The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our lives daily. As we see case count numbers ebb and flow, it is important to remember that the individual actions we took in March 2020 will continue to be key determinants in reducing community spread. Please stay home unless you are making an essential trip, such as the pharmacy, grocery store, or outdoor exercise. When you are outside, please keep practicing physical distancing, and if you can, wear a mask. These are the tools that have helped us, and we must strengthen our resolve through the winter.
Yesterday, Toronto’s Board of Health met for the first time in 2021, and I was proud to accept the nomination of Vice-Chair once more. One of our first recommendations was requesting the Government of Ontario increase the minimum number of paid sick days to no less than five through the Employment Standards Act, 2000 and ensure that all workers in Ontario have access to protected and paid emergency leave so that care can be provided to children, parents, or other family members who may become ill.
It is critical to support our residents as they not only navigate this pandemic but beyond. Many cannot afford to lose even one day of work if they are in a financially precarious position. For some, missing a day of work might mean they cannot make rent, or feed themselves. Especially now, ensuring that people do not have to make those impossible decisions is critical to curbing the transmission of COVID-19.
This is not the first time Toronto’s Board of Health has requested paid sick leave from the Province of Ontario. The Premier rebukes our requests stating that the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) is enough as it provides $500 per week to anyone who is sick or needs to self-isolate due to COVID-19. While this program is helpful, a complimentary and robust program from Ontario is sorely needed. Through the CRSB, the benefit is only available in five-day blocks. We know that COVID-19 incubates for much longer and can have lasting effects on one's health. Additionally, this benefit can take up to four weeks to be delivered. Many in our Downtown communities cannot afford to wait a month for these support dollars which won’t cover the costs of living Downtown. Without a complimentary support program, we risk not being able to flatten the curve of COVID-19 as residents struggle to pay rent and put food on the table.
Dr. de Villa also presented Toronto Public Health’s COVID-19 Immunization Task Force and how the City of Toronto can support vaccine delivery. The COVID-19 Immunization Task Force will provide an additional set of hands as well as scalable infrastructure to support vaccine delivery in Toronto. Toronto Public Health is working alongside the Province to complement their rollout. Additionally, there will be immunization clinics wherein there would be more opportunity to deliver vaccines. Announced yesterday, there was a launch of the first accelerated clinic in order to undertake the proof of concept in every aspect of clinic operations. This clinic will be prioritizing frontline workers, including health care workers, harm reduction workers, shelter staff as well as street outreach workers. Once this trial is complete, the whole operation will be able to vaccinate several thousand residents daily.
This is an enormous undertaking and I’d like to thank Chief Matthew Pegg, Dr. de Villa, Toronto Public Health, and my colleagues on the Board of Health for their tireless effort during this pandemic. They have shown steadfast leadership through this health crisis. It is thrilling to think of days when we can all be together. Until then, please remain vigilant and adhere to public health guidelines.
Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.
Community Corner in Ward 13
Image description: a picture of one of the Foundry buildings in the West Don Lands
Last Thursday, I learned that the Province was actively onsite at 153-185 Eastern Avenue with the intention to demolish the four Foundry buildings in the West Don Lands. The lands contain the Dominion Foundry Complex, the largest concentration of heritage buildings to be preserved within the 80-acre precinct of the West Don Lands. The demolition of these heritage assets would be an incalculable detriment to proper city planning. It signals to municipalities and developers across the province that the Ford Government is unwilling to follow its own recently updated heritage planning policies. Since then, I’ve organized two emergency community meetings with local stakeholders and MPPs Chris Glover and Suze Morrison to share information and consulted with City Legal, City Planning, and Transportation Services in an effort to stop the demolition. Over the weekend, Toronto Chief Planner, Gregg Lintern, sent a letter to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the Ministry of Infrastructure Ontario asking the Province to confirm that they have a Heritage Impact Assessment and Strategic Conservation Plan and have undertaken public engagement which are all required work in their own heritage policies. Read my third and most recent statement here.
Image description: a picture taken of the demolition crew on-site, demolishing one of the Foundry buildings
Today, The Planning and Housing Committee unanimously voted to adopt recommendations in my letter requesting the Province of Ontario to immediately halt any demolition and directing the City Solicitor to seek an injunction should the Province fail to provide City Planning with necessary heritage documentation for review and to ensure that public engagement is undertaken.
Residents and advocates have organized and continue to take action through a new group called Friends of the Foundry. They have been circulating a petition, and since the weekend it has received almost 10,000 signatures. I would encourage you to lend them your support.
Image description: Councillor Wong-Tam on-site near the Foundry buildings, speaking with media
Community Care in Ward 13
Image description: a promotional graphic for yongeTO
On February 2nd, the long-awaited final report on yongeTOmorrow will be discussed and voted on at City Council. On January 11, the Infrastructure and Environment Committee voted 4-2 to adopt the staff recommendations and requested a supplementary report be attached for City Council that clarifies the timelines, requirements, and recommendations of the Environmental Assessment; summarizes next steps for the detailed design, operations planning and construction; and summarizes next steps for consultation and engagement with main street businesses and other stakeholders.
yongeTOmorrow is our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform Yonge Street into a world-class, 21st-century urban destination that supports critical public health objectives - for a world with COVID-19 and beyond. yongeTOmorrow proposes a full and flexible redesign of the street from College St, south to Queen St, where sidewalks will be expanded, vehicle lanes modified, restaurant patios extended and street furniture and streetscape elements added.
To make this plan a reality, we need to ensure there is overwhelmingly strong support. Learn more and lend your support at yongeTOmorrow.ca/support, and use our social media toolkit to help spread the word!
Making Cents: 2021 Budget Town Hall
Image description: a promotional graphic for the upcoming Budget Town Hall
Based on discussions during my budget speaker series Making Cents last fall, we are ready to make our priorities known through this budget process. Last Thursday, the City of Toronto released their 2021 Budget. As we are well aware, the COVID-19 pandemic laid bare systemic inequalities, and the City is facing a substantial deficit. Mayor Tory has indicated that, if we do not receive more funding from our Provincial and Federal governments, Toronto will be subject to $860 million in service cuts. These are desperately needed and already underfunded services. We cannot afford to lose them.
On February 9, 2021, join me and my special guests as we present the upcoming 2021 City of Toronto Budget. We will discuss key learnings from our Making Cents speaker series, as well as explore how you would spend your tax dollars through a participatory tool. In real-time, you will be able to allocate your fictional tax dollars to the services that matter most to you and your neighbours.
The City’s budget process can be daunting, but we have made this Budget 101 guide to help simplify.
Budget Town Hall Details:
When: February 9, 2021
Time: 6:30 p.m to 8:00 p.m.
Where: Zoom webinar, each registrant will receive the link to join.
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
Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa and Fire Chief and General Manager of the Office of Emergency Management Matthew Pegg confirmed the City of Toronto’s COVID-19 immunization clinic proof-of-concept site is ready to open Monday.
City of Toronto and Partners Start COVID-19 Vaccination Pilots for People Experiencing Homelessness and Frontline Workers in Select Shelters
The City of Toronto is pleased to partner with Unity Health Toronto, University Health Network and Inner City Health Associates on COVID-19 vaccination pilot clinics for people experiencing homelessness and frontline shelter workers in select shelters
Mayor John Tory, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa and Fire Chief and General Manager of the Office of Emergency Management Matthew Pegg provided an update on the City’s measures to combat the resurgence of the virus in Toronto and local impacts of the Province of Ontario’s declaration of a second state of emergency and stay-at-home order.
Toronto Public Health Launches New Case-Control Study Focused on Residents Who Recently Tested Negative for COVID-19
Toronto Public Health (TPH) will launch a retrospective case-control study to identify exposure settings and activities that are associated with significantly increased risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 in Toronto. This study will include a focus on residents who recently tested negative for COVID-19 – a new approach for public health units in Canada – and will focus on issues like work environments, living arrangements and other activities including social gatherings or visits to public spaces.
City of Toronto’s Budget Committee began the process of reviewing the staff-recommended tax-supported operating and capital budgets for 2021. The budgets will be reviewed and debated by Budget and Executive Committees before being finalized and approved by City Council at its meeting on February 18.
City of Toronto Modifies Services to Adhere to and Support New Provincial Regulations and Stay-At-Home Order
The City of Toronto continues to strongly recommend all residents stay home as much as possible to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Toronto Public Health (TPH), in partnership with the Province of Ontario, announced the expansion of the case and contact management component of the City’s COVID-19 response. As our local response to the spread of the virus continues, TPH’s case and contact management program is an important tool to help curb this virus spread.
City of Toronto and Partners Completing Resident Vaccinations at All 87 Long-Term Care Homes in Toronto
The City of Toronto confirmed that COVID-19 immunization clinics have been held at all 87 long-term care homes in Toronto. The vaccination milestone comes well in advance of the Province of Ontario’s January 21, 2021 deadline to complete the first round of vaccinations in long-term care homes.
Province of Ontario Updates
The Ontario government is providing up to $125 million to immediately add over 500 critical care and high intensity medicine beds to hospitals in areas with high rates of COVID-19 transmission. A portion of the funding will also be used to temporarily transition Mackenzie Health's Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital into a systemwide resource supporting the province's COVID-19 response when the new hospital is scheduled to open on February 7, 2021. These initiatives will help relieve pressures on nearby hospitals due to rapid increases in hospitalization and ICU occupancy rates.
The Ontario government is investing $1 million from the Ontario Together Fund to help Peterborough's Merit Precision manufacture bottles for hand sanitizers and disinfectants. This expansion will create 10 new local jobs and retain 75 positions, while producing the vital products to support the fight against COVID-19.
Francophone Non-Profit Organizations can Begin Applying for the COVID-19 Relief Fund on January 25, 2021
The Ontario government announced today that starting January 25, francophone non-profit organizations can begin applying for financial assistance from the $1 million COVID-19 Relief Fund. The fund, which is being administered by the Assemblée de la francophonie de l'Ontario, will provide operational funding to eligible organizations to support them during the pandemic.
The Ontario government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, is extending most orders currently in force under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 (ROA) for another 30 days.
The governments of Canada and Ontario are collaborating to deliver new affordable rental housing units in Brantford. The $200,000 in funding will be delivered through the Ontario Priorities Housing Initiative (OPHI) and will ensure more people have access to stable, affordable housing in their community.
The Ontario government is asking the people of Ontario for their ideas on how to continue to support families, workers and business during COVID-19, while positioning the province for a strong economic recovery with the launch of the 2021 Budget consultation.
The Ontario government has opened applications for the new Ontario Small Business Support Grant. The grant, first announced in December, provides a minimum of $10,000 to a maximum of $20,000 to eligible small businesses who have had to restrict their operations due to the Provincewide Shutdown. The tightened restrictions were put in place to help stop the alarming rise of COVID-19 cases in Ontario.
The Ontario government has hired more case managers and contact tracers, building the provincial workforce to 1,600 by February 15, 2021. Along with staff who work in or have been redeployed within public health units, this support brings the total number of case and contact tracers in the province to nearly 5,600 staff. These people are vital in helping to isolate new cases of COVID-19 and stopping the spread of the virus in communities across Ontario.
Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation, announced that Ontario is providing $375 million through the Gas Tax program to help 109 municipalities across the province operate and expand public transit. The province will flow the funding as soon as possible in 2021.
The Ontario government is taking additional measures to protect workers in response to rising COVID-19 cases. Beginning this Saturday and Sunday, approximately 50 ministry inspectors, as well as local bylaw and police officers, will be visiting big-box stores in Toronto, Hamilton, Peel, York and Durham. The blitz will focus on ensuring workers and patrons are wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, and following every health and safety measure. Workplace health and safety inspectors will have the authority to ticket supervisors, employees and patrons who do not comply with COVID-19 safety requirements, temporarily close a premise and disperse groups of more than five people.
The Ontario government has issued an emergency order to temporarily pause the enforcement of residential evictions and ensure people are not forced to leave their homes during the provincial declaration of emergency and while the stay-at-home-order is in force.
Government of Canada Updates
Government of Canada Funds over 90 Projects Through the Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiative
In Canada, diversity is our strength. That is why the Government of Canada is taking action to ensure that Black Canadians in communities across Canada are able to fully participate in all aspects of our society.
After showing signs of plateauing in December 2020, the number of active cases in First Nations communities has reached a new all-time high, with 4,384 active cases reported as of January 12, 2021.
The COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel released their first report. The report, Priority Strategies to Optimize Testing and Screening for COVID-19 in Canada, provides evidence-based advice on science and policy for the latest techniques in COVID-19 testing and screening, including the use of rapid tests.
Government of Canada Provides Support for Victims of Sex Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation in the Province of Quebec
Canadians expect to live in a society where the criminal justice system is fair and impartial and supports the needs of victims.
Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, the Honourable Seamus O’Regan Jr., today announced a $1-million investment to NEXE Innovations, formerly GCUP Technology Corporation, as part of the second phase of a Bioplastics Challenge aimed at helping small businesses reduce pollution by turning forest-based residue into sustainable domestic plastic material.
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.
Email: [email protected]
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.