This week, the BC Center for Disease control released updated guidelines on COVID-19 and sex. This caused significant discussion online about their recommended use of barriers, like walls and glory holes, that allow for sexual activity but prevent close face-to-face contact. While some made jokes about the advice, supporting safer sexual health during this pandemic is important, and an issue that hasn’t received much attention.
As we discussed previously, consensual sex can be a way of dealing with anxiety or fulfilling and expressing our needs for intimacy. Sex can be very important for mental, social, and physical well-being; it is a part of everyday life.
Early in the pandemic, Toronto Public health stated that sexual contact with new partners or persons who are not in the same household was not recommended. But, four months into the pandemic, especially as bars reopen, it is not realistic to assume that people will abstain from all sexual activity indefinitely. Shaming people who are having sex is not effective, and might encourage people to avoid seeking medical attention. To contain the spread of COVID-19 it is important that we give people clear public health advice to make informed and consensual decisions about sex.
The safest sex is still sex with yourself, or an existing and consenting member of your household. We know that COVID-19 spreads through saliva, so kissing remains a high-risk activity. While the virus has been found in semen and feces (poop) of people with COVID-19, we do not yet know if it can be spread through vaginal or anal sex.
Group sex is riskier than single partner sex, and limiting the number of overall sexual partners you have will keep you safer. Of course, if you or your partner have any symptoms you should avoid all sexual contact.
Tips for practicing safer sex during COVID-19 include:
- Wash your hands before and after having sex, whether alone or with a partner.
- Use condoms or a glove or condom cut open to reduce contact during oral or anal sex.
- Use condoms to protect from sexually transmitted infections.
- Clean sex toys and consider covering them with a condom.
- Do not share sex toys with others.
- Avoid kissing and having sex with a partner, if feeling unwell, or if you have COVID-19.
- Avoid having sex if one partner has a health condition that can lead to more severe illness from COVID-19.
- AND use barriers, like walls and glory holes, that allow for sexual contact but prevent close face-to-face contact.
As always, only have sex with consenting partners. Learn more about how to have safe sex during COVID-19 from this City of Toronto public health document.
Supportive sexual and reproductive health is not just about protecting yourself from COVID-19. At the beginning of the pandemic, sexual health clinics across Toronto closed, and many of them remained completely closed, or with significantly reduced hours. These clinics are a critical component of our overall public health strategy. These clinics provide birth control counselling, low cost, or free birth control including condoms and emergency contraception, as well as STI testing and free treatment, HIV testing, pregnancy testing, counselling and referral, sexuality, and relationship counselling.
I am urging Toronto Public Health to expedite the full re-opening of these clinics as we resume other city services.
As my colleague on the Toronto Public Health Board, Dr. Kate Mulligan said on Metro Morning today, we must help everyone navigate our full, social lives - not just our economic ones - safely.
Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.
Community Corner in Ward 13
I’m pleased to announce that as part of the TTC’s Easier Access Program, the elevators at Wellesley Station were put into service yesterday afternoon - ahead of schedule. This work has been ongoing for quite some time and makes Wellesley the 47th accessible station in the TTC network. We have a lot more work to do to ensure that all 75 of our stations are accessible to everyone but this is very good news for the surrounding neighbourhoods and businesses.
I have also received many inquiries about when the entrance at 17 Dundonald will be completed and opened to the public. TTC is coordinating with local developers to build integrated second exits and automatic entrances within the new condominium developments at 17 Dundonald Street and at 587 Yonge Street. The completion date and official opening of these second entrances/exits are dependent on the condominium construction. Closer to this time, TTC construction crews will re-enter to install the PRESTO fare line equipment, other electrical/communication systems and the station finishes. The underground tunnel connection (located underneath Dundonald Street connecting the second exits to Wellesley Station) was completed by TTC in Fall 2016. There were some delays associated with the developer which have now been resolved. City Inspection crews just concluded their work and construction crews are now in the process of removing the construction hoarding on the station platform. Staff haven’t been able to provide me with an exact date, however the entrance opening is imminent.
COVID-19: Ongoing Tips to Reduce Virus Spread
As we begin to ease our public health measures, we will all be living a new normal. 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 indoor, enclosed public spaces or where physical distancing is difficult to maintain; and
- Staying home whenever we are sick for any reason.
When you are unable to keep a six feet/two-metre distance from others, wear a mask or face covering. This includes when you are:
- In any indoor, enclosed public space;
- In elevators, common areas, waiting rooms or shopping;
- Using transit, taxi or rideshare services; and
- Sick and going to a medical appointment.
Be respectful of others who choose not to wear a mask. Some health conditions make it hard to breathe when wearing a face covering.
How to Create a Safe Social Circles
As we continue our shared fight against COVID-19, you can now establish a family or social circle of no more than 10 people who can interact with one another without physical distancing. Social circles are a way to safely expand the number of people with whom you can come in close contact. Think of your social circle as the people you can hug and touch, or those who can become part of your daily and weekly routines.
Toronto Mayor and Medical Officer of Health Recommend Apartment Buildings and Condos Adopt Mask Policy for Common Areas
The recommendation comes following discussions with building residents, Toronto Public Health, and the Greater Toronto Apartment Association. Building owners and operators are strongly recommended to adopt a policy requiring anyone who enters or remains within the building, including residents, guests, property management and maintenance workers and other visitors who can wear a mask or face covering in areas including lobbies, laundry rooms and elevators, to do so. Toronto Public Health has created guidance documents for commercial and residential buildings. The City of Toronto has created signage that building operators can print off and display in common areas.
Changes to Visitor Guidelines at City of Toronto’s Long-Term Care Homes Make Visiting Loved Ones Easier
As part of the Government of Ontario’s most recent announcement on changes to visitation guidelines in long-term care homes, families can now visit residents through indoor pre-scheduled visits under certain conditions. Up to two visitors at a time per resident can visit as long as the home is not experiencing an outbreak and that the visitors can attest they have had a negative COVID-19 test within the past two weeks. Indoor visitors will be provided with a surgical mask that they must wear at all times.
In response to a petition in June calling for Dundas Street to be renamed, Mayor John Tory asked City Manager Chris Murray to form a working group, including the City’s Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit and Indigenous Affairs Office, and to make immediate recommendations on next steps.
In support of the ongoing fight against COVID-19 and as part of the province's plan to end hallway health care, the Ontario government is announcing five new Ontario Health Teams and is providing additional funding to better connect care.
The province is also investing up to $25.25 million to directly support the 29 approved Ontario Health Teams. Of this funding, $9.5 million will be dedicated to virtual care, which will provide more support for vulnerable populations and individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19. With the remaining $15.75 million, each Ontario Health Team will receive up to $375,000
Since reconvening in February, the legislature passed 18 pieces of legislation, including emergency measures needed to protect public health and prepare for economic recovery. The legislature has now risen until September 14, 2020.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic has spread and affected populations around the world, public health and clinical experts have a better understanding of how the disease manifests and the range of symptoms experienced by those who develop illness. Early on, it was known that a typical symptomatic case of COVID-19 may present with cough, fever and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, but over time, it has become clear that there are other commonly reported symptoms of COVID-19 infection.”
Today, the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, announced that up to $2 billion in federal funding will be made available to cities and towns across Canada. The funding will support front line workers and critical municipal services as we keep people safe during the economic restart. Provincial and territorial governments will continue to support municipalities, and will cost-match federal supports with investments made this fiscal year.
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
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. In the past, by diligently reporting criminal activity, residents were able to see our community policing and other service levels increase. You can do your part: see it, report it.