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-19. These 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.

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