I hope each and every one of you took an opportunity over the past long weekend to relax and reflect, and hopefully got to experience some of the joys of a slowly re-opened city. It was a pleasure to walk down the streets and see patios and parks full of smiling people. A huge thank you to all of those who work in the hospitality sector, who got back to work and supported these businesses as more and more public health restrictions and closures were lifted.
As of yesterday, everyone in Toronto aged 12 and older is eligible to book an accelerated second dose COVID-19 vaccine. To accommodate this surge in demand for vital second doses, the City of Toronto immunization clinics added more than 375,000 vaccination appointments – 125,000 appointments each for the weeks of July 5, July 12, and July 19 – to the provincial booking system this morning.
As the province moves quickly through their vaccine rollout, more opportunities to book second dose appointments are becoming readily available. As of tomorrow, any individual who received their first vaccine dose before May 30 becomes eligible to book their second dose through the provincial booking system. I have been receiving a lot of questions from residents about mixing doses, and what is safe. Right now, the safest dose is the first one you can get, and that includes mixing doses for your first and second shot. Those who had Moderna or Pfizer for their first dose can now have either for their second dose, while people who had AstraZeneca for their first dose can either have the same, or opt for Moderna or Pfizer.
Today, Ontario is reporting 296 new cases of COVID-19 and as of yesterday, there were only 40 active cases in Toronto. This feels like a turning point for the pandemic. This past weekend I was so excited to see our patios and restaurants open. I was relieved to be able to enjoy a meal outdoors with my family and remember a sense of normalcy. It has been a long almost year and a half and it finally feels like there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
I am heartbroken and angered to hear of the Muslim family who was intentionally struck by a vehicle in London, Ontario. A child is left without his family because of anti-Muslim violence. There is no place for Islamophobia in our lives, and we must each do our part to speak out against it. If you need it, there is a Muslim youth helpline where you can connect with confidential support 7 days a week from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m EST at 1-866-NASEEHA (627-3342), or visit naseeha.org/contact-us.
This week I am grieving over the discovery of 215 children from a mass grave site at a residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia. This is a terrible loss for the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation and other Indigenous communities who continue to live this trauma. Indigenous people have said for years that these mass graves exist, and we must continue the painful work to search all residential schools, and return these children to their communities.
After a beautiful, sunny long weekend, I hope that you were able to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. I was happy to be outside with my family enjoying the parks and other outdoor space our beautiful city has to offer. The sunshine feels like a welcomed change and aligned with the relief many of us are feeling as vaccinations increase.
As you are likely aware, last week the Province of Ontario extended the stay-at-home order until at least June 2, 2021. While we are seeing positive trends as a result of the public health measures put in place, we cannot afford to let up yet, especially as variants such as B.1.617, which is believed to have originated in India, are increasingly making headlines all over the world including here in Toronto. The Province’s scientific advisors believe it is a realistic possibility the variant is as much as 50 per cent more transmissible than B.1.1.7, which was first identified in the United Kingdom. The infectious new variants are here and we should act as individuals with this knowledge. As vaccinations increase, as we hear of economies opening up in other places, and as our weather improves, the temptation to get ahead of ourselves is very real.
As the Vice-Chair of the Board of Health, yesterday I met with my colleagues to review the City of Toronto’s response to COVID-19. We also heard from the City’s Accessibility Task Force on COVID-19 vaccines. We have seen the continued disproportionate impacts of the pandemic on people living with disabilities. While everyone is facing challenges navigating the provincial booking systems and accessing vaccines, there continues to be a number of additional barriers that impact people living with disabilities.
Yesterday morning, vaccine eligibility opened to individuals 18 years of age or older in hot spot communities across the province. In Ward 13, the Provincially designated hot spot postal codes remain M4X, M5A, and M5B. Bookings for those hot spots and M4Y remain available through Unity Health at the pop-up clinics at Wellesley Community Centre, 40 Oak Street, and Ryerson University. By early afternoon, many vaccine appointments had already been booked up, but I would encourage you to check back regularly. The expansion of these eligibility criteria is a part of the Province’s plan to allocate 50% of vaccine supply to areas most impacted by COVID-19.