Happy New Year and I wish each and every one of you a brighter and healthier 2021!
It’s my hope that the holiday break brought you a chance to rest and spend some time with your loved ones. While Christmas felt very different this year, I appreciate the time I got to spend with my wife and son in our home, while virtually visiting with family and friends we could not see in person. I know these sacrifices are not easy, especially during the holidays, but I want to thank each of you who chose public health and the safety of our communities this season.
I know I’m not alone when I say it is a relief to say goodbye to 2020. This past year brought many challenges to our families, communities and city. While the pandemic was not preventable, years of underfunding and neglected services exacerbated the already widening social and economical gaps. Last year showed us that this is not a sustainable practice. We need to bring the lessons from 2020 forward in order to rebuild back better and stronger.
But we are not out of the woods yet. With a count of 3128 today, the cases of COVID-19 continue to climb across Toronto, and we have not yet seen the effects of those who flaunted public health recommendations to have large gatherings inside of their homes or who travelled out of province. It is for this reason that I must ask you to strengthen your resolve and stay apart so that we can come together again. If you are able, please only leave your homes for essential trips. Continue to practice physical distancing and if you are able, wear a mask. These are the practices that helped us reduce community transmission last spring and they are reliable tools to flatten the curve this winter.
Yesterday, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa announced additional public health practices for employers and workplaces. These new instructions are meant to help track transmission and protect our communities. If two or more people in a workplace test positive for COVID-19 within a 14-day interval in connection with the workplace, they are required to contact Toronto Public Health immediately. Once this has been reported, employers will be required to follow a specific series of instructions as laid out by Toronto Public Health. This information will be shared via the City of Toronto COVID-19 dashboard as long as the workplace is large enough to ensure privacy of employees.
Additional prevention measures already in place from Toronto Public Health require employers to ensure hand sanitizer and handwashing facilities are provided in work and rest areas, as well as to implement rigorous and frequent environmental cleaning in all high-touch areas and those areas accessible to the public, including washrooms, check-out counters, concession stands and other high touch surfaces. Employers must also ensure that physical distancing measures are in place and install one-way walkways to reduce close physical interactions.
Yesterday, Dr. de Villa reminded us that distance is our greatest resource and individual efforts are critical in reducing community spread. I know this feels interminable, but eventually, the pandemic will end and when it does, we will be able to come back together again, stronger than ever.
Image description: an artist's rendering of the proposed Yonge Street design
I’m excited to share that the long-anticipated environment assessment for Yonge Street as part of yongeTOmorrow will be coming to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee on Monday, January 11, 2021. The critical water main infrastructure of Yonge Street was built in 1889 and requires replacing as soon as possible. The yongeTOmorrow environmental assessment and consequent recommendations for the street redesign will ensure a safer, more accessible, more functional and beautiful Yonge Street. Imagine a future Yonge Street lined with new trees, enhanced lighting, cycling infrastructure, seasonal patios, dedicated passenger and delivery areas plus the much needed wider sidewalks!
In many sections, Yonge Street sidewalks are dangerously overcrowded and both population and employment are forecast to double which will further increase pedestrian congestion. Before the pandemic hit, 50-75% of people using Yonge Street were pedestrians but had less than 25% of the space. Wider sidewalks will make it possible for people using strollers or mobility devices, or even those carrying shopping bags to pass safely and comfortably by each other.
As we have all seen through the course of this pandemic, outdoor space is a necessity for all to promote mental well being. The simple act of leaving your home and walking, strolling or rolling is one of the easiest and more affordable ways to get fresh air and exercise. In addition to the traditional health benefits we might expect, the social interactions help improve our mental well being and individual’s health and happiness.
As Toronto looks to recover from the pandemic, and more people are required or choose to work from home, creating complete neighbourhoods and flexible streets for residents will be critical for downtown Toronto's economic recovery. We are not alone. Cities across the world are creating economic development strategies and investing in efficient public transportation to enhance the flow of people and goods, and to provide usable public spaces, parks, and walkable communities.
Despite popular misconceptions, pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders generally spend more money at local retail businesses than people who drive. Not only could a more pedestrian-friendly Yonge Street support local business, but it could also support more festivals and music performances, supporting a tourism industry that generated $6.7 billion in visitor spending while bringing in 28 million visitors to Toronto in 2019.
I would encourage you to lend your support to the recommended design from Transportation Services by making a deputation at the committee and emailing City Council and Mayor Tory. Learn more and get involved at yongetomorrow.ca. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that will help shape the future of downtown Yonge Street for another 100 years. This is yet another way where we can take the lessons we’ve learned through this pandemic and build back better. Literally.
As we navigate the new year together, I will continue to keep you updated with weekly newsletters each Tuesday. As I have done so over the past year, the most recent COVID-19 updates from the three levels of government are conveniently compiled for your ease of access in each newsletter, along with select stories and community initiatives from Ward 13. Please continue reading and do kindly share with your friends and family, if you do find this newsletter helpful. They can also subscribe to join our mailing list here.
Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.
Community Corner in Ward 13
Our friends at the St. James Town Community Co-op are organizing to help address food insecurity in their community. Currently, they are providing over 200 emergency food boxes every two weeks through a short-term emergency Canadian Red Cross grant. Due to demand, they are unable to provide food for many hungry families and their waitlist continues to grow.
Image description: a picture of groceries
St. James Town is among the hardest hit Toronto neighbourhoods. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted many existing inequities, including food insecurity, especially in high-density communities. The St. James Town Community Co-op is working with community members and partner organizations to deliver high-quality and culturally appropriate grocery boxes and prepared meals to combat the growing food insecurity in this difficult time. They are acquiring fresh vegetables and eggs from local GTA farm allies where possible and purchasing the remainder of the food from high-quality sources.
If you are able, please consider making a donation to their campaign to help support families in need. Learn more about the St James Town Community Co-op here.
Community Care in Ward 13
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our neighbourhoods, and some more disproportionately than others. In order to provide equitable access to testing across our neighbourhoods, there will be pop-up testing available at Fred Victor throughout January. Beginning January 13th, there will be drop-in testing available at Fred Victor, 40 Oak Street. There is no cost, and no appointment needed. If you have one, please bring your OHIP card though it is not required.
When: Wednesday, January 13, 20 and 27
Where: Fred Victor, 40 Oak Street
Time: 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
If you have any questions, please contact Josie Ricciardi from the Regent Park Community Health Centre at 416-203-4506.
Image description: a City of Toronto Public Health poster with information about the pop-up testing site at Fred Victor
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
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 today, 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.
City of Toronto Announces Another Round of TO Supports Funding for Community Services to Help Vulnerable Populations
Mayor John Tory announced that approximately $3.12 million in additional funding will be distributed from the TO Supports Investment Fund to 33 community-based agencies supporting vulnerable populations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Emergency Child Care Available for School-Aged Children of Designated Essential Service Workers during Remote Learning Week
As part of the current lockdown measures imposed by the Province of Ontario as of December 26, school-aged children in publicly-funded elementary schools will participate in remote learning from January 4 to 8, 2021. During this period, emergency child care services will be available for designated essential service providers who are not able to accommodate their school-aged child’s learning or care at home.
The global COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a profound impact on the lives of Torontonians. With many students attending school remotely due to COVID-19, the Toronto Board of Health and the City of Toronto are making Toronto Public Health’s Student Nutrition Program accessible to kids learning at home in 2021.
This week the City of Toronto was made aware of six employees who work at three merchant stores at St. Lawrence Market who have tested positive for COVID-19.
Thirty-Five Child Care Programs in Toronto Approved to Provide Emergency Child Care for Essential Workers
As part of the current lockdown measures imposed by the Province of Ontario, school-aged children in publicly-funded elementary schools will participate in remote learning from January 4 to 8, 2021. During this period, emergency child care services will be available, at no cost, for designated essential service providers who are not able to accommodate their school-aged child’s learning or care at home.
Toronto Public Health Releases New COVID-19 Workplace Outbreak Data and Announces New Measures for COVID-19 Related Workplace Safety
Toronto Public Health (TPH) has launched new content on its monitoring dashboard to illustrate how the pandemic is affecting workplace settings. Today, TPH released the findings and trends from recently collected COVID-19 case data on current and historical workplace outbreaks, organized by business sector.
The City is making important progress in vaccinating staff and residents of City-operated long-term care homes. Last week, approximately 800 staff members and more than 20 essential caregivers attended hospital clinics and began to be vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Starting December 31, the Moderna vaccine began to be administered to long-term care home residents. Within the first three days, almost 600 residents were vaccinated on-site with the Moderna vaccine at Castleview Wychwood Towers, Bendale Acres and Fudger House. Vaccination of more residents and staff at these and additional sites continues this week.
Province of Ontario Updates
Ontario Supports Management Agreement Between University Health Network and St. George Care Community
The Ministry of Long-Term Care has approved a new Voluntary Management Contract that allows University Health Network to provide enhanced support to St. George Care Community.
The Ontario government is supporting home-based food businesses by providing a guide on how to start a home-based food business, which includes an overview of public health requirements that need to be followed as a food operator. To further support these entrepreneurs, the government has also made regulatory changes to allow more flexibility to sell low-risk, home-prepared foods. These supports are part of the government's continued efforts to help small, independent businesses succeed and contribute to Ontario communities during COVID-19.
The Ontario government has released an Ethical Framework for COVID-19 vaccine distribution which was developed in partnership with the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force to guide further vaccine prioritization and distribution across the province. The province continues to vaccinate vulnerable populations and those who care for them through Phase One of its three-phase implementation plan as additional vaccines become available.
Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario's Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health, provided an update on confirmed cases in Ontario of the COVID-19 variant first identified in the UK. This variant has now been detected in multiple countries beyond the UK, and with inbound international travel it is not unexpected to have identified the new variant in Ontario.
The Ontario government is providing nearly $41 million to help 486 non-profit organizations across the province to rebuild and recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. These grants are part of the first round of funding through the Ontario Trillium Foundation's new $83-million Resilient Communities Fund.
Government of Canada Updates
Pre-Departure COVID-19 Testing and Negative Results to be Required for All Air Travellers Coming to Canada
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a global crisis that is having a significant impact on the air industry and all travellers. The Government of Canada has multiple measures in place to protect the health and safety of Canadians, and to help prevent air travel from being a source of further introduction and spread of COVID-19 and new variants of the virus into Canada.
The Government of Canada is aware that the United Kingdom (UK) is investigating a new SARS-CoV-2 variant, which has been identified in cases in areas where there is also a high incidence of COVID-19. We are also aware that another variant of the SARS-CoV2 virus has been detected in South Africa, and that this variant shares one of the same mutations found in the variant identified in the UK.
Government of Canada Strengthens Enforcement Measures to Better Protect Rights of Employees in Federally Regulated Workplaces
The Government of Canada is committed to making sure that workers in federally regulated workplaces are respected and protected. That is why the Government has significantly modernized the Canada Labour Code and its compliance and enforcement provisions in recent years.
Government of Canada Provides $70 Million in Additional Funding to the Red Cross for Ongoing COVID-19 Response
The Government of Canada remains steadfast in its commitment to protecting the health and safety of Canadians, and reducing the spread of COVID-19 in Canada, while ensuring a safe, and sustainable economic recovery.
Health Canada authorized the second COVID-19 vaccine in Canada, manufactured by Moderna.
FedDev Ontario Investments Support Businesses and Spur Innovation and Growth Amid the Global Pandemic
Through this difficult time, FedDev Ontario has been there to support businesses. This includes providing financial relief to through the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF), and providing existing clients with flexibilities to address their changing needs as they continue to adapt. While the Agency has been working to ensure businesses, organizations and communities across southern Ontario have the support they need to weather the impacts of this crisis, we also continue to make targeted investments to support innovation and growth to rebuild a stronger, more inclusive and more competitive southern Ontario.
To protect Canadians’ jobs and support businesses throughout the pandemic, the Government of Canada introduced the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS).
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.