COVID-19 Updates - September 1st
As summer winds down and we head into fall, I know many of us with kids at home are preparing for the start of the school year and making important decisions about what’s best for our family. Reopening schools is a big challenge, and when it comes to our classrooms and our kids, safety must be our top priority.
Toronto Public Health has acknowledged that the importance of in-person learning for both children and parents must be balanced with the risks of COVID-19 transmission. TPH staff have developed recommendations for enhanced safety that build on the Ministry of Education’s initial plan, which have been endorsed by both the Toronto District School Board and the Toronto Catholic District School Board. TPH recommendations include: limiting class sizes to allow physical distancing of two metres between all students, requiring masks for all students where possible, and prioritizing resources for schools in high-transmission and high-needs areas.
City staff are currently working directly with the two Boards to provide additional support, including public health nurses, and to finalize plans for reopening. While it’s a big step, I am confident that if we continue to follow the guidance of our public health experts, as we have since January, we will be well-prepared to reduce risks and respond to any challenges that arise.
In this Edition
- Being Prepared for a COVID-19 Resurgence
- Moving Forward with Mandatory Registration for Short-term Rentals
- Welcoming Toronto's First Safer Supply Programs to Address the Overdose Crisis
- Property Tax Relief Approved for 45 Live Music Venues
- Resuming In-Home Visits for Healthy Babies Healthy Children Program
- West Nile Virus in Toronto
- City Expands Digital Main Street Program and Launches Pilot with West Queen West BIA
- Updates from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health
- Take A Virtual Visit to The Ex with CNE at Home
- Visiting Toronto Island Park
- TTC Bus-Only Lanes Online Survey
- Community Environment Days: Temporary Changes for 2020
- E-bikes added to Bike Share Toronto
- City of Toronto COVID-19 Resource Map
- COVID-19 Information and Resources
Being Prepared for a COVID-19 Resurgence
On Monday, our Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa provided an update and presentation on Toronto Public Health's planning for a potential resurgence of the COVID-19 virus that could take place this coming fall and winter season.
Since January 2020, Toronto Public Health has been working around the clock to respond to COVID-19 and keep our city safe. Acting on recommendations from our public health experts, the City took swift and decisive action to limit virus spread earlier this year. These actions, along with restrictions from the Federal and Provincial governments and the cooperation and sacrifice of Torontonians, were successful in reducing transmission, limiting community spread, and protecting our health care system.
While our success in reducing the spread of COVID-19 has made it possible to re-open many businesses and services, we are not out of the woods yet. Without a treatment or vaccine on the immediate horizon, we need to prepare ourselves for many more months of this pandemic. We cannot let our guard up. Still, while learning to live with COVID-19 circulating may be the new normal, accepting a significant second wave doesn't have to be.
This time, we can build on the lessons learned during the first wave of COVID-19. These lessons include the importance of physical distancing, wearing masks and face coverings, hand-washing, and limits on crowds and large groups, along with the key role of rapid testing and contact tracing. We also learned that access to data is critical in understanding exactly how COVID-19 is impacting different communities across our city.
Our team at Toronto Public Health, along with other City staff, has been hard at work planning for the next stage of our response to COVID-19. Our resurgence plans include approaches based on three different scenarios for COVID-19 activity in our city:
- A fall/winter peak
- A series of smaller peaks and valleys, that repeat throughout the season
- A 'slow burn' ripple effect, where there are continued cases but without a concrete pattern
While we cannot predict which scenario will occur, we are doing absolutely everything in our control to try to create a manageable and safe prolonged ripple effect. This means that while we will continue to see new cases, there will not be surges that cannot be contained or threaten the stability of our health care system.
Moving Forward with Mandatory Registration for Short-term Rentals
After brief delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Toronto is moving ahead with the implementation of local bylaws regulating short-term rentals in our communities. These regulations balance the freedom of residents to rent out their homes with the needs of our city when it comes to affordable housing, community safety, noise complaints, and neighbourhood livability.
Beginning next month, operators of short-term rentals (including Airbnb hosts) who are renting their homes for a period of less than 28 consecutive days will be required to register with the City of Toronto in order to operate legally.
Registration will open on September 10, with all current operators, including short-term rental companies, required to register by December 31, 2020. People can short-term rent their homes in Toronto only if they are a registered operator. A valid City-issued registration number must be included in all advertisements and listings.
Welcoming Toronto's First Safer Supply Programs to Address the Overdose Crisis
Two Toronto Community Health Centres have received federal funding to operate the first formal safer supply programs in our city, in order to reduce fatal opioid-related overdoses. This announcement is welcome news after Toronto Public Health reported that last month, 27 people in our city lost their lives to suspected overdoses – a tragic record that surpasses July's fatalities from COVID-19.
Safer supply programs, where health care professionals prescribe medications to people who use drugs, provide a safe alternative to the current toxic illicit drug supply. They also serve as an entry point to connect people with social services like housing and health care.
The two safer supply programs, which are the first funded programs of their kind in Toronto, are the Emergency Safer Supply Program at Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre, and the Downtown East Collaborative Safe Opioid Supply Program, which is a collaborative effort by the South Riverdale Community Health Centre, the Regent Park Community Health Centre, and Street Health. I was glad to join the leaders of these front-line community organizations, along with our partners in the Federal Government, to celebrate the launch of these programs on August 20.
Property Tax Relief Approved for 45 Live Music Venues
In August, I joined Mayor John Tory and deputy Mayor Michael Thompson at Toronto's historic Cameron House, to announce that 45 live music venues across the city will be receiving property tax relief that will help support our vibrant local music community.
In May, Toronto City Council amended the Creative Co-Location Facilities Property Tax Subclass to include live music venues. This made it possible for local venues to receive a property tax relief of up to 50 percent for qualifying properties. 45 different venues have now been approved, including neighbourhood institutions like The Horseshoe Tavern, The Garrison, and The Cameron House – all of which are home to some of my favourite Toronto memories. The property tax relief, which amounts to a combined total of $1.7 million, will be added to the final supplementary property tax notices that are issued to property owners in the fall.
Resuming In-Home Visits for Healthy Babies Healthy Children Program
In the midst of the pandemic our team at Toronto Public Health has worked tirelessly to continue providing the many services that Torontonians rely on. The Healthy Babies Healthy Children program is such a service. Earlier this year, this critical service for new parents was quickly modified and delivered virtually for everyone’s safety. I am delighted the program is now returning with in-person visits following everyone’s hard work to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
For more information about the program, please visit the Healthy Babies Healthy Children webpage.
West Nile Virus in Toronto
Our city’s first confirmed human case of West Nile Virus for 2020 was reported this past week. While the likelihood of becoming infected is low in our city, now is a good time to be reminded of simple actions we can take when enjoying the outdoors to further minimize the potential risk. This includes wearing insect repellent and light-coloured clothing, long pants, and long-sleeved shirts to prevent getting bitten by an infected mosquito.
For more information please see the City of Toronto’s West Nile Virus webpage.
City Expands Digital Main Street Program and Launches Pilot with West Queen West BIA
The City announced another expansion of the Digital Main Street program, aimed at ensuring main street business communities can adapt and future proof their businesses during this unprecedented time. The programs under the Digital Main Street Future Proof banner include: Transformation Teams, the Digital Main Street Lab and a new Community Collaboration Program.
As part of the Digital Main Street Lab, one identified collaboration includes the City of Toronto and the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA), who will work with the Beach Village BIA and West Queen West BIA to pilot a new community retail model with Toronto-based tech company Hubba. This pilot project will include opportunities to help small businesses improve their local retail sales by giving them access to new and unique products to sell to their customers, while testing unique local commerce business models and new technology.
To learn more and apply, visit: https://digitalmainstreet.ca/digital-main-street-lab/
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 2pm, and access past updates here.
Yesterday, Dr. de Villa provided an update on Toronto Public Health’s planning for a resurgence of COVID-19 cases this fall and winter season. Dr. de Villa outlined our key objectives in the ongoing pandemic response work, and outlined three possible scenarios for COVID-19 activity in our city in the coming months. While we can’t know for sure which scenario will occur, Dr. de Villa confirmed that the City and Toronto Public Health are actively planning for each one.
Dr. de Villa summarized the work that Toronto Public Health has underway that will continue into the fall, including enhancing case and contact tracing; supporting schools in re-opening; establishment of a voluntary isolate facility for people who cannot safely isolate at home; supporting hard-hit communities, including increasing mobile testing options; enhancing partnerships with long term care homes; and conducting detailed data analysis to inform actions and approaches going forward.
Take A Virtual Visit to The Ex with CNE at Home
Although the iconic lights of the midway won’t shine at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) this year, Toronto’s end of summer tradition continues in a new way – as the fair comes to life online from August 21 to September 7, 2020.
The new CNE At Home online portal, which can be accessed through TheEx.com shares some of the event’s most popular shows, favourite food recipes, tricks of the trade from buskers, historical retrospectives, new music performances and much more. Special online events include a virtual edition of the Canadian International Air Show (Sept 5-7). For more information about CNE At Home events and experiences, go to TheEx.com.
Visiting Toronto Island Park
When visiting the Island, remember to book your ferry tickets in advance at https://www.toronto.ca/ferry. Ferry service operates daily at 50 percent capacity with COVID-19 guidelines and procedures in place to protect passengers and staff. Passengers are required to wear masks or face coverings.
Services and amenities that are open at Toronto Island Park include washrooms, splash pad, a first aid station, William Meany Maze, some food and beverage outlets and disc golf.
TTC Bus-Only Lanes Online Survey
City Council has approved the creation of bus-only lanes on busy transit routes, with priority implementation planned for two corridors: Eglinton Avenue East and Jane Street.
For more information about these plans and to respond to an online survey from the TTC, please visit https://www.ttcannualplan.ca/.
Community Environment Days: Temporary changes for 2020
Community Environment Days scheduled earlier this year were cancelled due to COVID-19. To create a safe environment for residents to drop off items, the City has changed the events to a drive-through format. Health and safety protocols will be in place throughout the events to ensure residents and staff maintain a physical distance of at least two metres or six feet from those outside of their household or social circle.
Events will be held at the following locations:
- September 13, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., Disco Drop-Off Depot, 120 Disco Rd.
- September 20, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m., Scarborough Drop-Off Depot, 1 Transfer Pl.,
- September 27, 9 a.m. – 1.p.m., Ingram Drop-Off Depot, 50 Ingram Dr.
- October 4, 9 a.m. – 1.p.m., Commissioners Drop-Off Depot, 400 Commissioners St.,
- October 18, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., Dufferin Drop-Off Depot, 35 Vanley Cr.
- October 25, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., Victoria Park Drop-Off Depot, 3350 Victoria Park Ave.
- November 1, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m., Bermondsey Drop-Off Depot, 188 Bermondsey Rd.
Items that will be accepted at this year’s events include household hazardous waste such as propane tanks, pesticides, paint, expired medications and electronic items. The events are also a great opportunity to bring clothing, books and other items for donation.
In addition, free bagged compost will be available for pickup at the event. There is a limit of two bags per vehicle while supplies last. Please note that other materials normally accepted at Drop-Off Depots including garbage and blue bin recycling will not be accepted during these events.
Also, at the year’s events, kitchen containers will not be available for purchase and non-perishable food items and hearing aids will not be accepted for donation. More information about Community Environment Days is available at toronto.ca/environment_days.
E-bikes added to Bike Share Toronto
Bike Share Toronto has launched a pilot of e-bikes, which are equipped with an electric motor and rechargeable battery to assist with pedalling. There is no additional cost for Bike Share users to borrow an e-bike. The maximum speed is limited to 25 km/h and wearing a helmet is required by the Highway Traffic Act.
To learn more about e-bikes, visit bikesharetoronto.com/e-bikes/.
There is a Free Ride Wednesdays promotion during the month of September for anyone interested in testing out Bike Share.
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
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.