COVID-19 Updates, New Bike Lanes - May 25th

Dear friends,

From London to New York to Mexico City, cities are taking action to make it easier and safer to get around by bike, in order to provide space for physical distancing. I was proud to share today that Toronto is joining the list of cities that are accelerating the expansion of cycling infrastructure, so that people can get around quickly and safely.

I’m thrilled to report that the accelerated bike plan will include separated bike lanes on University Avenue that will run from Adelaide, up through Queen’s Park Crescent, and to Bloor Street. 

Building a bike lane along University Avenue means that the front-line workers in hospitals, medical clinics, and doctor’s offices can get to work each day safely. It also means that people who live in our community will have a real alternative to driving or the TTC – freeing up space so that those who need it can practice safe physical distancing on our subways, streetcars, and buses.

At the City we are continuing to work around the clock to ensure that we are acting quickly to respond to the ongoing pandemic, and to prepare for the long road of recovery ahead. We all have a role to play, and it is critical that each and every one of us continue to do our part.

Sincerely, 

Joe


In this Edition

  1. Bike Lanes Coming to University Ave as Part of COVID-19 Response
  2. Physical Distancing Concerns at Trinity Bellwoods Park
  3. Heat Relief Strategy Updates
  4. Bathurst Construction Update: Bridge Work Begins   
  5. Updates from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health
  6. Supporting Toronto’s Arts and Cultural Sector
  7. Toronto COVID-19 Resource Map
  8. Staying Emotionally Healthy and Resilient During the COVID-19 Pandemic
  9. Community and Social Supports for Torontonians 
  10. Supporting Local Businesses
  11. Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 When Spending Time Outdoors
  12. Working Collaboratively for Spadina-Fort York
  13. COVID-19 Information and Resources

Bike Lanes Coming to University Ave as Part of COVID-19 Response

Click to watch video

Today I’m proud to share that separated bike lanes will be coming to University Avenue to create more space for physical distancing and help people get around the city safely. As part of the City’s ActiveTO program, these bike lanes will make it easier for residents and front-line workers to cycle to work and practice safe physical distancing.

As we begin to transition to recovery in Toronto and more businesses and workplaces open back up, how we will get around is a pressing challenge. For safe physical distancing we need to create alternative and safe methods of transportation to make distancing possible on public transit. Switching to driving isn’t an option for many, and even if it was, the resulting gridlock will grind traffic to a halt, strangling our city and economy. It’s time for a new approach. 

Bike lanes on University Avenue will run from Adelaide, up through Queen’s Park Crescent, and to Bloor Street. These lanes will provide relief to the TTC, creating more space on the subway for those who need to ride transit, and offering a new cycling option that is safe and uses our limited road space as efficiently as possible to move the most people.

Along with Councillor Mike Layton (Ward 11), a bike lane on University is something I’ve advocated for as part of an interconnected grid of protected bike lanes across the city. I’m proud to join major hospitals in the area, including SickKids and University Health Network, and physicians who work on University Avenue, in supporting this new development. 

The ActiveTO announcement this morning also included new cycling infrastructure in other areas across the city, including extensions to the Bloor Street bike lane which will create a continuous 15 kilometre cycling route across Bloor Street and Danforth Avenue, stretching from Runnymede in the west to Dawes Road in the east.

Cities across the world are opening up streets to create more space for safe physical distancing. Expanding our cycling grid is the right thing to do -- for our health care workers, for our own mental and physical health, and for the health and safety of our city. You can read my full statement with Councillor Layton and Councillor Wong-Tam here. 


Physical Distancing Concerns at Trinity Bellwoods Park

Like many people across Toronto, I was deeply concerned and disappointed by the situation in Trinity Bellwoods this past weekend. We are still in the middle of a pandemic that threatens the health of us all. Although we have so far avoided the horrible scenes of overcrowded hospitals and tens of thousands of deaths in places like New York City, Italy, and Spain, the threat is still very real. If we relax too quickly and too much now, all our sacrifices so far could be for nothing. 

The crowding in Trinity Bellwoods this past weekend demonstrates that there are real issues that need to be addressed. We have to channel our concern and disappointment into improving our collective efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.

We also need to make sure everyone understands that Trinity Bellwoods cannot safely accommodate visitors coming from far away. We know it is a busy destination in normal times, but right now Trinity Bellwoods needs to serve as a local park for nearby residents. Many people within a short walk of Trinity Bellwoods live in small apartments or condos without their own private yards or greenspace, let alone air conditioning. It is not fair to these local residents that visitors are contributing to the challenge of safe physical distancing in the park. 

The City of Toronto is also studying, with Toronto Public Health, what strategies other cities around the world are using so that people can safely use parks for fresh air and exercise, which is important for physical and mental health, while still practicing physical distancing. Some parks in New York City and San Francisco, for example, have circles painted in the grass to let people know how far apart they should sit from one another. This is an ongoing area of work, and I am pushing for any promising options to be piloted as soon as possible. 

We have a shortage of greenspace in our downtown neighbourhoods, relative to the high density of people. There was a serious need for more parks, open spaces, and public places even before the pandemic, and I have been advocating for new and expanded parks, since I was first elected. Due to the broken development system imposed on cities by the Province of Ontario, it is unfortunately extremely difficult to connect condo development with the creation of new public parkland. The City is continuing to look seriously at what can be done in the short-term to give people more space, like the weekend transformations of Lake Shore Boulevard and Bayview into walking and cycling corridors.

The bottom line is that we all have a part to play in using parks safely, and stopping the spread of COVID-19. It is necessary to find this balance together, because, as our Medical Officer of Health has confirmed, getting outside is good for our minds and our bodies as long as we practice physical distancing. If we can all work together, we can continue to keep parks open and all enjoy the outdoors. 

It is also important that we not lose sight of the bigger picture in our collective effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. While individual behaviour is a vital part, it is not enough alone. It is hard to practice physical distancing if you don’t have a home. It is hard to stay home from work when feeling ill if you don’t have job security and paid sick days. If the Province does not ramp up testing quickly and efficiently, we can’t contain outbreaks and protect ourselves from COVID-19. There is still much that needs to be done in order to stop the spread of this virus, and I am continuing to work non-stop every single day to ensure that our city comes out of this stronger than ever.


Heat Relief Strategy Updates

A Heat Warning has been issued for today, tomorrow, and Wednesday. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City has updated our Heat Relief Strategy to make sure people can get heat relief in a safe and accessible way.

Starting tomorrow at 11 am, six initial Emergency Cooling Centres will open, offering an air-conditioned place to rest and hydrate indoors. Cots are provided for visitors who feel ill. Strict infection prevention and control measures will be in place. See a map of locations here.

Anyone in need of assistance during a Heat Warning can always call 311. The city’s updated Heat Relief strategy, along with more Emergency Cooling Centre locations, will be released in the coming days. 

For buildings with air conditioning, Toronto’s property standards bylaw requires that landlords turn on the AC from June 2 to September 14 -- but I encourage landlords to turn the AC on earlier during Heat Warnings to keep all residents safe. More information for landlords is available here


Bathurst Construction Update: Bridge Work Begins

Earlier this month, I shared information about construction and maintenance projects scheduled for Bathurst Street. Work on the Bathurst Street Bridge Rehabilitation project began today.

This means that Bathurst Street from Front Street West to Fort York Boulevard is now closed to all vehicles, and this closure will continue while work on the bridge is ongoing. 

Pedestrians will continue to have access through one sidewalk, and cyclists may dismount and walk their bikes on the sidewalk in this stretch. Pedestrians and cyclists can also cross the rail corridor on the nearby Puente de Luz Bridge at Dan Leckie/Portland, and the new Garrison Crossing Bridges at Fort York.

TTC service on Bathurst Street will be provided by buses, which will divert to Spadina Avenue to cross the rail corridor before returning to the regular route.

The full construction notice, as well as information about other projects in the area, is available 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 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

Today Dr. de Villa spoke about crowding at Trinity Bellwoods Park on Saturday, and what advice she has for these individuals. Dr. de Villa shared that if you were one of these people, it is possible that you may have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19, but has little or no symptoms. Because of this it is important that you monitor yourself carefully for COVID-19 symptoms for the next 14 days. If you develop any symptoms of COVID-19, please get tested immediately.

While you are self-monitoring for symptoms for the next 14 days, please be extra diligent with hand hygiene. In addition, please make sure you keep a physical distance of six feet from other people at all times. Please avoid contact with people who are most vulnerable for serious illness, or complications of COVID-19, such as elderly people and those with chronic health conditions.

On another note, Dr. de Villa also shared that recent data suggests many people are waiting approximately five days from the time they first have COVID-19 symptoms, to when they get tested. This is very concerning. COVID-19 symptoms can include: fever, cough, difficulty breathing, unexplained fatigue, a headache, sore throat, runny nose that does not fit with your typical seasonal allergies, loss of taste or smell, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal pain. If you or a family member are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, please go and get tested immediately.

You will also need to self-isolate until you get tested. If you live with other people, please inform them that you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and are getting tested. People you live with should also monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms and get tested if they develop any of these symptoms.

Even if you are not worried about becoming sick yourself, we all need to remember that our actions have an impact on others in our community. You may feel healthy and have no symptoms, but you can still have COVID-19 and be contagious. While you are out in public you can unknowingly spread the virus. It can then spread further, possibly to a more vulnerable person who is at risk of serious complications from COVID-19 or at risk of dying. This could be anybody – your friends, your neighbours, your parents, your loved ones.

While it may be difficult, especially as we head into summer, we must continue to practise physical distancing. This is the only way we can get to a time when we can all safely connect with our friends and family in person.

Read Dr. de Villa’s past updates here.


Supporting Toronto’s Arts and Cultural Sector

Our vibrant arts and cultural sector is critical to the fabric of our city. There are many ways to continue to support Toronto arts and culture from home:

  • 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. 
  • Arts@Home: Bringing Toronto’s arts sector together for you, delivered straight to your couch. Many of Toronto’s leading arts organizations are reaching beyond traditional practice to come together and freely share digital content that brings the arts into your home. 
  • Stay, Play & Learn at Home: Tour a museum exhibit, watch a live concert, play interactive games, do DIY science experiments, try a new recipe, and much more.

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. 


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

Advice from Toronto Public Health on Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 When Spending Time Outdoors

Now that the warmer weather is arriving, many people are spending time outdoors for physical and mental health. 

When spending time outdoors, refer to this information from Toronto Public Health; 

  • COVID-19 spreads through contact with respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, or talking
  • Droplets can spread up to 6 feet (2 metres) so close, prolonged contact poses the highest risk
  • When cycling, running, or walking, step aside or pass others quickly and courteously
  • The risk for catching COVID-19 while passing someone is low

If sick, you must stay home and self-isolate

  • People are most contagious when they are sick, or 48 hours before they show symptoms
  • Limit contact with other household members
  • Refer to fact sheets on how to self-isolate

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