Yesterday, Premier Doug Ford announced that the City of Toronto would be allowed to move into Stage 3 of the Provincial Reopening framework on Friday.
In Stage 3, indoor gatherings will be permitted for 50 people and 100 people in outdoor settings. And of course, mandatory masks are required in all indoor public settings with some exceptions such as when you are eating, drinking, or exercising. Wearing masks will be part of our new normal for the foreseeable future in order to help keep each other safe.
I know that many people are excited to see restrictions loosen, and as I said on Tuesday, we are making good progress in reducing the spread of COVID-19 in our city. But as we have seen from other cities and regions who have opened before us, COVID-19 is still among us and we need to move forward with caution and care so we don't lose our progress.
For this reason, I ask that you keep following Dr. Eileen de Villa’s recommended public health measures as you begin enjoying the activities we have all missed and are all looking forward to. Whether it is dining indoors at a local restaurant, attending a concert, going to the movies, or visiting a library, please keep washing your hands, watching your distance, and wearing your mask. These measures are still needed to keep us as safe as possible as we move forward.
Yesterday at City Council, my colleagues and I passed additional public health measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, recognizing that Stage 3 comes with an opportunity for more close contact between people, especially in indoor settings and, therefore, opportunities for COVID-19 to spread.
In food and drink establishments, businesses will need to ensure that:
- Staff are screened for COVID-19 symptoms at the start of every shift;
- They maintain strict capacity limits of no more than 100 people indoors and 10 people per table;
- Customers remain seated at all times unless entering or leaving, using the washroom, or paying;
- They are keeping a customer log with contact information for at least one member of each party, along with the date and time. Information should be held for 30 days and provided to Toronto Public Health if needed for contact tracing.
Landlords and property managers in condos and apartment buildings must now have policies requiring the use of masks or face coverings in enclosed common spaces, such as lobbies, elevators, and laundry rooms.
These are important measures for our city to move forward into Stage 3, and to keep our residents and our city as safe as possible.
In addition to approving new public health measures, City Council discussed the City of Toronto’s upcoming financial challenges at length. Toronto is facing a $1.35 billion deficit in 2020 because of COVID-19. In 2021, we’ll have an additional $1.5 billion budget hole to fill in. With initial funding commitments from the Federal and Provincial governments finally announced, the City Manager will report in Sept how much money we can expect to receive, and strategies to fill the remaining deficit.
During the meeting, I was proud to support a motion from Councillor Layton asking staff to review the cost implications and potential savings that can be found for all capital projects in excess of $500 million in the current capital plan.
The Gardiner Expressway East rebuild should be on this list. The current plan to rebuild and move the Gardiner Expressway is set to cost taxpayers $2.2 billion. This represents a full 44 per cent of the transportation department’s 10-year capital spend, despite only accounting for seven per cent of commuters in and out of downtown. This was always an inefficient use of our capital spending, but in light of COVID-19 and the added financial pressures the City is facing, we should reassess and redirect that funding into other priority areas.
I was also glad to support a motion directing the City of Toronto to mount a legal challenge to Premier Ford’s Bill 184. The City Solicitor will try to stop over 6000 pending July 31 evictions, and to re-establish tenants’ right to a fair hearing.
Our communities have already been feeling the impacts of the housing and homelessness crisis. With the anticipated number of rental arrears being accumulated during COVID-19, without the protection of the Landlord Tenant Board, this could result in thousands of more people being evicted, and ending up in shelters or encampments.
As we continue to support the City’s efforts to prevent and end chronic homelessness, I know it’s important for government leaders to hear from their constituents. With that in mind, I ask that you let Mayor Tory (email@example.com), Premier Doug Ford (firstname.lastname@example.org), and Prime Minister Trudeau (email@example.com) know how important it is for them to fully fund and accelerate the City’s HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan. This Plan strives to approve and build 40,000 new affordable rental units, including 18,000 supportive housing units over the next 10 years.
Implementing the Plan is estimated to cost all orders of government $23.4 billion, which comprised of:
- City investment of approximately $8.5 billion;
- Federal request of approximately $7.9 billion;
- and the provincial request of approximately $7 billion.
As we reach the end of year one in the Plan, we have received little funding from the other orders of government to meet the targeted goals. Only by working together can we prescribe a solution to one of the biggest health ailments in Toronto - to finally end homelessness.
Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.
Community Corner in Ward 13
I am happy to announce that as of July 28, 2020, the John Innes Community Recreation Centre pool has re-opened to the public! The pool was closed earlier this year for intensive repair work, in order to ensure the quality of air circulation and filtration. This is wonderful news for the community members and families who have been patiently waiting for the pool to re-open for some time now. I am glad that after such a long wait, people are able to finally resume swimming while the weather is still hot!
Residents and community members can safely enjoy swimming activities while practicing social distancing every Monday - Friday from 10:00am- 2:00pm. Please note that there are some swimming changes made due to COVID-19; specifically, the maximum number of swimmers per lane is set to 1 for now and swimmers are limited to 30-minute blocks. All are welcome and please check out the pool after a worthwhile wait! For more information on using swimming facilities safely, please visit the City website.
I am thankful to the staff at John Innes Community Recreation Centre and Parks, Forestry and Recreation for their hard work in re-opening the pool and for its maintenance. I would also like to thank my constituents for their time and for sharing their concerns regarding the pool and its closure.
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.
City Council voted to adopt the report’s recommendations, including $513.7 million in mitigation strategies through anticipated cost savings from workforce restraints, spending constraints, and cost avoidance. An additional $34.1 million in added offsets is also available from budget variance.
To date, workforce restraints have produced $48 million in savings and are expected to total $152 million by year-end. Initiatives implemented so far include redeployment of staff to critical and essential service areas, implementing Emergency Leave for staff unable to provide service or work remotely, seasonal and part-time staff layoffs, a hiring slowdown, and mandating vacation use.
Toronto City Council has voted in favour of a temporary bylaw requiring masks or face coverings in common areas in apartments and condominiums to protect the health and safety of our communities by reducing the spread of COVID-19. The strengthened safety measure responds to concerns that the opportunity for more close contact, especially in indoor settings, will result in more virus spread.
As part of the Stage 3 reopening, as of Friday, July 31, Toronto residents are allowed to participate in expanded social gatherings and organized public events. Indoor gatherings of up to 50 people and outdoor gatherings of up to 100 people are now permitted. These gatherings remain subject to compliance with provincial physical distancing requirements of a two-metre distance from anyone outside your household or 10-person social circle. The City’s bylaws on physical distancing in City parks and squares remain in effect, as does the mandatory mask or face covering bylaw for indoor public spaces.
Additional businesses and public spaces will be reopening as the Ontario government allows the City of Toronto and Peel Region to move into Stage 3 of reopening the province on Friday, July 31 at 12:01 a.m. This decision was made in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and local medical officers of health. It is based on positive local trends of key public health indicators, including lower transmission of COVID-19, ongoing hospital capacity, public health capacity to conduct rapid case and contact management, and a significant increase in testing.
The Ontario government launched an independent commission into COVID-19 and long-term care. Three commissioners will investigate how COVID-19 spread within long-term care homes, how residents, staff, and families were impacted, and the adequacy of measures taken by the province and other parties to prevent, isolate and contain the virus. The commission will also provide the government with guidance on how to better protect long-term care home residents and staff from any future outbreaks.
Information and Resources on COVID-19 Epidemiology and Reducing Your Risks for Infection and Spreading the Virus
Canadians can access comprehensive information and resources on COVID-19 on the Government of Canada coronavirus disease website, including updates on the current situation, self-assessment and mental and physical health resources, and guidance on limiting the spread of the virus in community, business and medical professional settings.
The Department of National Defence announced today two contribution agreements with Canadian companies as part of the Government of Canada’s coordinated response to COVID-19. The contribution agreements, totalling $2 million, focus on diagnostics and testing and are being awarded to:
- Diagnostics Biochem Canada Inc. (London, ON): $1,014,000 for the development of kits for the detection of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 that can be used separately or in combination to diagnose current or previous COVID-19 infection
- Custom Biologics, (Toronto, ON): $1,000,000 for the development and qualification of a rapid Point-of-Care diagnostic test for the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19
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.