportunity to leverage funds from these lands to create approximately 25-30 new affordable housing units on Queen West above a new cultural animation space.

You can read my letter of support here


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 twice-weekly updates on the current situation and response to COVID-19 in Toronto. You can view the press conferences live at 3:45pm, and access past updates here

In yesterday’s update, Dr. de Villa shared that overall, our local COVID-19 cases continue to decline, but it is a slow decline. This tells us we need to be vigilant in our measures to make sure we continue to see lower COVID-19 activity in our city. 

Dr. de Villa also provided an update on data collection. She shared that in order to allow the Toronto Public Health team time to more deeply analyze the data to inform our response – especially for the upcoming flu and respiratory virus season – they will continue providing a comprehensive data update online on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. For those who are interested in the day to day COVID-19 case counts, they are sharing case numbers through a daily afternoon update on Twitter: @TOPublicHealth. 

Dr. de Villa also spoke about how we are fortunate in Toronto to be able to learn from the experiences of other cities and countries who are ahead of us in their outbreak as they reopen their businesses and communities. One clear and important observation is that many places have noted increases in COVID-19 activity as more people gather in public settings.  

Specifically, surges in COVID-19 activity are being linked to settings like bars where people are congregating and consuming alcohol and are less careful about following public health measures. This is happening in cities throughout Canada and around the world. If we want to keep our cases down in our city, we need to be careful and learn from these experiences, and to continue following our public health and physical distancing measures.  

Finally, Dr. de Villa announced that the Province will be hosting a community pop-up testing site in the Black Creek area of our city on Saturday, July 18. The site will be located at the Christian Centre Church at 4545 Jane Street and will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

In closing, Dr. de Villa asked once again that we all help our city to keep moving forward. We all have a role to play and we all need to continue to follow the four Ws: wash your hands, watch your distance, wear your mask, and keep working together to get our city back.

Read Dr. de Villa’s full statement here.


Advice from Toronto Public Health on Safely Using Masks

Under the Mandatory Mask or Face Covering Bylaw, everyone in Toronto is now required to wear a mask or face covering when entering indoor public spaces. Masks or face coverings are also mandatory when travelling on the TTC.

Click here for more advice from Toronto Public Health on how to safely wear a cloth mask or face covering. 


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. 


COVID-19 Information and Resources

It is important 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