Toronto Board of Health Meeting and COVID-19 Updates - June 8th
At today’s virtual meeting of the Toronto Board of Health, the Board moved ahead with COVID-19 recovery planning by approving motions on testing, data analysis, and public health indicators, along with actions to tackle the overdose and opioid poisoning crisis, and address anti-Black racism in our city.
We must continue applying a public health lens to every step we take. That’s as true when it comes to responding to COVID-19 and reopening our city, as it is for stopping overdoses and addressing the public health crisis of anti-Black racism in Toronto.
All of these issues directly relate to the health and wellbeing of our residents. For far too long, we have focused on responding to health emergencies, rather than investing in preventative approaches and supports. The evidence is clear that the health inequities that persist in our city are a direct result of the social determinants of health, including race, income, and housing, to name a few. To truly build a just and healthy city, we must fully address the social determinants of health – beginning with the measures approved today.
Please continue reading below for more on the motions approved today at the Board of Health, updates from our Medical Officer of Health, and my statement on the provincial government’s reopening measures announced today.
In this Edition
- Updates from the June Board of Health Meeting
- Statement on Provincial Re-opening Measures
- Heat Relief Strategy Updates
- Government of Ontario Proposing Temporary Ban on Commercial Evictions
- Updates from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health
- Take Action: Toronto in Crisis - It’s Time for a New Deal for Toronto
- Supporting Toronto’s Arts and Cultural Sector
- Toronto COVID-19 Resource Map
- Staying Healthy and Resilient During the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Supporting Local Businesses
- Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 When Spending Time Outdoors
- Working Collaboratively for Spadina-Fort York
- COVID-19 Information and Resources
Updates from the June Board of Health Meeting
COVID-19 Response and Recovery - Update
Public health data and expertise must guide every step we take towards reopening. The Board of Health has approved a motion asking Toronto Public Health to create and share a public dashboard of key data indicators, to show us where we are in terms of safely moving ahead with recovery.
The Board has also asked Toronto Public Health to conduct a detailed analysis of COVID-19 cases and impacts on specific occupations, housing types, and racial and ethnic communities. This information is critical to guiding our ongoing response to the virus and helping those most impacted.
Toronto Overdose Action Plan
I’m glad to report that the Board of Health is moving forward in asking the Federal and Provincial governments to work with us on a safe supply to drug use approach that will prevent overdoses and save lives. It may sound controversial, but it’s evidence-based, sensible, compassionate, and long overdue.
In safe supply programs, people who use drugs can access a legal and regulated supply of opioids, alongside community supports. Public health data and research show that harm reduction and safe supply approaches work, in helping people manage addiction and stay safe.
Addressing Anti-Black Racism as a Public Health Crisis
Anti-Black racism is a public health crisis in our city. The intersection of race, income, housing, and other key social determinants of health have put Black Torontonians at great risk – risks that we cannot allow to continue.
To address anti-Black racism in our city, we must approach it from a public health lens. That’s why the Board of Health has re-committed to prioritizing city resources for programs that target the social determinants of health, with a focus on Black communities and residents.
Statement on Provincial Re-opening Measures
Today, the Ontario Government announced plans for a second stage of re-opening businesses and other activities that were closed to slow the spread of COVID-19. I am relieved that the Province has agreed to adopt a regional approach based on local indicators. This is critically important. Here in Toronto and in the Greater Toronto Area, we are still seeing many new cases of COVID-19 each day, and we need to proceed slowly and cautiously.
But we can't stay locked in our homes forever. The reality for Toronto and Ontario is that we are going to have to learn to live with the ongoing threat of COVID-19. The virus will not go away next week, next month, or even likely next year. This is a risk we will all have to manage every single day.
As the Province and cities re-open, we will see more cases of COVID-19. We will experience new outbreaks, and we will, sadly, see deaths. With no vaccine or proven treatment for this virus, this is inevitable. Our residents, in particular the most vulnerable, are counting on us to proceed with caution.
Let me be clear: learning to live with the threat of COVID-19 does not mean accepting needless risk or unnecessary deaths. All of us – governments, individuals, businesses, and organizations – can and must do our part to keep the virus under control.
I continue to have concerns that the Ontario Government is not moving quickly enough to address major public health requirements to support safely returning to more normal life and activities.
We need a province-wide testing and lab reporting system that is nimble and responsive, and can handle increases in cases and expedite contact tracing.
We need information and analysis on which groups of people are most at risk of contracting COVID-19, and proactive measures in place to protect them.
We need public health data and re-opening criteria that is open and accessible to the public, so we can know exactly where we are in our fight against this pandemic.
It is vitally important that we continue to preserve the public’s trust in government decision-making. Governments need to make it clear that our decisions will not put people at unnecessary risk. This will only be possible if we provide clear and transparent evidence and rationale every step of the way.
I believe that Toronto and other cities must adopt the Province’s re-opening measures cautiously, while taking stronger proactive actions to protect the most vulnerable in our communities. The City of Toronto staff in the Office of Recovery and Rebuild have been working hard to plan for our eventual re-opening. Every single department and division is engaged in this work.
Living with COVID-19 means living with risk, yes, but also doing everything we can to protect one another, and in particular, to protect the most vulnerable members of our communities. Re-opening must be a gradual process that we re-assess each step of the way. These continue to be unprecedented times – but with a measured approach, we can balance the risks and help to keep people safe.
Heat Relief Strategy Updates
COVID-19 has required a rethink of how we deliver many city services, including heat relief. To provide relief during hot weather, the City will be opening 14 Emergency Cooling stations during Heat Warning periods. A map of stations will be available here: https://www.toronto.ca/community-people/health-wellness-care/health-programs-advice/hot-weather/cool-spaces-near-you/
The 14 Emergency Cooling Centres are publicly accessible, air-conditioned places to rest indoors and receive a cool drink. Staff trained to assist residents affected by the extreme heat will be on hand. Infection prevention and control measures are in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
For people who live outdoors, the City’s Streets to Homes outreach team and Fred Victor Keep Cool Project will be doing wellness checks, advising people of the Emergency Cooling Centres, and providing water and transit assistance.
Tips for people to protect themselves from the heat are available at https://www.toronto.ca/keepcool. When a Heat Warning is declared, those who need assistance or have heat-related inquiries can call 311.
Government of Ontario Proposing Temporary Ban on Commercial Evictions
The Ontario government announced today that it intends to take action to protect commercial tenants from being locked out or having their assets seized by their landlords due to the negative impacts of COVID-19.
The proposed changes to the Commercial Tenancies Act would, if passed, temporarily halt evictions of businesses that are eligible for federal/provincial rent assistance. If passed, the legislation would reverse evictions that occurred on or after June 3, 2020. The government announced that it intends to bring this legislation forward as soon as possible. Read the full announcement 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 shared that while our situation in Toronto is improving and we have made significant progress, other locations in Ontario with much smaller populations and very different circumstances are at a different point in their outbreak than we are.
Given this, the province has indicated that Toronto, along with all of the other communities in the Golden Horseshoe who are experiencing similar circumstances, will move to the second phase at a later date than the rest of the province.
In order to move forward to support our city to safely reopen, we will use this time to help our local businesses, such as restaurants and hair salons, and other community services and amenities including our libraries and pools, to best prepare to reopen when it is safe to do so. Toronto Public Health is continuing to observe and use the best available evidence to develop public health guidance to share with these businesses and settings.
Dr. de Villa reminded us that because COVID-19 does not impact all communities in the same way, we need to keep looking at our own unique local circumstances to inform our approach for safely reopening. The plan to reopen should be gradual and based on what is happening in our city.
As we begin to ease our public health measures, we will all be living a new normal. Our commitment is to minimize the impact of COVID-19, especially on our most vulnerable residents, while reducing negative social, economic and broader health impacts on our community. In the coming months what this means for our residents is:
- Continuing to work remotely, wherever possible;
- Maintaining physical distance from people outside our household;
- Avoiding crowds and congregations in closed indoor settings;
- Wearing a cloth mask or face covering where physical distancing is difficult to maintain; and
- Increased diligence on staying home whenever we are sick for any reason.
It is also important to note that as businesses and activities reopen in our province, and people move around and interact with each other more, we will likely see more COVID-19 activity, even if we all diligently follow public health guidelines. This has been the experience in jurisdictions all around the world.
Until we have a treatment or a vaccine, we should expect this will be the case, and physical distancing will continue to be part of our lives for the foreseeable future.
As we continue to move forward, your individual contributions continue to be central to our success. Please remember that all your efforts are worth it. Every action you take brings us one step closer to getting our city back.
Read Dr. de Villa’s past updates here.
Take Action: Toronto in Crisis - It’s Time for a New Deal for Toronto
We know that our cities can lead the way to recovery and become stronger and more sustainable than ever before — but only if we invest in them. That's why we need a New Deal for cities.
Progress Toronto has put together a petition urging the Federal and Provincial governments to provide immediate financial relief to cities and commit to a new deal that will help build a Toronto that works for everyone.
Take action and make your voice heard by signing the petition 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.
Staying Healthy and Resilient During the COVID-19 Pandemic - Advice from Toronto Public Health and Available Supports
We’ve all had to endure a great deal of change over these last couple of months. It’s been 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.
If you need access to, or are seeking information on social and community supports and services, you can call 211 for non-emergency requests and information.
Through 211, operators can connect residents to income supports, distress lines, and mental health supports. You can call 211 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, text 21166, live chat with 211 agents Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., or visit 211toronto.ca to search for services.
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 has arrived, 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:
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.