Today the Province of Ontario is reporting 2,275 new cases of COVID-19 and 20 deaths. These are devastating new records. I worry for our communities. With the holidays quickly approaching, I know January could be the worst month yet for Ontario and Toronto. Please do not gather this holiday. I know how challenging it is, and how many of our plans have needed to change to stay safe. I am asking that you remain steadfast and vigilant in adhering to public health guidelines in order to help reduce community transmission. While the beginning of vaccine distribution is promising, it will still be a while yet before we see any immunity to COVID-19.
Yesterday, the Province of Ontario delivered the first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to Toronto at the University Health Network and The Ottawa Hospital in Ottawa. The first doses were given to health care workers in long-term care homes and other high-risk settings. Anita Quidangen, who is a personal support worker at the Rekai Centre at Sherbourne Place in our own Toronto Centre was the first. There are still many unanswered questions, and the CBC has outlined responses from medical professionals to some frequently asked questions. I know it will still be awhile before we can return to our regular activities, and it will start slow. I urge you to please continue to wash your hands regularly, limit trips outside of your home, and if you can, wear a mask.
At yesterday’s Board of Health meeting, my colleagues and I requested a fulsome report on vaccine delivery. Congregate settings are at incredibly high risk, and I want to equally prioritize our shelters and frontline workers. Particularly as the snow starts to stick to the ground, the City of Toronto and the Province have the responsibility to ensure that these congregate settings are as safe as possible. This information is not only critical for service delivery but also to coordinate and facilitate delivery across the city.
We continue to call on the Provincial and Federal governments for additional supports including universal paid sick leave as a measure to ensure that individuals are following public health guidance to stay home from work and self-isolate when not feeling well. We have made several requests to other levels of government and that summary is available here. We must understand what’s been promised and what has been delivered in order to hold the Provincial and Federal governments accountable. As we look towards recovery, we need a detailed inventory of outstanding resources to support our communities towards an equitable recovery. We need to be able to quickly identify gaps, and the quantum necessary in order to not leave anyone behind.
Today, the City of Toronto is launching an Integrated Prevention and Harm Reduction Initiative (iPHARE), a multi-pronged strategy to address opioid-related deaths in local shelters. With many services moving online and adhering to physical distancing measures, the capacity for services at many sites became impossible. At the beginning of the pandemic, many of these service locations were closed leaving those suffering from addiction on their own. Advocates estimate a possible 450 opioid-related deaths in Toronto in 2020, and Shelter, Support and Housing Administration (SSHA) staff are reporting a 48% increase in shelter deaths since March. These deaths are alarming and devastating for friends, families, and frontline workers.
We know that the greatest risk factor for death from overdose is using alone, so the iPHARE program will allow residents to consume drugs on-site under the supervision of trained staff. This initiative will help save lives and assist first responders, harm reduction workers, and shelter workers who continue to face the difficult job of reversing overdoses, or witness overdose fatalities. This will also provide a safer space for those suffering from addiction and reduce drug paraphernalia in parks and public spaces.
As part of the Toronto Overdose Action Plan and recent Board of Health recommendations, iPHARE has three key components:
- $2.76 million for Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre to provide a range of harm reduction supports to hotels set up to create physical distancing in the shelter system and other shelter programs across Toronto
- $1.47 million to fund LOFT Community Services and Toronto North Support Services for enhanced intensive mental health case management supports
- $3.38 million to expand the range of harm reduction services and embed Urgent Public Health Needs Sites (UPHNS) in selected shelters across the City, allowing shelter residents to consume drugs under trained supervision to reduce the risk of overdose fatalities. These UPHNS are for residents of the shelter where the service is located only and not open to the public.
Health Canada has created a streamlined approval process to expedite the implementation of UPHNS in areas of demonstrated need as part of additional measures to address the opioid crisis. There is no requirement for public consultation or provincial government approval for these health services.
As part of iPHARE, Toronto Public Health and other community harm reduction programs are working with SSHA and shelter operators to introduce a range of harm reduction measures in all shelter locations. This includes access to on-site harm reduction supplies, mandatory staff training on drug use, overdose prevention and response, grief and loss support services for staff and residents, and creating an overdose response program for shelter residents that use drugs. There will also be a Resident Peer Harm Reduction Advisory Committee at all hotel locations and whenever possible, working with people with lived experience to develop and deliver harm reduction and overdose-related services on-site.
Shelter, Support and Housing Administration (SSHA) will be introducing supervised consumption services at a number of shelter sites across the city beginning with the site at 65 Dundas Street East.
The City of Toronto will be hosting information sessions in the New Year for residents who wish to learn more about the program and ask questions.
When: January 12, January 18 and January 19
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Where: Details will be posted online in the New Year
I am hopeful that this new initiative at our shelters will be one more avenue residents can take on a path towards recovery and prevent more lives lost. This is not work that the City of Toronto can do alone. We need robust mental health and addictions supports to be delivered by the Province as this falls within their jurisdiction. For far too long Toronto has been asked to take on more service delivery as the Province downloads responsibilities on municipalities. Please continue to write and call your MPP to advocate for wrap-around services to help address these systemic injustices.
Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.
Community Corner in Ward 13
Image description: a picture taken during the day of Trolley Crescent
Trolley Crescent, a street in Corktown adjacent to Underpass Park, was originally designed by Waterfront Toronto as a woonerf. This is a Dutch-style of street which prioritizes pedestrians over cars and means to feel like your own backyard. Since 2015, it has been a source of frustration for the community as vehicles continually park on the pedestrian boulevard and enter Underpass Park creating extremely unsafe conditions. Earlier this summer, a pedestrian was struck by a vehicle attempting to enter the park resulting in an investigation by the Toronto Police.
This summer, I visited Trolley Crescent, along with City staff and Waterfront Toronto, to address this public safety issue. We met with residents, at a distance, who shared their concerns and Waterfront Toronto went to work on proposed design solutions. This fall, we shared them with a small group of residents who provided feedback and further opportunities for improvements.
Now, Waterfront Toronto would like to hear from the broader community on these design proposals. Available now until January 15, 2021, I encourage you to take a few minutes to complete this survey and provide feedback. These new solutions will be implemented in Spring 2021.
Community Care in Ward 13
Image description: a picture taken during the day of the newly painted rainbow benches in Barbara Hall Park
I am excited to see the installation of the new rainbow benches in Barbara Hall Park. Since the summer of 2019, my office has been working hard in collaboration with City Parks Staff, the Church Wellesley Neighbourhood Association, Village BIA, and the 519 to bring improvements to the park. With more improvements coming, these beautiful benches mark just the beginning. The benches are designed using the latest accessibility standards and there will be a variety of designs including some without mid-arms. There will be additional benches added including one painted with the Trans Flag to be placed near the Trans and AIDS Memorials.
It has been over six years since the last revitalization project along Church Street for World Pride. The next pieces of work will involve major capital improvements to the entire park, and most especially the Eastern portion, AIDS Memorial and Off-Leash Area. There is still work ahead, but for now, we can enjoy these beautiful brand new benches. I want to thank City staff, the Church Wellesley Neighbourhood Association, Village BIA and the 519 for your hard work. What a great addition to the community!
COVID-19: Ongoing Tips to Reduce Virus Spread
As we begin to again restrengthen our public health measures, we will all continue to live in this new normal. Wearing a mask or a face covering is mandatory in all public indoor spaces and on the TTC. Our commitment must be to continue minimizing 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 or social circle/bubble;
- Avoiding crowds and congregations in closed indoor settings;
- Wearing a cloth mask or face covering in any public indoor setting, including stores, transit, offices; and where
- physical distancing is difficult to maintain.
- Staying home whenever we are sick for any reason.
Face Masks and Coverings Offer Best Protection
Image description: Informational graphic from Toronto Public Health titled, "Face Masks & Coverings Offer Best Protection." Through visual examples, the graphic shows recommended and not recommended ways of wearing a mask. The recommended way for wearing a mask says, "should cover your nose, mouth, and chin without gaping." The following are not recommended: face shields, masks with exhalation valves, or clear plastic masks.
How to Safely Wear a Mask
Image description: Toronto Public Health infographic about how to safely wear a mask. Information on the infographic is listed below.
- Do wash your hands before putting it on and taking it off
- Do make sure it fits to cover your mouth and nose
- Do wash your cloth mask in the laundry
- Do clean surfaces that a dirty mask touches
- Don’t touch your face or mask while using it
- Don’t use masks on children under 2 or those who can’t breathe with them on
- Don’t share your mask with others
- Don’t wear medical masks, keep them for health care workers
- The best protection is to stay home, keep a 6-foot distance, and wash hands often.
City of Toronto COVID-19 Updates
The City of Toronto is announcing the opening of a new transitional housing facility that will provide units for 33 youth between the ages of 16 and 29, who identify as LGBTQI2S and are currently experiencing homelessness. The first group of youth move into the facility today.
Mayor John Tory launched the Awakenings program – a virtual series of art projects by Black, Indigenous and artists of colour. Awakenings is a new program that will feature art projects that explore untold stories, awaken a new perspective and invite the public to join the conversation. The series is part of the City of Toronto’s efforts to address anti-Black racism and will be released over the next couple of years.
Today, the City of Toronto is launching an Integrated Prevention and Harm Reduction initiative (iPHARE), a multi-pronged strategy to address opioid-related deaths in local shelters. This initiative comes in response to the escalating opioid poisoning crisis in Toronto. It helps to advance the Toronto Overdose Action Plan, and recent recommendations approved by the Board of Health at its November 16, 2020 meeting, and recommendations from the General Manager of Shelter, Support and Housing Administration.
Province of Ontario Updates
The Ontario government is allocating an additional $120 million to help municipalities and Indigenous community partners protect the health and safety of vulnerable people during COVID-19. This investment builds upon the second phase of social services relief funding announced this fall and brings the government's total allocation to $510 million.
The Ministry of Long-Term Care has issued a Mandatory Management Order requiring Revera Long Term Care Inc. to retain UniversalCare Canada Inc. to temporarily manage Westside, a long-term care home in Etobicoke.
Premier Doug Ford issued the following statement on the first COVID-19 vaccinations being administered to frontline health care workers in Ontario and in the country.
The Ontario government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and other health experts, is updating the province's testing guidelines for outbound international travellers. Effective December 11, 2020, individuals requesting a COVID-19 test for international travel clearance are no longer eligible for a publicly funded COVID-19 test in Ontario.
The Ontario government is investing $1.2 million in a skills training project through SkillsAdvance Ontario, in partnership with Carrefour communautaire francophone de London, to prepare 130 job seekers for careers in the French and English-language early childhood education sector.
Government of Canada Updates
The Government of Canada is delivering on its commitment to ensure that Canadians have access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, as soon as possible.
Canada and Ontario Invest in Green Infrastructure to Support Residents of Pays Plat First Nation and Biigtigong Nishnaabeg First Nation
The safety and well-being of Canadians are top priorities for the governments of Canada and Ontario. Investments in Ontario’s infrastructure during this extraordinary time provides an opportunity to create jobs, economic growth, and make our communities more sustainable and resilient.
Canadian scientists, businesses and manufacturers are finding new ways to fight COVID-19 and save lives. The Government of Canada is investing in projects that will support Canada in the global race to find treatments for COVID-19 while building domestic capabilities to fight future pandemics.
New Investments to Continue to Work to End the Tragedy of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people
The Government of Canada, in collaboration with partners across the country, is continuing the critical work to end violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people.
The fifth anniversary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report comes at a time that is difficult for many and that our efforts to honour victims and families may act as an unwelcome reminder to those who have suffered hardships through generations of government policies that were harmful to Indigenous peoples.
Consultation on the Simplification of Form T2200, Declaration of Conditions of Employment, as a Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many Canadian employees working from home to help minimize the spread of the virus, raising questions about how salaried and commissioned employees affected by the new realities can claim work-space-in-the-home and supplies expenses, on their 2020 T1 Individual Income Tax and Benefit Return.
Introducing a Simplified Process for Claiming the Home Office Expenses for Canadians Working from Home Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic
This year has been filled with unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Canadians unexpectedly had to work from home which resulted in millions of Canadians setting up their work space in their kitchens, bedrooms and living rooms. In response, the Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of National Revenue, provided today additional details on how the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has made the home office expenses deduction available to more Canadians, and simplified the way employees can claim these expenses on their personal income tax return for the 2020 tax year.
COVID-19 Information and Resources
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.
Phone lines for telehealth, TPH and 311 continue to experience very high volumes. Please help keep the phones lines open for people who are sick by visiting the Toronto Public Health COVID-19 website for up-to-date information and resources: toronto.ca/covid-19
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, or to report people
Telephone: 311 (The City is only accepting 311 requests through phone)
Support for People Living with Homelessness
If you see someone living with homelessness and in need of support you can call Streets to Homes at 416-338-4766. For mental health support, the Gerstein Crisis Centre is a valuable 24-hours a day, seven days a week service in our community and they have crisis workers on standby at 416-929-5200. More resources, including additional how to report information, are available on my website at kristynwongtam.ca.
If you or someone else is confronted with life-threatening danger, please call 911 immediately. Alternatively, the Toronto Police request that online reports be submitted at torontopolice.on.ca/core or to torontopolice.on.ca/community-complaints. You can also call their non-emergency line at 416-808-2222.