I have been hearing a new term lately—quarantine fatigue— and it feels pretty apt for what I know many people are feeling. I have to say it seems like a completely reasonable response in the context of so much change and uncertainty. In addition to the economic hardship it causes, isolation can severely damage psychological well-being, especially for people who were already depressed or anxious before the crisis started. Loosening restrictions isn’t just about restarting our economy, it is an acknowledgement that we need human contact and connection for our health.
It is incredibly hard to process the amount of daily information we get, while also trying to balance our desire and need to see people, with the very real risk of COVID-19.
With governments across Canada beginning to loosen restrictions, and despite our shared desire to return to our normal lives, we must remember that COVID-19 is still with us. A surge in cases is always a possibility. There is still no evidence that anyone is immune and there is no vaccine. Even with the most cautious approach to re-opening, we must learn to live with COVID-19 for the foreseeable future.
I know from speaking to residents across Ward 13 that people want to do this as safely as possible. No one wants to put their neighbours or friends at risk. I also know that it is unrealistic and unhealthy to expect people to avoid all in-person social contact outside of their household bubble for the foreseeable future.
As we have learned from harm reduction approaches, abstinence-only solutions don’t work. As with my push to close streets to allow space for pedestrians and active transportation, we need to design solutions that allow people to do necessary activities as safely as possible. This is just as important as the enforcement of social distancing rules.
The growing consensus among scientists is that most virus transmission is happening in enclosed spaces, during sustained contact. That being said, any contact with people carries risk. We must continue to follow best practices for minimizing transmission. That means stay home when you are sick, wash your hands often, don’t touch your face and stay six feet apart from others when you are outside.
We can apply the same evidence used to help determine what aspects of the economy can re-open to also inform best practices for individuals who want to get together in social settings. The more we understand that the riskiness of social activities lies on a spectrum, the more we empower people to choose low-risk activities and the more we can avoid high-risk activities.
I believe that giving people clear options for low-risk interactions will allow us to sustain the necessary long-term physical distancing that will be necessary to control the spread of COVID-19. While we are still learning about the virus, the evidence seems to indicate that:
- Outdoors is less risky than indoors;
- Small groups are less risky than large groups (always ensuring to maintain a 6ft physical distance); and
- Simply passing by someone is less risky than sustained contact.
I urge you to consider this risk assessment and continue to follow the advice of Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health whenever making decisions about your health and behaviour. Our ongoing commitment to physical distancing and doing everything we can to limit contact with others is saving lives every day.
I also don’t want you to feel shame for finding this difficult. It is hard and exhausting. I ask everyone to be kind to yourselves and continue to be kind to each other. Reach out and check in on your loved ones. If you or somebody you know is feeling overwhelmed, remember that there are many services available for you by phone and online, posted on my website.
For more information on quarantine fatigue and the relative risks of social behaviours, I encourage you to read this article by Julia Marcus, an infectious disease epidemiologist and an assistant professor in the Department of Population Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute.
CECRA for small businesses
Today, the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, announced that details to the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) for small businesses are now available and that the program will be opened for applications beginning on May 25.
The CECRA will provide forgivable loans to qualifying commercial property owners, whether they have a mortgage on their property or not. The loans will cover 50 percent of three monthly rent payments that are payable by eligible small business tenants who are experiencing financial hardship during April, May and June.
I have been speaking with landlords across Ward 13 and urging them to take advantage of this program. I hope that many will, now that details are released. We must all work together if we are going to protect our main streets and come out of this pandemic on a solid economic footing.
Unfortunately, the announcement today did not provide a mechanism for small business owners to access this loan if their landlord still refuses to apply. That means for many small business owners, CECRA will not be the lifeline they need to survive.
We still need to protect small and local businesses. As many of you know, I have been calling on Premier Doug Ford and the provincial government to legislate a freeze on commercial evictions. I encourage you to add your name and help call on the Provincial and Federal governments to make the necessary legislative changes we need to save our small businesses and our main streets.
Community Care in Ward 13
Today’s community care shoutout goes to a brand new podcast called St James Town Storeys, focusing on how residents are helping each other to deal with the pandemic, often supported by agencies and their dynamic, energetic staff. This podcast inspires even more neighbour-to-neighbour connections and helps address the stigmatization of this community. There will be five episodes released weekly, all based on phone interviews. Learn more, and listen here.
Please continue to email my office at email@example.com to share examples of community care in your neighbourhood and ways you are supporting your community at this time. I’ll be happy to promote it, space permitting, in our communication to the residents and business owners in Ward 13. Every bit goes a long way!
COVID-19: Ongoing Tips to Reduce Virus Spread
The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed. If you are sick, even with mild symptoms, stay home and self-isolate.
As we slowly return to some sense of normalcy, we need to continue physical distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Everyone has a role to play. The actions you take will help protect you and everyone in our community.
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 elevators, common areas, waiting rooms or shopping;
- using transit, taxi or rideshare services; and
- sick and going for 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 mask.
City of Toronto COVID-19 Updates
City of Toronto Strongly Recommends Face Coverings or Non-medical Masks be Worn when Physical Distancing Cannot be Maintained
To help stop the spread of COVID-19, today Toronto Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa and Mayor John Tory strongly recommended that the public wear a face mask or face covering to protect others when in settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained.
The City of Toronto will expand its ActiveTO major road closures footprint this weekend to provide residents with more space to physically distance while outdoors and allow exercise while helping stop the spread of COVID-19. Vehicle access on parts of more major roads will be closed for walking, running and biking this Saturday and Sunday. More information and details about ActiveTO are available at toronto.ca/activeTO
The City of Toronto will open more than 850 park amenities this week, following the Province of Ontario’s amendments to an order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. Five BMX locations, 14 skateboard parks and four disc-golf locations are opening today. Many parks' parking lots will also reopen this week at parks across the City. Staff are also preparing more than 600 tennis courts at 185 locations to begin to open this weekend
Park amenities scheduled to open in time for this upcoming weekend include:
- Picnic shelters;
- More than 300 soccer and multi-use outdoor fields
- More than 300 baseball diamonds; and
- 150 basketball courts.
Permits for soccer, multi-use fields and baseball diamonds continue to be cancelled until June 29. Individuals may use outdoor sports facilities and multi-use fields for non-team sports, such as walking, running, biking, skateboarding, frisbee, kicking a ball, and low contact racquet sports like tennis, badminton, pickleball and ping pong. Individuals are not permitted to play team sports, such as soccer or baseball, even on fields intended for this purpose unless they are members of the same household.
As the Ontario Government carefully and gradually reopens the province, those taking public transit, returning to work or are out shopping are being urged to continue to adhere to public health advice as the best line of defence against COVID-19. To assist the public, the Ministry of Health today released specific recommendations on how to choose, wear and care for appropriate face coverings used in public where physical distancing is not possible, along with additional safety measures for provincial transit agencies.
Government of Canada Updates
The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today announced that application documents and updated criteria for Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) for small businesses are now available. The program will be opened for applications beginning on May 25. CECRA will provide forgivable loans to qualifying commercial property owners, whether they have a mortgage on their property or not. The loans will cover 50% of three monthly rent payments that are payable by eligible small business tenants who are experiencing financial hardship during April, May, and June.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Navdeep Bains announced the opening of the application process for the government’s Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility. The program will support Canada’s largest employers whose needs during the pandemic are not being met through conventional financing.
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