Happy New Year, Stage 2 COVID Restrictions, and COVID-19 Updates

I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year, and I hope that you were able to enjoy celebrations in a way that still felt familiar and safe. I know many of us had cancelled, rescheduled or adapted plans for our holiday gatherings, but I hope there were still moments enjoyed, albeit in much smaller groups.

We are now seeing soaring cases of COVID-19 with upwards of 18,000 new cases daily in Ontario and 5,000 cases in Toronto (doubling every three days). The Omicron variant is proving to be incredibly transmissible and yesterday the Province announced a return to Stage Two of Reopening Ontario. These changes include limiting indoor gatherings to five or fewer, and outdoor gatherings limited to 10 people. Outdoor public events have no limit on attendees; however, everyone must be wearing masks when physical distancing cannot be maintained. 

Other Provincial changes include limiting retail businesses to 50% capacity and safety measures for shopping malls, including capacity limits, no loitering, distancing in line-ups, food courts closed and active screening. Indoor service in restaurants is closed again but take-out and delivery options remain available as well as outdoor dining with no more than 10 people per table. All fitness centres are closed unless athletes are training for the Olympics or Paralympics, and select professional and elite amateur sports leagues who will operate via an approved Provincial framework from the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Yesterday, the Province additionally moved all students back to online learning for a minimum of two weeks. As a parent myself, I know the frustration of this announcement. This last-minute change made it nearly impossible for working parents to plan for adequate home-based care for young children. Although no single government can accurately predict the pandemic developments, when it comes to the Province reverting back to a virtual learning environment and undercutting educators who are tirelessly pivoting with less than 24 hours’ notice, yesterday’s last-minute announcement was deeply regrettable. Furthermore, Provincial officials did not provide a list of any other specific steps they plan to take in order to ensure a safe return to school on January 17. Again, it looks like we will have to wait for further instructions from the Province closer to the date.

It is angering to know that Premier Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce have not adequately prepared our schools for teachers and students, especially since we have been living with COVID-19 for almost two years, and have seen other examples from across the world of how other governments are managing their education systems.

On December 31, 2021, the Province of Ontario also announced changes to eligibility for PCR testing, which will now be strictly limited to symptomatic individuals who work at, live in, or visit high-risk settings such as hospitals, long-term care facilities, shelters (and more) along with any high-risk contacts to the aforementioned groups during confirmed or suspected outbreaks. Members of the public outside of the previous groups are not eligible for publicly-funded PCR testing and are asked to instead isolate themselves. With the elimination of PCR tests, the Province wants you to assume you have COVID-19 and are contagious. If you are vaccinated and have symptoms of COVID-19, then you are now only required to isolate for five days after your symptoms start. If you are unvaccinated or immunocompromised, you must continue to isolate for 10 days. 

The Province states that these public health restrictions are necessary. But this development has resulted in an undue strain on our health system including delaying surgeries in order to accommodate increased patients as well as medical staff shortages due to contagion. While Omicron symptoms are less severe, the onslaught of new cases could very easily overwhelm our hospitals. The seven-day rolling average of patients in ICU stands at 221 and there are at least 1,290 people with the virus in Ontario hospitals, compared to 1,232 a day ago.

Emergency Services for the City of Toronto remain available, and the City of Toronto continues to assess and adjust City-wide service levels including the redeployment of up to 1,000 employees. Over the next four to six weeks, Toronto Public Health and the City of Toronto expect to see an increase in staffing shortages in the coming weeks. We are making proactive plans for the worst-case scenario of 50-60% of staff in isolation at one time. The Emergency Operations Centre has been fully reactivated to plan for these challenges and coordinate staff redeployment.

The City has established a pool of approximately 1,000 employees, many of whom were redeployed at the onset of the pandemic, to call upon should they be needed. Essential services including TPH vaccination clinics, City-run shelters, and City-run long-term care homes are being prioritized. Measures are already in place to ensure that emergency services responses to high-risk and high-priority calls are not interrupted. Other service changes due to staff shortages include the temporary closure of 44 libraries, including our very own St James Town Library

It feels impossible to be in this situation again especially as the Province of Ontario allows resumed rent increases as rent freeze ends. We cannot continue to live in this cycle. The Premier needs to provide at minimum 10 paid sick days, robust financial supports for small businesses as well as supports for our hospitality and tourism sectors, including arts and culture. The Premier cannot ask Ontarians to choose between getting sick and putting food on their tables, or a roof over their heads. He must not prioritize big box retailers over the lives of residents. In March 2020, I developed this list of needed social supports including eviction freezes, business supports, paid sick days and an intersectional approach to COVID-19 and its recovery. I am sharing it again because despite it being two years later, many of my recommendations for social supports are still needed.

Lastly, the transmission of COVID-19 is airborne. Please, if you are able, wear a mask that is tight-fitting and high quality such as N95 KN95, stay home, and if you are able to get vaccinated as that is your greatest protection. Everyone 18 years or older is eligible for both vaccine doses, and their booster shot. Please go as soon as you’re able. You can book your appointment through the Provincial Booking Portal or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900 to book over the phone. This line is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., 7 days a week.

This is not easy. Many people are ill, recovering, and scared. Please be gentle with yourself, and others. If you need them, I have compiled a list of mental health resources available on my website. Please share them with your friends and family. Most importantly, always remember that you are not alone. If you need further resources, please visit my website under Links & Resources.

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

Kristyn


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What’s In Today’s EBlast?


Contract Job Opportunity: Project Coordinator, $40/hour Part-Time

Councillor Wong-Tam is an advisor to Ryerson University for a new research project funded by Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE). As reported, COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted women’s employment as they have the additional challenges of teleworking and responsibilities of being primary care providers of children and ageing parents.

This exciting 28-month (contract) project opportunity at Ryerson University will strive to understand what structural changes are needed to support women’s economic recovery and financial independence post-pandemic. The project aims to influence and inform public policy responses in the City of Toronto’s pandemic recovery planning by building City of Toronto staff capacity in the use of Gender-Based Analysis Plus to advance more inclusive policies, programmes and build social infrastructure that will support gender equality, and by assessing the feasibility of using this project as a pilot to develop a methodological framework for the City of Toronto’s Gender Equity Strategy.

Learn more and apply here by January 10th with Job ID 363845. 


Career Planning Workshops for Women

Career Planning Workshops for Women information posterCareer Planning Workshops for Women information poster

Help our friends at Times Change ring in the New Year with three FREE online career-planning workshops for women. Over nine weeks, in three-hour sessions, you will identify skills, interests and values through self-assessment techniques as well as explore and research career opportunities in a virtual group setting. You will learn how to make sound career decisions and develop an action plan based on attainable goals. This workshop is best suited for unemployed, or under-employed women who are unsure of their career direction. There are three opportunities for sessions: 

When: Fridays, January 21, 2022 to March 18, 2022
Time: 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

OR

When: Thursdays, January 27, 2022 to March 24, 2022
Time: 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

OR

When: Tuesdays, February 1, 2022, to March 29, 2022
Time: 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Learn more about the sessions here.


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.

Current Projects

Dr. Lillian McGregor Park & Breadalbane Dog Park

Councillor Wong-Tam at Dr. Lillian McGregor Park walk throughCouncillor Wong-Tam at Dr. Lillian McGregor Park walk through

I met with Park's Staff, Lanterra, and the landscape architects on-site before the holiday break to conduct a walk through the park. In particular, there were concerns raised about the children's playground - lack of physical delineation between the playground, the pathways and the laneway. The landscape architect and consultants are working with Parks Operations staff to implement appropriate design solutions.

The park is very close to completion pending the final work above and the pending resolution of outstanding legal requirements from adjacent building owners. Until such time, the park remains closed to the public, the construction fence will remain in place and the developer (Lanterra) will continue to maintain and secure the park.

We are looking forward to hosting a Grand Opening in Spring 2022.

Learn more and get updates

Featured Proposals

Automated Outdoor Public Toilets, Submitted by Johanna

Toronto Centre Projects proposal promotional posterToronto Centre Projects proposal promotional poster

One proposal by community member, Johanna, advocates for The City of Toronto to install Automated Outdoor Public Toilets, like the City of Vancouver has done. Read the proposal and vote now on the Toronto Centre Projects website.

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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