Staying Informed About COVID-19 - March 24th Updates
A crisis can teach us a great deal. Not just about who we are, but also about who we want to be.
The City of Toronto and Toronto Public Health have been preparing for COVID-19 for months. Thousands of hours of planning have gone into ensuring a swift response.
And all across our city, people are offering to help. Frontline heroes in healthcare, emergency services, and customer service sectors are working around-the-clock to keep us safe. Residents are offering to pick up prescriptions or do a grocery run for their neighbours. And governments are pioneering policy ideas and programs during this difficult time.
This pandemic requires us to act now. The health and safety of Torontonians demand an emergency response. But this emergency also presents a chance to think about what supports should be in place, and not just during a crisis.
If the true measure of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable, the same can be said of a city. Yesterday, I shared an op-ed that I wrote on how this crisis could be a turning point for how we can continue to take care of one another.
Together we will get through this challenging time, and into the future let us take the lessons learned on how to better care for one another.
Taking Action to Protect Individuals Experiencing Homelessness from COVID-19
In Toronto we look after each other. 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.
The City of Toronto has, over the past weeks, rapidly mobilized and implemented a plan in response to the risk COVID-19 presents to clients of the city’s network of shelters, respites, and drop-ins. Shelter, Support & Housing Administration (SSHA) is working with community partners to further strengthen this city-wide response and assure vulnerable individuals experiencing homelessness that their health and safety is a priority.
Nine new facilities and new hotel spaces for physical distancing
As physical distancing is a priority, SSHA has opened nine new facilities with more than 350 spaces to create further physical distancing for clients from shelters, 24-hour respites and 24-hour drop-ins. An additional facility is preparing to open with more space ready to be activated as needed. In some cases, community and recreation centres closed as part of the City’s suspension of non-essential services are reopening to support distancing efforts. The City has also opened space at hotel and motel sites and is exploring other opportunities so that we stay one step ahead of a rapidly evolving situation.
As of this morning, there are two positive cases of COVID-19 in the shelter system. The identification of a second case – with no connection to the first case reported last week – is not unexpected. Both individuals are recovering in isolation. SSHA is working with Toronto Public Health to identify people who may have come in close contact with the individuals to actively monitor, test, and isolate those who become symptomatic. There is no evidence of an outbreak in our shelter system.
Canada's first dedicated isolation shelter for people experiencing homelessness
The City of Toronto also has Canada’s first dedicated isolation site for people experiencing homelessness who are awaiting COVID-19 test results. Referrals to the program come directly from provincial COVID-19 testing centres. When fully-operational, the facility will have 40 rooms for isolated households waiting for results. SSHA is also working with the Province to prioritize test results for this vulnerable group. There are further plans in partnership with the provincial government and Inner City Health Associates to open a COVID-19 recovery site for people experiencing homelessness who have tested positive with the virus. The recovery site will have a capacity of 400 people and will include 24-hour wrap-around health and medical supports.
Rapid Housing Access Initiative
A new Rapid Housing Access Initiative is helping to prioritize access to housing for existing shelter clients in Toronto Community Housing. Fifteen households have been matched with housing and will be moving in this week. An additional 50 units have been identified for move-in in the coming weeks. Clients are being referred through the Coordinated Access system and provided with supports to be successful in achieving housing stability. Units are being prioritized for particularly vulnerable individuals, including seniors.
Enhanced screening and cleaning measures
Enhanced screening by Central Intake is ongoing. Stronger infection, prevention and control (IPAC) and cleaning measures continue at City and partner shelters. The City has provided additional funding for this increase in preventative measures, purchasing specialized cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE), and helping to increase physical distancing (i.e. installation of curtains). There is now a focus on implementing a PPE distribution plan to ensure this critical equipment is available to clients and staff.
Support for housing partners
SSHA has also issued broad direction today to over 200 social and affordable housing providers responsible for over 33,000 units reinforcing that the housing stability of residents is a top priority. Housing providers have been directed to be flexible, exercise discretion, and to work with households whose employment-related income is affected by the current emergency.
As in all jurisdictions, the situation in our shelter system is evolving every day. The City, through SSHA and the Emergency Operations Centre, is committed to communicating and working with our more than 200 community partners to provide the best possible care to individuals experiencing homelessness in our city.
If you or someone you know needs street outreach, call 311 or Central Intake at 416-338-4766.
The City’s website is updated daily with the latest health advice and information about City services, social supports, and economic recovery measures. Check www.toronto.ca/covid-19 for answers to common questions before contacting the Toronto Public Health COVID-19 Hotline or 311.
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.
Province of Ontario Orders the Mandatory Closure of All Non-Essential Businesses
To further contain the spread of COVID-19, yesterday the Ontario Government announced the mandatory closure of all non-essential workplaces effective as of Tuesday, March 24th at 11:59 p.m. This closure will be in effect for 14 days with the possibility of extending this order as the situation evolves. A full list of businesses that are permitted to stay open can be found here.
March 24 - 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
In today’s COVID-19 update, Dr. de Villa emphasized that we are at a pivotal moment. What happens next in our efforts to prevent the spread of this virus, depends on all of us.
She shared a note of thanks to all those who have followed public health advice, and have been staying home and practicing social distancing. We need to make sure everyone understands the importance of this critical moment.
Read all of Dr. de Villa’s previous statements here.
Update from Fire Chief Matthew Pegg
Essential services in Toronto are continuing without interruption. Emergency response by first responders and the public health response to COVID-19 is ongoing. Our utilities, including clean, safe water, continue to be delivered. Social supports across the city are ramping up to provide emergency assistance to those who need it and protect vulnerable members of our community. New community and private sector partnerships are being sought out to aid in the City response.
City of Toronto Municipal Licensing & Standards is now participating in a joint operation with Toronto Public Health and the Toronto Police Service to ensure non-essential businesses are complying with the order to close. Compliance audits started this morning at 8 a.m. across the city and will continue 7 days a week, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Non-essential businesses found to be open may be provided with a Notice under the Provincial Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.
Click here to view the March 24th press conference.
Providing Support for Vulnerable Tenants
At the City of Toronto we must do everything within our power to provide support to all those who are most impacted by these difficult circumstances. As the shareholder of Toronto Community Housing, which houses nearly 150k Torontonians, today the City of Toronto confirmed that our residents who have lost income and jobs will not lose their housing too. We must not leave anyone behind.
For rent-geared-to-income households, which make up about 90 per cent of TCHC tenants, the housing corporation will recalculate their rent based on employment income changes owing to job loss or layoff incurred because of COVID-19. Rent will be adjusted or deferred in order to respond to the economic impact of COVID-19.
For market rent tenants whose income has been reduced as a result of a job loss or layoff because of the COVID-19 response, TCHC will consider various case-specific options to assist them, which may include arranging for payment deferment plans that suit their situation over the next few months.
The City also issued broad direction today to over 200 social and affordable housing providers responsible for over 33,000 units reinforcing that the housing stability of residents is a top priority. Housing providers have been directed to be flexible, exercise discretion, and to work with households whose employment-related income is affected due to the current emergency.
If you live in Spadina-Fort York, our MPP Chris Glover is working hard on what the Province can do to help support tenants in response to COVID-19. Please be in touch with his office to share your experiences or questions. If you live outside of Spadina-Fort York, you can find your riding to contact your MPP here.
Community and Social Supports for Torontonians
Although many places across Toronto have been closed due to social 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
Economic Support and Recovery - Supporting Local Businesses, Individuals and Families
The economic impact of this pandemic is taking a toll on the livelihoods of Toronto residents and businesses. The City is doing everything possible, in full cooperation with the provincial and federal governments, to minimize that impact and see an economic recovery take place as soon as possible.
The focus of the City’s Economic Support and Recovery Task Force will be on quickly determining what supports and stimulus work needs to be done to support businesses, workers and residents. This Task Force will enable the City to better respond to the evolving challenges of COVID-19 with its partners in government, business and non-profits.
Click here for more information on immediate actions that have been taken to support local businesses.
Essential Community Services - How to Volunteer
Non-profit agencies in the community-based sector are also facing a shortage of volunteers to help with delivering essential services. The City is urging non-profit organizations and agencies do the following to help facilitate connecting residents willing to volunteer to organizations and agencies who need the help:
Update or add information about current operations to 211’s database
Register volunteer needs through Spark Ontario at www.sparkontario.ca/ and/or with Volunteer Toronto at www.volunteertoronto.ca/. Volunteer Toronto has waived the fee associated with posting volunteer positions.
Residents interested in volunteering should register with the above-mentioned websites to get alerts for volunteer opportunities (some of which may be remote), call Volunteer Toronto at 416-961-6888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to connect with an advisor to discuss volunteer opportunities. Non-profit organizations and agencies’ staff are practicing infection prevention measures within their operations and volunteers would be required to do the same.
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:
What is Social 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 social distancing are measures we must all take. But what is social distancing?
Social 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.
Social 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
Please note: that these guidelines are not meant to say “you must stay in your home!”
You can still go outside to take a walk, go to the park, or walk your dog. If you need groceries, go to the store. We simply recommend that while outside you make sure to avoid crowds and maintain a distance of 6 feet from those around you.
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 to separate yourself from others, with the purpose of preventing the spread of the virus, including those within your home. 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, it is recommended to 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.
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
Call if you develop symptoms.
Toronto Public Health Hotline
8:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Call if you have questions about COVID-19.
Outside City limits: 416-392-2489
Call if you have questions about City services.