Yesterday, Premier Ford announced province-wide closures beginning on December 26 at 12:01 a.m. to stop the further spread of COVID-19. These restrictions are urgent and necessary to protect our loved ones. I know for most of us another lengthy and strict lockdown is disheartening, and even heartbreaking. With case numbers continuing to rise across the province, this is the right decision to protect our residents and it should have come earlier and accompanied with increased social and financial supports for struggling businesses and essential workers.
New restrictions include extending school closures for elementary schools until January 11, and secondary schools until January 25, 2021. Students will engage in online learning until they are able to return to the classroom. Additional restrictions include limited capacity for indoor shopping at essential services such as grocery stores, and curbside pickup only for other retailers including hardware stores. Big box retailers are permitted to continue indoor shopping as long as they sell groceries to the public and limit their capacity. A list of the new restrictions is available here.
While these restrictions are necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19, it is critical that our Provincial and Federal governments provide further supports for our small businesses and universal paid sick leave, income supports and workplace protections. While a small business grant is a good step in the right direction, it remains grossly insufficient for our downtown business operators who are paying some of the highest commercial rents in the country. We need increased proportionally support for businesses hit the hardest. After all, how can a modest $20,000 small business grant support downtown restaurants paying much more than $20,000 PER MONTH in rent and other fixed costs. Small businesses have been asking for increased wage subsidies, expedited fixed cost relief program, fair taxation, favourable loans terms and proportionally-seized grants to address liquidity. Premier Ford's one size fits all approach for supports in Ontario is simply failing big cities. What works for the Town of Tillsonburg is not going to be enough for the City of Toronto and especially not our downtown.
Without adequate supports, people who can afford to stay home will, and those who cannot will get sick in an effort to provide for their families. Premier Ford needs to enforce a moratorium on evictions through the duration of this pandemic. We cannot continue to exacerbate Toronto’s housing crisis by permitting residents to be evicted from their homes during a global health crisis. These were challenges we saw in the first wave of this pandemic, and it should come to no surprise to the Premier. Instead of preparing, and refining a sustainable tailored strategy to support residents and businesses, we are again left with his failed one size fits all approach.
On Friday I was disappointed to learn that, while I was caring for my parents who underwent surgery, my colleagues on City Council voted against asking the Federal government to expropriate hotels to house more residents currently living in encampments. The City continues to work hard to ensure safe indoor spaces, and without support from our Federal and Provincial governments, our actions are limited. Homelessness is representative of systemic inequalities, and requires a coordinated response from all levels of government. For more information on my work on housing and homelessness, please visit my website at www.kristynwongtam.ca/homelessness.
While I know many of you are concerned for your neighbours and communities, I want to encourage you to take care of yourselves as well. Last spring, I know friends, family and loved ones were suffering from exacerbated mental health challenges. With the sun setting earlier and days shortening, there will be more challenging days ahead. Please check in with your loved ones and close communities. Sometimes it can be hard to feel the love each and every one of us receives and there are days when it’s hard to see the light. Know you are not alone in these feelings, and there is no shame in reaching out.
The above image outlines some tips for practicing self and community care. Tips include getting outside, taking a break from the news, reaching out to someone you trust, phoning a friend especially if they are a senior or living with disability, and saying thank you to our essential workers.
If you can, I would encourage you to check in with loved ones in a variety of ways. A phone call, a quick text, maybe even a detailed email. Experiment with what medium you prefer because it might surprise you. Maybe a long email, or hand written note will bring you more connection that you thought. Sometimes knowing a friend is sitting with thoughts of you as they write can be even more fulfilling than a text message.
I know it can be hard to know what you might need, especially now. With demanding and competing priorities, it can be easy to forget to look after ourselves. We must try to find small joys where we can. Maybe find a moment to have your favourite tea, or finally put up that treasured photo you love so much. Call a friend. Reread your favourite story.
It’s ok if you’re having trouble, we are all trying to find our way right now. Please know you’re not alone, and there are resources available here. I am in awe of the strength and compassion our communities have offered through these challenging times. I know we will move through this hardship and forward towards a new day.
The above image is a holiday card from Councillor Wong-Tam and her family wishing "Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from our family to yours!".
While this season looks different, and we can’t gather together, I wanted to send a virtual message of holiday cheer, and kindness as we say goodbye to 2020. You can watch it here! This year was filled with seemingly impossible challenges but we stand strong. Your Ward 13 team has been hard at work this year, and we know there is more to be done in 2021. We are ready to fight for what matters most. If there is anything critical, we will let you know and otherwise we will connect (virtually) again in January.
Happy holidays and warm wishes!
Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.
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 cancelling all planned 2020 holiday CampTO camps and winter instructional programs, including Learn-to-Skate and Instructional Ski, to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 as Toronto’s COVID-19 case numbers continue to rise. This decision follows recommendations from Toronto Public Health and the City’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa while Toronto remains in the Grey – Lockdown category of the Province of Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework.
City of Toronto Accelerates 150 New Supportive Housing Opportunities as Part of Updated COVID-19 Housing and Homelessness Response Plan
City Council approved the 24-Month COVID-19 Housing and Homelessness Response Plan – Update. The update was provided in response to direction from the Planning and Housing Committee earlier this month to review any programs, funding sources, and legislative tools available to the Government of Canada, the Province of Ontario and the City of Toronto, to increase the supply of housing in the next several weeks, particularly housing suitable for those living outside in encampments or in the shelter system.
After less than eight months from Council approval to occupancy, the building at 11 Macey Ave., part of the City’s Modular Housing Initiative, is opening today. The City of Toronto is also getting ready to open its second modular, supportive housing building at 150 Harrison St. for a total of 100 new affordable, supportive homes within the next several weeks.
The City of Toronto will resume accepting new applications for the Fair Pass Discount Program beginning, Monday, December 21. Residents can confirm their eligibility and apply for the Fair Pass Program online or over the phone by calling 416-338-8888.
Province of Ontario Updates
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise at an alarming rate, the Ontario government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and other health experts, is imposing a Provincewide Shutdown. Additional restrictions will be put into place and reinforce that Ontarians should stay at home as much as possible to minimize transmission of the virus and prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. The Provincewide Shutdown will go into effect as of Saturday, December 26, 2020, at 12:01 a.m.
As the province engages with public health experts and frontline partners on what additional measures may be necessary to break trends in increased cases and hospitalizations, the Ontario government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and local medical officers of health, is moving six public health regions to new levels per the Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework.
The Ontario government is helping small and independent restaurants during COVID-19 by capping high food delivery fees.
Ontario will be distributing additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine to 17 more hospital sites over the next two weeks, including regions with the highest rates of COVID-19 infection. This is part of the initial phase of the government's three-phase vaccine implementation plan that began on December 14 with the initial vaccinations administered at Toronto's University Health Network (UHN), followed by the launch of the pilot project at UHN and The Ottawa Hospital on December 15.
The Ontario government is providing the Shaw Centre with up to $3.8 million to help the provincial agency navigate the impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and ensure the National Capital Region remains one of the top tourism destinations in Ontario. This one-time investment will help protect jobs, keep the facility open, ensure compliance with public health protocols and fund necessary repairs and upgrades.
The Ontario government is doubling funding for the Black Youth Action Plan by investing an additional $60 million over three years. This funding will renew existing Black Youth Action Plan programming, create a new economic empowerment programming stream and provide targeted supports to help Black families and communities recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. These additional supports are part of the 2020 Budget, Ontario's Action Plan: Protect, Support, Recover.
Government of Canada Updates
Government of Canada Responds to Tumultuous Year with Unprecedented Investments to Support More than 7,300 Jobs in Northern Ontario
Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for FedNor, highlighted the impact of FedNor investments this year, which have helped support more than 7,300 jobs in Northern Ontario. Guided by the federal Prosperity and Growth Strategy for Northern Ontario and armed with a solid mandate of growing an innovative economy and creating jobs, FedNor invested more than $122 million over the last year in 294 strategic initiatives led by local businesses, organizations and communities.
Canada’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is guided by the latest science and research. The Government of Canada is closely monitoring the genetic variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 identified in the United Kingdom and is working with international partners, including the World Health Organization, to better understand this variant and its impacts.
The weeks of December 6-12 continued to see an alarming increase in the number of newly reported cases of COVID-19 in First Nations communities, related to the second wave of the pandemic, with 1,144 new cases reported accordingly as of December 17.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for everyone, including the organizations that serve Canada’s Veterans and their families.
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.