Earlier this week, the Province of Ontario announced their new COVID-19 Response Framework which should help guide how we respond to COVID-19 including targeted public health measures which are incremental and responsive to help limit the spread of transmission. This framework is designed to help keep schools and businesses open, maintain health system capacity while protecting vulnerable people, including those in long-term care.
The report operates under the following categories: Prevent, Protect, Restrict, Control, Lockdown. Each category has nuanced guidelines for re-opening in an effort to return ‘to normal’.
Image description: Provincial framework for adjusting and tightening public health measures
Along with broad guidelines, there are very specific epidemiology targets, and downward trends before we will be able to loosen our current restrictions. This new framework has Toronto moving from Control to Restrict on November 14. A major part of the strategy to a “safe as possible: re-opening plan” requires accessible and available testing be scaled up. The province has outlined dramatic testing targets moving towards the goal of 100,000 tests per day. These testing targets need to be accompanied by sick day provisions in order to support residents as they await test results. This is to ensure that people aren’t making the choice between staying home, or going to work when they’re sick. These are all under the purview of the province and no such provision is in this new framework.
I want to make one thing very clear: the pandemic is not over, and for many neighbourhoods in Toronto including Toronto Centre’s very own St James Town and Cabbagetown South, it is very much an ongoing public health crisis. According to the Toronto Public Health Dashboard, many neighbourhoods in Toronto are still presenting with a test positivity rate of 10%, most of which are low income neighbourhoods with a high Black, Indigenous, People of Colour or BIPOC population. A test positivity rate of 3% is considered an emergency. This data is updated regularly on Toronto Public Health’s COVID-19 Dashboard.
Image description: Provincial epidemiology indicators for adjusting and tightening public health measures
Public Health Ontario is currently estimating Toronto’s “R0” as a little above 1. An R0 is the number of people infected by a single infected person. Currently, Toronto Public Health is only conducting contact tracing in congregate settings with a focus on schools, long term care homes, our shelter system and daycares. While Toronto Public Health is trying to scale up their ability to conduct more fulsome contact tracing, at the moment, without robust tracing, it is very likely that Toronto’s R0 is higher. Our current health data does not substantiate the province’s desire to re-open.
Our city continues to see outbreaks across every ward, and our health advocates and emergency care workers are concerned about overwhelming our health care system. At least seven hospitals in the past week have seen outbreaks, as reported by CP24. According to the CBC, our hospitals are already at capacity. Anthony Dale, CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association has said, “Most of Ontario's large community hospitals are effectively full. Hospitals are walking across a tightrope right now”.
As of November 14, our current regulations will be lifted, and without legislative authority from the Province, the City of Toronto must do whatever it can to prepare for this reopening. The City is working towards resuming contact tracing on all cases and this takes time. There is a staff of 700 people working now, and public health is in the process of hiring 200 more. Until then, as we open, it will be a challenge to support each community. With indoor dining resuming to a maximum capacity of 50 people inside, and only groups of four permitted at each table, this will exacerbate our current challenges. Bars and restaurants were a high risk activity this summer, and with the colder months ahead, there won’t be a realistic option to eat outside.
While I know we are all eager to meet our friends inside and to participate in the activities we love to do, Toronto is not yet in a strong position for recovery. Being directed to re-open will not support our communities who continue to suffer. Dr. de Villa has said that data from Toronto and around the world “shows us that indoor settings where people come into close contact make it easier for the virus to spread. Bars and restaurants are closed spaces that create close contact between people, usually for extended periods of time. Additionally, at a bar or restaurant, mask-wearing isn’t practical, most of the time.” Without caution and due care, Toronto could easily be another example of a pandemic out of control.
We saw this second wave coming. Dr. de Villa was calling on the Premier to support closing Toronto, and the Province was slow to act. What happens when these restrictions are lifted, and our cases rise? How long will it take for the province to react to our calls? The targets for this new framework are very high. I wonder how many Torontonians we will lose in an effort to get ‘back to business.’ I urge you to use your best judgment when choosing how to spend your time over these coming weeks. I know we are all well-practiced at trying to make our actions safer for those around us. Wash your hands. Keep practicing physical distancing. Wear your mask if you are able. When we consider how to safely return to places we love, ask yourself how you can protect yourself and your community.
The Government of Canada has recently released both sew and no sew instructions to make your own face masks. It’s been a small pleasure to see the creativity of our communities in how they style their masks. I can’t wait to see what you do next!
Today, the Province of Ontario will release their budget for 2021. Last year, we saw devastating cuts to Toronto Public Health, legal aid, child care and other critical services. I will be looking at this very closely to see if it reflects and supports our communities in a strong and just recovery. I look forward to sharing with you soon.
Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.
Community Corner in Ward 13
As many of you know, I have been working with City staff to implement the Downtown East Action Plan. This is an initiative that I began in 2017 that successfully secured City Council funding and resources with an elevated level of community support to our area of the city. From enhanced area-specific 311 services to the hiring of additional street outreach workers, this work continues and I’m pleased to share that the new phase of additional funding is here for the Downtown East.
The City of Toronto has recently launched a call for grants for projects exclusive to the Downtown East. This new grant stream with a total of $460,000 will be available in up to four grants of $115,000. These grants are available for projects that address three streams of work: Building Sector Capacity, Mental Health and Crisis Supports, and Safe and Inclusive Communities.
Eligible projects are:
- New or validated expansion of existing initiatives
- Downtown East-based (Bloor Street to Front Street, and Bay Street to the Don Valley Parkway, including an expansion to 21 Park Rd. North of Bloor.)
- Designed to engage community members including People with Lived Experience of homelessness, substance use, or consumer/survivors during the planning, implementation and evaluation phases of the work
- A temporary endeavor with a defined start and end date
Applicants must meet all of the following criteria:
- Currently offer programs, services or activities in the community that funding is requested for
- Be familiar with the Downtown East Action Plan
- Demonstrate experience working with People with Lived Experience of homelessness, substance use, or mental health challenges
- Demonstrate readiness to implement and evaluate the outcomes of the project
- Demonstrate process to ensure guidance by and/or accountability to community members, both agency clients and broader, local stakeholders including residents, resident groups, local Business Improvement Areas.
- Be a not-for-profit organization (incorporated or unincorporated) with recent audited financial statements (within the last 18 months)
- Be based in Downtown East Toronto and 50% or more of its board members are residents of Toronto
- Be in good standing with the City of Toronto
- Comply with the City of Toronto's Grants Policy
Fill out your online application here. Applications are due Monday, November 16, 2020.
Interested applicants are strongly encouraged to reach out to Emily Martyn at Emily.Martyn@toronto.ca or Rolfe Santos at Rolfe.Santos@toronto.ca for support in refining your application and for more information.
Further to this additional investment in the Downtown East, today the City of Toronto and Infrastructure Ontario (IO) have issued a Request for Qualification (RFQ) for the George Street Revitalization project, which will reinvent the northernmost block of George Street (between Dundas Street East and Gerrard Street East).
Seaton House men’s shelter, located on George Street, and its adjacent properties will be transformed into a new shared facility, providing a dynamic range of housing, programs and services to meet the unique and complex needs of individuals experiencing homelessness, as well as vulnerable and elderly individuals in the community. The project will result in a long-term care home, a transitional living facility, an emergency shelter, affordable housing, and a community hub serving residents of the site and the local neighbourhood.
George Street Revitalization, another part of the City’s Downtown East Action Plan, will be the catalyst for a safer and more vibrant community for all in the heart of the historic Garden District. Seaton House is expected to be fully decommissioned by July 2022.
You can read the full press release here.
Community Care in Ward 13
Image description: a promotional poster that says "accountability table update October 2020"
Last week, the City launched the first phase of consultations on the creation of a community-based crisis response model. Now is the time where you can make your voice heard and directly speak to the values you want prioritized.
The City of Toronto has released an anonymous survey online which takes about 10-15 minutes to complete. This is an opportunity to share feedback about key program components, how to access it, who responds, how personal information is used and a complaints process. Your voice and research from other cities who are doing this well, will be considered as part of determining Toronto’s program. By participating in this survey, you can be direct in your priorities, and how you envision this program. How much are the police involved? Is there a team of mental health service providers who attend crisis calls? Let them know what kind of necessary supports you imagine. Act now as the survey closes on November 9! Understanding that this is a critical issue, I’ve requested an extension of the survey deadline to offer more time to provide feedback. If you are able, I would recommend completing the survey as soon as possible and share widely through your networks.
There will be another opportunity in December that will build on what comes out of this first survey. City staff will also be engaging an external firm to conduct public opinion research to add to their findings.
The City has been holding a number of community roundtables with residents and service providers across Toronto, which began on October 19 and run until November 13. These roundtables are topic-specific, and residents interested in joining should visit the Policing Reform website. If you want to host your own community roundtable, you can also use the City’s discussion guide and submit your feedback online. These discussion guide feedback forms can be submitted until November 20, 2020. These consultations will help guide policing reform in the City and will be part of the larger report presented to Council early next year.
Making Cents: Talking City Budgets with Councillor Wong-Tam
Image content: promotional poster for Making Cents Budget Series panel event with Councillor Wong-Tam
In 2019 we successfully campaigned for the creation of an Intersectional Gender Equity Strategy and Gender Equality Office, which was finally approved and funded as part of this year's budget. The Gender Equity Strategy and Gender Equality Office participates in our City budget process by analyzing and evaluating the budget through an intersectional budget lens. This work is important, but there is more we can do to ensure our city works for everyone. Throughout the pandemic we have received report after report after report which shows that marginalized and oppressed communities are experiencing the brunt of the issues related to COVID. When all members of our communities aren’t adequately supported, we all suffer.
Join us virtually on Monday, November 9th from 3:00pm- 4:00pm EST to learn more about how and why it is important to apply an equity lens to our municipal budget, and where our municipal budget can address gaps in equity planning in our city. Joined by experts in the field and panelists with lived experience, we will ask what an equity lens is and how it can be applied to our municipal budget, why an equity lens is critical to the budgeting process, and where our current funding gaps exist in the system and how we can fix it.
When: Monday, November 9th from 3:00 pm - 4:00pm EST
Where: Registrants will receive a link to watch
Special Guests Include:
Anjum Sultana, National Director of Public Policy and Strategic Communications at YWCA
Liv Mendelsohn, Director of Accessibility and Inclusion at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre
Prabha Khosla, Gender Justice and Municipal Advocate
Sarah Blackstock, Manager of Social Policy for the City of Toronto in the Social Development, Finance & Administration division
Jessica Ketwaroo-Green, Principal Consultant, Racism and Gender Inequity
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
The City of Toronto announced planned road closures that will impact travel this weekend, Saturday, November 7 and Sunday, November 8. Lake Shore Boulevard West will be reduced to a single lane of traffic (westbound only), between Windermere Avenue and Ellis Avenue from Friday, November 6 at 9 p.m. until Sunday, November 8 at 11:59 p.m. to accommodate a large tower crane hoist.
Today, Mayor John Tory proclaimed November 5 to 11 as Remembrance Week in Toronto. Remembrance Week is a time when Torontonians can reflect on those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and honour all Canadians who have fought and continue to fight for peace.
The City of Toronto and Infrastructure Ontario (IO) have issued a Request for Qualification (RFQ) for the George Street Revitalization project, which will reinvent the northernmost block of George Street (between Dundas Street East and Gerrard Street East).
Province of Ontario Updates
In consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, the Ontario government has developed the Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework. It ensures that public health measures are targeted, incremental and responsive to help limit the spread of COVID-19, while keeping schools and businesses open, maintaining health system capacity, and protecting vulnerable people, including those in long-term care.
The Ontario government is making a historic investment of nearly $1 billion over six years to improve and expand broadband and cellular access across the province. The $680 million being announced today is on top of the $315 million to support Up to Speed: Ontario's Broadband and Cellular Action Plan. This funding will be used for shovel-ready projects starting in 2019-20, will create jobs, and connect unserved and underserved communities during COVID-19 and beyond.
Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance, will deliver the 2020 Budget in the Ontario Legislature.
Government of Canada Updates
The Government of Canada continues to take action to prevent the importation of unauthorized or illegal health products at border crossings across Canada. Today, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Health Canada and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) announced the results of a Government of Canada initiative to combat unauthorized or counterfeit goods attempting to enter Canada through British Columbia.
In lieu of an in-person update to the media, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, issued the following statement today
Minister Fortier Discusses Support for Canadians Through COVID-19 and Efforts to Focus on Canadians’ Quality of Life
The Government of Canada is committed to better incorporating quality of life measurements into government decision-making. As Canada continues to take action in the fight against COVID-19, this work will help ensure all Canadians have the support they need, and benefit from a strong, sustainable and broad recovery once the virus is defeated. The Honourable Mona Fortier, Minister of Middle Class Prosperity and Associate Minister of Finance, participated in a discussion hosted by Canada 2020. Minister Fortier highlighted the programs put in place to support Canadians and businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Government’s plan to build back better once the virus is defeated.
The Government of Canada is committed to keeping Canadians safe while protecting their rights and freedoms. Yesterday, the Minister for Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the Honourable Bill Blair, announced that the final provisions of the Secure Air Travel Regulations have come into force. These provisions will deliver centralized screening and the Canadian Travel Number.
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.