Staying Informed About COVID-19 - March 23rd Updates

Dear Friends,

To prevent further spread of COVID-19, every level of government must act with deep care, collaboration, and urgency, together. 

In this rapidly-evolving situation, there are important updates to share since my last email yesterday afternoon, including the City of Toronto declaring a state of emergency, and the Province ordering the closure of all non-essential businesses. Please continue reading below for more on these updates. 

While we adjust to all of these changes, it’s important to remember that this is a moment in time. We will get through it. But, it requires all of us working together. Self-isolate if you have travelled, stay home as much as you can and practice social distancing, but look out for one another. We're a resilient city, province, and country. We can do this.





City of Toronto Declares State of Emergency 

There is no doubt about it - Torontonians are pulling together during these unprecedented times. And while you are doing your part by staying home and practicing social distancing, at the City we are doing our part by working around the clock in order to protect the health and safety of everyone in our community.

I would like to thank Mayor John Tory for his leadership during this difficult time, and for taking the necessary step today of declaring a state of emergency. 

The declaration of a municipal emergency is part of the City's ongoing efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 and will ensure the municipal government can continue to act and respond quickly to the pandemic and any other events that arise in the weeks ahead. 

We know the number of COVID-19 cases continues to increase in our city and that the next few days are absolutely critical in our ongoing efforts to slow down the spread of COVID-19. Continue taking every precaution in protecting yourselves – stay home, stay safe, and only venture out to buy essential supplies once a week. Even better, order online if at all possible.

While we thank the residents and businesses who are listening to public health advice and practicing social distancing, we know from our public health professionals that there are many who are continuing to put their health and the health of our community at risk.

This declaration sends the strongest possible message to our residents to stay home and to change their behaviour.

This decision was not taken lightly, and like all decisions during this time, was made with the advice of our public health experts, including our Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, and the head of the City’s Office of Emergency Management, Fire Chief Matthew Pegg. It is part of an overall collaborative effort and cooperation with every level of government. It also comes after we learned on the weekend about the first death of a Toronto resident related to COVID-19. It is a tragic reminder that we are confronting a deadly virus. That is why it is so important that we all continue to do everything we can to keep COVID-19 from continuing to spread.

Right now across Toronto, our healthcare workers are confronting the reality of COVID-19. This emergency declaration is being made in support of our healthcare workers and all City workers focused on this crisis, to make sure we flatten the curve, and protect our healthcare system.

While the declaration doesn’t change the Level 3 status of the City’s Emergency Operations Centre, it does provide City staff with the necessary flexibility to access resources in a more timely way so it can continue to keep the city functioning and safe.

As you know, this situation continues to change day-by-day, hour-by-hour, but we remain focused. There is a fierce urgency now as we collectively respond to COVID-19, and if we all work together we will flatten the curve. We will get through this.

Province of Ontario Orders the Mandatory Closure of All Non-Essential Businesses

To further contain the spread of COVID-19, the Ontario Government will order 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 will be released by the Province tomorrow.

Businesses that can continue operations with employees working remotely, or through other contingency measures, are being given approximately 36 hours to prepare and adapt. Essential services may continue their operations to maintain supply chains and ensure the people of Ontario have access to necessities, including groceries, medicines and other essential products.

There is a fierce urgency now if we are going to collectively respond to COVID-19, and all levels of government will continue working closely together. I want to thank the Provincial Government for their important announcement to further facilitate social distancing.

March 23 - 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. Click here to read past updates

Encouraging social distancing

Toronto Public Health is reinforcing the importance of social distancing in preventing the spread of COVID-19. The best way for Torontonians to contribute to the public health response is to continue the proactive measures of social distancing (and if sick, self-isolation). 

Today, Dr. de Villa stated her support for the Province’s announcement that they will be ordering the mandatory closure of all non-essential businesses as of Tuesday, March 24th at 11:59 p.m. Dr. de Villa reinforced the importance of social distancing, and encouraged all non-essential businesses to close as soon as possible, before the deadline if they are able to do so. 

While exercise and enjoying the outdoors is important for those who are not self-isolating, gathering in playgrounds may pose a risk to the health of families and the wider community. To that end, the City is erecting signage near playgrounds reminding the public of the importance of social distancing and that playgrounds are not sanitized. 

Please do your part to protect those most vulnerable - practice social distancing, and encourage your family and friends to do the same. We're all in this together.

Enforcement of Provincial order closing businesses

Last week, the Province of Ontario declared a state of emergency and issued an order closing businesses including bars, sit-down restaurants, and nightclubs. Today it was also announced that the Province has ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses as of Tuesday, March 24th at 11:59 p.m. Based on proactive inspections by the City of Toronto, we know that the vast majority of businesses are in compliance, but a small number may not be. Complaints and requests for enforcement can be sent to the City and will be responded to on a priority basis.

While enforcement of provincial orders is carried out by police, the public is asked to not call 911 with reports of open businesses and instead direct calls to 311. This will help keep the 911 lines clear for urgent emergencies only.

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:

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: [email protected]

311 Toronto

Outside City limits: 416-392-2489

Call if you have questions about City services.

Telephone: 311

TTY: 416-338-0889