Omicron Variant, Metrolinx Road Closures, and COVID-19 Updates

Late last week, Toronto Public Health reported its first cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 and today Ontario reports 928 new COVID cases including 340 hospitalized and 165 patients in the ICU. Toronto Public Health’s contact management team is currently following up with these cases and providing instructions to identify close contacts on isolation and testing. While initial Omicron data shows high transmissibility, there are still many unknowns. Today, the Ontario Science table released it’s latest modeling. Toronto Public Health experts will analyze this information carefully over the next few days as they prepare to give us advice on staying safe over the holiday period. This report suggests that the province is on track to stay under the government's critical ICU threshold in early 2022, without additional public health measures, if they can get to 50% of 5 to11 year old children vaccinated by the end of December.

That means getting vaccinated remains one of the most critical ways to protect yourself and your loved ones against this new variant. For parents, yesterday, Ontario detected it’s first case of the Omicron variant in a school. Elementary school outbreak cases account for 48.4% of the total over the past two weeks. With vaccinations available to children between the ages of 5-11 years old, I encourage everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated. You can book your appointment through the Provincial Booking Portal or by calling Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900. Please consider how to make your daily activities safer: wear your mask if you are able, and continue to practice physical distancing. 

Minister Christine Elliott announced yesterday that the Province plans to delay phasing out the vaccine passport and QR code. The Province originally announced in October that they would begin phasing out the vaccine passport by January 17, however this was before the discovery of the Omicron variant. Dr. Kieran Moore, Chief Medical Officer of Health has advised that if there are not stable infection numbers, the Province will not be lifting further restrictions. He also advised that the Province will wait through the holiday season, and then re-assess any spread in social or workplace settings. 

I know this announcement is concerning and frustrating. We have been living with COVID-19 for almost two years. Our businesses have long suffered through lockdowns and rolling closures. It is important that our public health units continue to actively monitor cases and alert communities of any outbreaks. Again, I must emphasize that getting vaccinated is your best protection against COVID-19 and its variants. If you haven’t done so, please speak to your doctor and book your appointment today. 

Today the Executive Committee discussed a report about major downtown road closures relating to the Ontario Line. This 67 page staff report states that downtown commute times will increase on average well over 20 minutes, and in some cases close to one hour, throughout the core.. This lays out the case for urgent alternatives to private passenger vehicles.

I do not support the overreaching road closures as proposed by Metrolinx. Over the past two months, I have expressed my opposition to Metrolinx about their aggressive takeover of public streets, sidewalks, and parks for years ahead. I have asked Metrolinx to re-think their road closures, better coordinate and stage their construction work to minimize disruption to the local community. I have also been advocating for a Metrolinx-funded comprehensive strategy to better protect businesses including loss of revenue compensation for the construction impacts, preserving existing transit services, and to ensure improved safety for pedestrians, cyclists, and vulnerable road users. 

The downtown, especially at Yonge at Queen, welcomes millions of visitors and commuters. The local businesses are popular destinations that should not be made to suffer as a result of poorly managed construction. We have seen what construction looks like with Metrolinx at the helm as the Eglinton Crosstown has devastated their local businesses. Anecdotally, I’ve heard that businesses along Eglinton have felt more secure during the pandemic due to government financial support, than through the entirety of the build-out of the Eglinton crosstown, which is still incomplete. I have repeatedly asked Metrolinx for robust financial support for affected businesses, construction staging to occur off-site when possible, and the prioritization of pedestrian safety and other vulnerable road users to support Vision Zero. Read my letter and recommendations here.

As the weather continues to drop, we again turn our attention toward many residents experiencing homelessness and living rough outdoors. Yesterday, the City of Toronto announced opening its four warming centres for anyone wishing reprieve from the cold. It’s locations are: 

  • 129 Peter St.
  • 5800 Yonge St.
  • Exhibition Place, Better Living Centre, 195 Princes’ Blvd.
  • Scarborough Civic Centre, 150 Borough Dr.

If you see someone in need of assistance, please call 311 and an outreach team will be dispatched. If there is an emergency, please call 9-1-1. 

Through the pandemic, we’ve learned there are many reasons why someone may not choose indoor accommodations. Shelters can often be unsafe for a variety of reasons, and many are still fearful of indoor congregate settings. 

While there is no single solution to ending chronic homelessness, we have seen international success stories when governments provide housing and adequate mental health and addictions support. This was an influence in City Council adopting my motion directing staff provide an estimated breakdown of the costs necessary to ensure everyone living in shelter, hotel shelter and 24-hour respite centre could receive a one-year rental subsidy to enable independent living, and cost analysis for additional funding needed for housing supports for individuals who are unable to live independently. Learn more about how you can get involved, and my work to end homelessness at kristynwongtam.ca/homelessness.

Yesterday was National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women and the 32nd anniversary of the École Polytechnique massacre that claimed the lives of 14 women. We remember: Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, Annie Turcotte, and Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz.

As we mourn their loss and remember their lives, we reaffirm our commitment to fight the hatred that led to this tragedy, and the misogyny that still exists in our society today. In Canada and around the world, women, girls, 2SLGBTQQIA+ and gender diverse individuals face disproportionate rates of violence and discrimination, which have only worsened with the COVID-19 pandemic. While we remember, we must also take action. Every single situation of gender-based violence is preventable. To survivors: I see you. You are loved. We will continue fighting every day against this injustice. 

Councillor Wong-Tam speaking at the press conference to support MPP Jessica Bell’s Private Member’s Bill to keep Mount Pleasant Cemeteries publicCouncillor Wong-Tam speaking at the press conference to support MPP Jessica Bell’s Private Member’s Bill to keep Mount Pleasant Cemeteries public

Finally, this morning I was proud to stand with MPP Jessica Bell in announcing her Private Member’s Bill, Mount Pleasant Public Cemeteries Act, 2021, which seeks to amend a number of Acts affecting a trust known as the Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries to affirm its status as a public trust, owned by the Government of Ontario on the public’s behalf. As some of you know, in 2012, I lent my personal support to the Friends of Toronto Public Cemeteries in defending the public’s ownership and interest in ensuring 10 cemeteries across the Greater Toronto Area remain in public control and ownership. This fight led me all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. I also wrote about the high cost of being public interest litigants as it relates to heritage and cultural preservation.  MPP Bell’s bill is the final legislative step in a long journey towards ensuring 1222 acres of open green space, a multi-billion asset with hundreds of millions of dollars in bank reserves, is protected for public access and use in perpetuity.

Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.

Kristyn


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What’s In Today’s EBlast?


How You Can Support Ryerson University's Renaming

On August 26, 2021, the university’s Board of Governors accepted the 22 recommendations put forward by the Standing Strong (Mash Koh Wee Kah Pooh Win) Task Force to guide commemoration at the university and to address the legacy of Egerton Ryerson. One of the recommendations was to rename the university through a process that engaged with community members. The University Renaming Advisory Committee's community engagement period is open to everyone who wishes to participate. 

The engagement period ends today, and if you haven’t already, here are a few ways you can participate:

  1. Online anonymous survey
  2. Email to [email protected]  
  3. Mail to The Strategic Counsel, 1 St. Clair Avenue West, Suite 1200, Toronto, ON, M4V 1K6
  4. Social media using the hashtag #NextChapterName

Holiday Giving Tree in St James Park 

Giving tree promotional graphicGiving tree promotional graphic

The Friends of St James Park Toronto Toronto and the St. Lawrence Market Neighbourhood BIA present the St James Park Holiday Giving Tree! The community is invited to hang gifts for those in need on the tree located next to the playground. 

New and unused items to hang on the tree include hats, mitts, gloves, socks and personal care items (such as shampoo, deodorant, lotion, hair brush), magazines, and novels. No food items or gift cards are accepted at this time. Please place item(s) in a clear plastic bag. Bring the bag to the tree, and fasten it to a branch using a tie that is provided. 

Where: St James Park, 120 King Street East
When: December 5, 2021 to January 1, 2022
Contact: [email protected] 


Storytelling in the Park

A picture of children participating in Storytelling in the ParkA picture of children participating in Storytelling in the Park

For the past few Saturdays, the Friends of Allan Gardens, Ryerson University’s Office of Social Innovation, and the Children’s Book Bank have partnered together for “Storytelling in the Park.” It is an opportunity for children aged 3 to 8 to hear animated and lively stories. Each child will be given a few books to take home as well. The final event of the year will take place this Saturday. 

Date: Saturday, December 11, 2021
Time: 11 a.m. - 12 p.m.
Location: Community Hall of St. Luke's United Church - 353 Sherbourne Street 

A picture of children participating in Storytelling in the ParkA picture of children participating in Storytelling in the Park


Brenda Christine Connor Memorial Service 

In memorial posterIn memorial poster

Please join the downtown east community as we gather to pay our respects to Brenda Christine Connor, a caring and special member of our community who lost her life in a tragic traffic accident earlier this fall. Brenda was a kind and loving individual who will be deeply missed by many. In addition to the memorial service there will be a rally to advocate for increased traffic safety and affordable housing measures in the area.  

Date: Tuesday, December 14, 2021
Time: 11 a.m. - 12 p.m.
Location: Corner of Dundas Street East and Sherbourne Street


Toronto Centre Projects

Toronto Centre Projects is designed to engage community members and crowdsource neighbourhood projects supported by the Councillor's office and your neighbours. Over the next year, my office will be launching consultations for several parks and dog off-leash area revitalizations, public realm improvements, and more.

Have ideas to make our communities more liveable, vibrant, and safe? Submit them at www.TorontoCentreProjects.ca.

Active Public Consultations

Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods

Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods is a City of Toronto initiative to facilitate more low-rise housing in residential neighbourhoods to meet the needs of our growing city. The City is working to expand opportunities for “missing middle” housing forms in Toronto, ranging from duplexes to low-rise walk-up apartments. All of these housing types can be found in many parts of Toronto today, but they are also limited in where they can be newly built. Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods is one solution among a range of City initiatives to increase housing choice and access and create a more equitable, sustainable city.

From now and until December 31, 2021, we’re looking for your feedback on expanding permissions for multiplexes across the city. Fill out a short survey and have your say.

Take the survey

Property Standards Bylaw Review

Municipal Licensing & Standards (MLS) is reviewing the Property Standards Bylaw to ensure that all properties are safe and well maintained and that rules and standards for property owners and occupants are clear and consistent.

The first phase of the review will explore the following topics:

  • Issues with external light in residences
  • Surveillance cameras on neighbouring properties
  • Timing of snow and ice clearing and enforcement of snow removal on private property
  • Implementing safety measures for vacant-derelict properties
  • Security and safety measures for dormant development sites and
  • Right of access to adjoining land to make repairs or alterations to your property.

Toronto residents are invited to participate and provide input on these topics through a survey available on the Property Standards webpage. The deadline to complete the survey is December 20, 2021.

Take the survey

Who else wants to be a changemaker? Submit your ideas to make our communities more liveable, vibrant, and safe at www.TorontoCentreProjects.ca.


COVID-19: Vaccine Information 

For updates about Toronto’s vaccination rollout and booking system, please visit my website.

Book an appointment at a City-operated vaccination clinic by phone through the provincial call centre, 1-888-999-6488.

Book an appointment at a City-operated vaccination clinic online at www.toronto.ca/covid-19. For online bookings, you will need: 

  • Information found on your Government of Ontario photo health card;
  • Birthdate;
  • Postal code; and
  • Email address or phone number.

The provincial system will verify your eligibility to book an appointment for vaccination based on this information and will then guide you to the scheduling system. 

Please do not call 311 or Toronto Public Health to book an appointment. The City 311 contact centre and Toronto Public Health staff do not have access to the booking system.


Vaccinated Against COVID-19? What Does It Mean For Me?

By getting vaccinated, you benefit from the protection you get against COVID-19 and the easing of restrictive measures in your community. You still need to follow local public health advice in public settings (e.g. workplaces, public transit). Their advice considers community risk levels. 

A majority of people in Canada have now had their first shot and many will soon be fully vaccinated. Below is a handy chart created by Public Health Canada to inform your actions depending on your vaccination status. This advice is based on the current state and will be updated as vaccination rates continue to increase and cases decrease.


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.

Thank you for doing your part to slow the spread of COVID-19 and help protect our communities. For more tips on social distancing, please visit the City’s website or download this info sheet.


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

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
311 provides residents, businesses and visitors with easy access to non-emergency City services, programs and information 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 311 can offer assistance in more than 180 languages.
Telephone: 311
Website 
Outside City limits: 416-392-2489

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.

Toronto Police

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. 

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