ActiveTO, Board of Health Meeting & COVID-19 Updates

On March 23, I sent a request to Dr. de Villa, Mayor Tory and Chief Pegg to ask that they consider opening dense urban streets, such as Yonge Street, to people by temporarily closing them to cars to allow for physical distancing. After all, downtown Yonge Street has become a dense residential neighbourhood over the last ten years and it has the heaviest pedestrian counts not just in Toronto, but in Canada

Today, after weeks of being told that opening streets to people and active transportation could risk sending contradictory messaging and inadvertently encourage congregation and gatherings, the City of Toronto announced the first details of ActiveTO, a new plan to create more space for pedestrians, cyclists and to allow for physical distancing. The City of Toronto is targeting the creation of 50 km of “quiet streets” focused on pedestrians and cyclists. The plan is looking at closing major roads near major parks on weekends. Mayor Tory also announced that the city will be accelerating construction of the 10-year bike plan, and introducing some temporary bike lanes.

Thank you to everyone who emailed me, my council colleagues and Mayor Tory; you fought hard for this outcome. 

We have seen from the early days of this pandemic that the unequal allocation of space on our roads was putting residents at risk. People were not able to follow public health protocols to do essential trips to pick up groceries or medicine. I know that the inability to stay physically distanced on our sidewalks was a cause of profound stress for many. 

This change in policy does not mean it is time to ease up on our commitment to stay physically distanced. In her remarks today, Dr. de Villa was very clear: if we had all not done our part by staying home, we could have been experiencing tragedies on a much larger scale. We are not out of the woods yet. I am asking everyone to remain diligent and focused. Keep washing your hands and please continue to stay home unless necessary. It is not yet time to visit family or friends. 

These new protocols are to make it possible for those of us living in densely populated neighbourhoods to get the fresh air and exercise that is critical for our collective mental and physical health.  

In following recommendations from the World Health Organization, residents are being encouraged to walk or bike when moving around during the COVID-19 outbreak. These modes of active transportation not only provide physical distancing, but can significantly reduce our risk of chronic disease and can improve our mental health. Scientific consensus indicates that the risk of becoming infected while passing someone on the street, walking trail or bike path is low, so when you go outside please pass people quickly, courteously and maintain a 2 m distance. 

I look forward to seeing more details about the ActiveTO plan, and will work with you to ensure that our community and priorities are reflected in the roll out. 

Tomorrow, the Board of Health meets for the first time since the emergency declaration was made. There are a number of issues that I am eager to see move forward, including advocating for the Province of Ontario to take a stronger role in supporting Toronto’s COVID-19 homelessness and supportive housing response. The City needs an intersectional, disaggregated data strategy to inform its public health response, with better access to testing in long-term care homes and shelters.

As we turn our attention to the City of Toronto’s post-COVID-19 recovery, we need to ensure that the kinds of active transportation initiatives announced today are made permanent. Investing in a full range of public and active transportation options will be critical for Toronto to achieve the kinds of positive social outcomes we need to see in a healthy society when the pandemic is behind us.

The Board of Health will be requesting that the Medical Officer of Health to strongly consider pursuing opportunities to provide more space for pedestrians, cyclists and public transit riders to allow for better physical distancing, in addition to improving safety for all road users and ensuring adequate and equitable access to open space and parkland for mental health and exercise as part of the recovery plan.

The framework already exists. The City of Toronto has already committed to the Vision Zero Road Safety Plan, the Cycling Network Plan, and the TransformTO Climate Action Plan

If adequately funded, these action plans could be accelerated, providing much needed economic stimulus and addressing a number of important social outcomes. In the past, City Council has taken timid steps toward active transportation implementation. If COVID-19 has finally provided the impetus for a more ambitious roll-out, then that is a positive effect I can get behind.

Thank you to Cycle Toronto for raising this critical issue in your open letter to the Toronto Office of Recovery and Rebuild. I wholeheartedly endorse your comments, and look forward to working with experts and all my colleagues on City Council to deliver on an active transportation plan that supports our important economic recovery. 

Campaign to Save Small Businesses

Thank you to everyone who signed our campaign to Save Small Business by sending emails to the Provincial and Federal governments. 

If you haven’t had a chance yet, you can still participate by signing our open letter here.

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

KWT Signature

Kristyn


Community Care in Ward 13

Today’s Community Care shoutout goes to Wendy Watson and Lewis Manne who have produced a tribute music video in celebration of our frontline workers. Thank you for using your creativity and heart to shine some light. The dedication of our frontline workers and essential service providers is inspiring. They’ve aptly titled their music video “These Are Our Heroes”. Watch the music video here.

These Are Our HeroesPlease continue to email my office at councillor_wongtam@toronto.ca 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!


Keep Practising Physical Distance!

As the City of Toronto evokes these new measures for public health, please remember to keep practising social distancing. I know it’s challenging, and I thank you for your continued hard work. Please remember to stay off of closed parks amenities and facilities, or you may be subjected to a fine. If you must leave your home, please stay at least 6 ft (2 m) away from others on the streets. These measures are crucial to protect the greater public health.

Physical Distance

The single best way for Torontonians to support each other right now is to stay home and practise physical distancing to prevent COVID-19 spread. 

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 toronto.ca/covid19.


City of Toronto COVID-19 Updates 

Second COVID-19 Recovery Site for Homeless Opens

A second COVID-19 recovery site will open on Friday for individuals experiencing homelessness who are COVID-19 positive. This work is through a unique partnership between the City of Toronto, University Health Network (UHN), Inner City Health Associates (ICHA) and community health partners. The new downtown site has a capacity for up to 250 individuals who test positive for COVID-19 

The recovery program is unique and a new integrated model for shelter and health care.  It isn't a hospital because people do not require acute care. It also isn't a shelter because there are additional infection control measures in place similar to health care settings, as well as other wraparound health supports. For those who don't require hospitalization, the recovery program provides a place for the city’s most vulnerable to recover in a dignified way, without placing additional pressures on the hospital acute care system.

Clients are accommodated in individual hotel rooms and are provided an integrated model of care using a harm reduction and trauma-oriented approach. Each client will be offered medical care, nursing, substance use care and overdose prevention services, mental health support and community, peer and personal support.

Individuals will be referred directly to the recovery program through a referral from an ICHA physician. Transportation to the site will be provided by the City’s fleet services. The site is pet-friendly and family-friendly. Once the individual has recovered, the team offers clients options including a referral to a hotel-based shelter program or directly to housing wherever possible.

The new site will operate in addition to the existing 200-bed COVID-19 recovery site for homeless individuals that opened in April. Read the full news release here.

Toxic Taxi Service Resumes

The Toxic Taxi service for pickup of Household Hazardous Waste has been resumed. Pickup must be pre-arranged by calling 311 to make an appointment. There is a maximum of 50 litres/kilograms and minimum of 10 litres/kilograms per pickup (equivalent to 10 full standard household paint cans). Details about what is accepted and how to properly set it out are available on the Household Hazardous Waste web page under “Proper Disposal Options.”

More information on affected city services and facilities.

More updates from the City of Toronto.


Province of Ontario Updates

Province Further Eases Restrictions on Retail Stores and Essential Construction 

The Ontario government is allowing all retail stores with a street entrance to provide curbside pickup and delivery, as well as in-store payment and purchases at garden centres, nurseries, hardware stores and safety supply stores. 

As early as Friday, May 8 at 12:01 a.m., garden centres and nurseries will be able to open for in-store payment and purchases, operating under the same guidelines as grocery stores and pharmacies. Hardware stores and safety supply stores will be permitted to open for in-store payment and purchases as soon as 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, May 9. On Monday, May 11 at 12:01 a.m., retail stores with a street entrance can begin offering curbside pickup and delivery in accordance with the Ministry of Health's Guidance Document for Essential Workplaces and occupational health and safety requirements. Business owners should review the health and safety guidelines developed by the province and its health and safety association partners.

Businesses must follow public health measures and should review the workplace safety guidelines, such as promoting physical distancing and frequent handwashing, sanitizing surfaces, installing physical barriers, staggering shifts and using contactless payment options to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Learn more about the government’s play for reopening the Province here.  

Province Extends Electricity Rate Relief During COVID-19

The Ontario government is extending emergency electricity rate relief to families, farms and small businesses until May 31, 2020 during the COVID-19 outbreak. Customers who pay time-of-use electricity rates will continue to be billed at the lowest price, known as the off-peak price, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This electricity rate relief, initially provided for a 45-day period starting on March 24, 2020, has been extended by an emergency order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. The rate relief is intended to be in place for an additional 24 days.  

The government's full announcement can be found here.

More updates from the Province of Ontario.


Government of Canada Updates

There is no new update from the Federal government today, but they did reiterate some of the work that has been done thus far to support businesses. If you are a business owner or landlord and have not reviewed the supports available, please see a summary of this work below. I continue to advocate for enhanced supports as more is necessary. 

Some of the key measures in the Federal government’s  Economic Response Plan in response to the economic impact of COVID-19 include:

The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, which provides a 75% subsidy for up to 12 weeks for eligible employers, retroactive to March 15; 

The Canada Emergency Business Account, providing interest-free, partially forgivable loans of up to $40,000 to small businesses and not-for-profit organizations with between $20,000 and $1.5 million in total payroll in 2019;

The Business Credit Availability Program that will enable up to $40 billion in lending by providing businesses with access to flexible term loans of up to $12.5 million to help cover immediate, operational cash-flow requirements;

The Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance for small businesses, which will provide a forgivable loan to qualifying commercial property owners, who in turn give a rent reduction of at least 75% for April and May (retroactive) and June, to impacted small business tenants who have experienced at least a 70% drop in pre-COVID-19 revenues; 

The deferral of all Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax (GST/HST) payments, as well as GST and customs duty payments owed for imports, until June; and,

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit  that will provide $2,000 monthly for up to four months to eligible workers who have stopped working because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Government of Canada is also working with provinces and territories to cost-share a temporary top-up to the salaries of essential workers that provinces and territories have deemed essential in the fight against COVID-19.

More updates from the Government of Canada.


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: 1-866-797-000

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: PublicHealth@toronto.ca

311 Toronto
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)

Phone: 416-392-7903
Constituency Office: 100 Queen St W A5, Toronto, ON, M5H 2N2