Important COVID-19 Updates - April 1st

Dear friends,

There is a great deal that can be learned from the successes and challenges other cities have faced in response to COVID-19. It is clear that we must act now. 

We still have a window of opportunity to stop the spread of COVID-19, but that window is closing. We need to flatten the curve and limit community transmission, so that we don’t overwhelm our hospitals and health care system. If we don’t act, increased pressure will result in the tragic outcomes we are seeing around the world.

Today, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health announced new significant measures that we are taking to stop COVID-19 and save lives. Please continue reading below for more on these important next steps. 

Remember, we’re all in this together. Stay home, stay safe, and look out for each other. 

Sincerely, 

 

Joe

 


New City of Toronto Measures to Stop COVID-19 and Save Lives

We must do everything we can to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

Over the past few weeks, the City of Toronto has taken a series of actions to limit the transmission of COVID-19. But as the number of cases in our city continues to rise, it’s clear that we need to step up our response. We need to use absolutely every tool we have in order to fight this pandemic and save lives. 

This morning, under the recommendations of Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa, the City of Toronto announced new measures to stop the spread of COVID-19These orders are the strongest tools that the City has to require people to stay home and maintain physical distance from others. 

The following measures are to take effect immediately, for up to 12 weeks: 

  • All individuals with COVID-19 are ordered by the Medical Officer of Health to stay home, under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, for 14 days
  • All individuals who have had close contact with someone who has COVID-19 are also ordered to stay home by the Medical Officer of Health for 14 days
  • People returning from international travel must stay home for 14 days (under federal order)
  • Anyone over the age of 70, as the province announced this week, is strongly encouraged to stay home as much as possible
  • All other individuals, who are not ill or have not travelled, are strongly directed to stay home, except for the following reasons
    • Accessing healthcare or medications
    • Shop for groceries once per week
    • Walk their dogs or get daily exercise
    • Must maintain a physical distancing of at least 2 metre at all times 

The City also announced increased cleaning and active screening of employees at essential businesses that remain open, and for businesses to maximize physical distance and infection prevention practices. 

We are asking residents to adhere to these orders in the interest of public health and safety. While the City is educating the public in understanding why these measures are important, there will be fines associated with non-compliance. 

This the boldest action that we as a City are able to take. We will continue working with our federal and provincial partners to coordinate province-wide and national responses. 

Taking bold action now will save lives. 

As Dr. de Villa has noted, if we fail to act now, many more people in our city will become sick, and more will die. The above measures are informed by the most recent public health data and modelling. It  is the best advice from our public health experts on how to keep our city safe. 

Right now, we have a window of opportunity. We need to flatten the curve and limit community transmission, so that we don’t overwhelm our hospitals and health care system. 

If we are successful, people will be able to get the care they need if they become ill. This will help to reduce deaths from COVID-19, and give people time to recover and get well. If we are not able to flatten the curve, increased pressure on the health care system will result in the tragic outcomes we are seeing in Europe and parts of the United States.

We are ready to meet this challenge. 

The City of Toronto’s planning and response work has been underway since January, and over two months’ of local containment efforts have limited transmission. The Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), led by Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg and Dr. de Villa, is leading the City’s emergency response. Chief Pegg, Dr. de Villa, and Mayor Tory are continuing to provide live updates to the media and the public at 3:45 pm each weekday. 

During this time, the City of Toronto will continue to provide essential services, including:

  • Emergency response (fire, police, paramedic) 
  • Waste management (garbage, recycling, organics) 
  • Public transit for essential trips
  • Shelter and homlessness services 
  • Water services (drinking water, stormwater management)

We must protect those in our community who are most vulnerable. 

We know that some people are at greater risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 than others. This includes seniors, people experiencing homelessness, residents in long-term care homes, people who have compromised immune systems, and front-line workers. 

No one will be left behind in our response to this pandemic. In our shelter system, we have implemented social distancing and safety precautions, to protect clients and staff. We are transitioning clients out of shelters and into hotel rooms with the goal of securing a room and a home for everyone who needs one. We have established an isolation facility, where any members of the homeless community exhibiting symptoms can be tested and wait for results. And we are working to create the first-in-Canada COVID recovery centre for those who test positive, with on-site medical staff, meals, and cleaning provided. 

In long-term care homes, we are implementing active screening of all staff, including monitoring symptoms and travel history. Staff have been directed to only work at a single facility, and congregate meal service has been suspended. Visitors are being restricted, except for family members on compassionate grounds. 

We will continue to take care of our front-line and health care workers by providing free, licensed child care at our 24/7 city facilities. At the same time, we all need to do our part to protect front-line workers and stay home. Healthcare workers, grocery store employees, paramedics and firefighters, and other essential workers are working around the clock to keep us safe. These are our local heroes. We need to keep them safe by following the measures that the City has put forward. 

We can, and will, get through this -- together.

I know that following these new measures will not be easy. Many families right now are dealing with school and child care closures, income and job loss, and other very real struggles. I know it can be challenging to limit outdoor activities and cut back on regular errands. But we must remember that this is not permanent. This is a temporary period, and it will pass. In order to get through this, though, it’s critical that we all do our part to follow the instructions announced today. 

This is a difficult and uncertain time. It is normal to feel confused, anxious, and overwhelmed. If you need support, please see a list of suggestions and resources from Toronto Public Health here

I’ve said before that this pandemic will test us. Evidence from around the world makes it clear that this kind of bold action, done at the right time, can reduce transmission, help keep people safe, and save lives. This, right now, is the test.

I know that we will rise to this challenge, and continue to take care of each other.


Stopping the Spread of COVID-19 - City of Toronto Cancels Events Through to June 30

Yesterday, on the advice of Toronto's Medical Officer of Health, the City announced the cancellation of all City-led mass participation events, festivals, conferences and cultural programs, and all City permits for mass participation events through June 30.

Physical distancing is of critical importance in slowing the spread of COVID-19, and the City urges event organizers to follow the Toronto Medical Officer of Health’s recommendations when reviewing their event plans for the upcoming months.

The end date for the cancellation period will be reviewed every two weeks, and may be extended beyond June 30 in consultation with our Medical Officer of Health. The City will not be in a position to issue new permits until there is further direction on mass gatherings.

We are committed to working with event organizers to mitigate the impacts of these cancellations and to determine potential future dates once this public health crisis is contained and economic recovery efforts are underway.

It is difficult to learn of the cancellation of cherished annual events such as Doors Open, the Indigenous Arts Festival, and Pride, but the health and safety of all Torontonians is our top priority.

We will stop the spread of this virus, and get through this together.


Applications Open for City of Toronto Free Emergency Child Care for Essential and Core Service Workers

The City of Toronto is opening free emergency 24/7 licenced child care centres for essential workers who are keeping us healthy and safe, and do not have the option to stay home. This is a brand new service in Toronto and we will be the first to open emergency child care in Ontario.

As a City we are doing everything we can to support the workers who are providing essential and critical services and keeping us healthy and safe. We owe our deepest thanks and ongoing support to all those on the frontlines.

This new service will be provided free of cost to parents. The child care facilities will operate around the clock, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, to support parents on shift work. The service will be available for children from infants to age 12. 

Eligibility criteria are established by the Province of Ontario. This list of eligible workers may change as the emergency evolves and will be updated as required. For a detailed description of eligibility, please visit https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/covid-19-social-support/covid-19-child-care-for-essential-workers/.

Anyone who wishes to access emergency child care services can complete the online application to apply. After an application is approved, registration will be confirmed if space is available. Space is limited, but we are ready to scale up service to respond to demand.

If the level of demand exceeds capacity, initial priority will be given to front-line health care workers (including Toronto Public Health and City of Toronto Long-Term Care staff) and first responders.

Additional measures will be used, in consultation with Toronto Public Health and the City's Occupational Health and Safety program, to maintain a healthy and safe environment, including daily screening of children and staff, increased disinfection, reduced group sizes and limiting the number of people in the centre to 50.

At the City of Toronto we have been working around the clock to get this service up and running, in partnership with the Province of Ontario. Child care will be provided in existing municipal facilities by City child care workers. The Province is covering the cost to parents.

In the midst of this pandemic, a rapid emergency response is necessary. It is also a chance to think about what supports should be in place after the crisis has passed. If we can provide free, 24/7 child care now, we should be inspired and committed to providing it to everyone, always.


City of Toronto Playgrounds and Park Amenities Remain Closed to Slow the Spread of COVID-19

We are at a pivotal moment to slow the spread of COVID-19, and it is critical that we each practice diligent physical distancing at all times. Last week, Toronto's Medical Officer of Health announced the closure of playgrounds and park amenities to support physical distancing.

The decisions we make now can flatten the curve and prevent further spread of COVID-19. Physical distancing, staying home as much as possible, and regular hand washing are the best ways to protect the health of your friends and family, essential workers who cannot stay home, and yourself.

While we thank all the residents who are listening to public health advice and practicing physical distancing, we know that there are many who are continuing to put their health and the health of our community at risk by gathering in playgrounds and sports fields.

To support safe physical distancing and slow the spread of COVID-19, City playgrounds, sports fields and courts, off-leash dog areas, skateboard and BMX parks, picnic areas, outdoor exercise equipment, and other park amenities are closed. Green spaces in public parks remain open.

Toronto's Medical Officer of Health is also urging condominiums, school boards, and Toronto Community Housing to close their playgrounds and park amenities, and to limit public congregation to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The closure of playgrounds and park amenities builds on the strong recommendations and measures from public health professionals provincially and locally, including the closure of schools, most City programs and facilities, and all non-essential businesses.


Housing Supports for Tenants

As we enter a new month with rent due, many have questions about housing support for tenants. They City’s COVID-19 website continues to be updated with all supports available for tenants. Please click here to access those resources. 


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


What is Physical Distancing? We All Need to do Our Part

Every Torontonian must do their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Staying informed, being rigorous about strong individual hygiene practices, and enacting physical distancing are measures we must all take. But what is physical distancing?

Physical distancing involves taking steps to limit the number of people you come into close contact with. This will help to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

Physical distancing includes, but is not limited to:

  • talking to your supervisor, manager, or employer about the possibility of working from home where possible
  • avoiding visits to long-term care homes, retirement homes, supportive housing, hospices and other congregate care settings unless the visit is absolutely essential
  • avoiding non-essential trips in the community
  • keeping the windows down if you have to go into the community for an essential trip via taxi or rideshare
  • avoiding group gatherings
  • holding virtual meetings
  • spending time outside and in settings where people can maintain a 6 feet distance from each other

If you need to go outside to get groceries, or walk the dog, please make sure to avoid crowds and maintain a distance of 6 feet from others at all times. 

Remember: While you may not feel sick, and while we know these measures are an inconvenience, please be mindful of the members of our community who are more vulnerable to COVID-19 than others. We are all in this together.


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. Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health is now recommending that all people over the age of 70 self-isolate given the elevated risk.

If you are ill, you should be separated from others in your household to the greatest extent possible. Even if you do not have symptoms, you must self-isolate for 14 days if: 

  • You have travelled anywhere outside of Canada (including the United States of America).
  • You live with, provided care for, or spent extensive time with someone who has:
    • Tested positive for COVID-19, OR is suspected to have COVID-19, OR who has respiratory symptoms (fever, cough, or shortness of breath) that started within 14 days of travel outside of Canada. 

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