As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in our city, in addition to following public health advice, making informed decisions to assess the risk as you move about the city is again growing more and more important.
Yesterday, Toronto Public Health (TPH) launched enhancements to the COVID-19 data dashboard. The updates will help the public understand the local impact of COVID-19 in Toronto as the city faces a resurgence in cases and include:
- Daily updates on new cases and weekday updates on outbreaks to provide more current information on the local situation and help residents see how COVID-19 activity is changing in our city.
- More detailed weekly updates highlighting the data trends to be shared on Wednesdays. This will include additional graphs and figures to provide more insight into who is contracting COVID-19 in our community.
- A summary of active outbreaks has been expanded to include additional institutions such as schools and child care centres. TPH will list the specific institutions where an outbreak has been identified and is under investigation.
- TPH is also looking into addressing the Board of Health request at the September meeting to include a high-level summary of outbreaks in workplace settings at a later date. TPH will continue updating the dashboard as the local situation changes.
I will continue to say it - please support these efforts by being serious about keeping your distance from people you don't live with. Please keep watching your distance, wearing your mask, and washing your hands often.
While I do think it is important that we all take stock of our own actions in the fight against COVID-19, I am keenly aware that so many people have no choices when it comes to their exposure.
Front line workers in the healthcare and food retail industry never stopped working. Many Canadians have seen their jobs come back and have returned to work since the start of the pandemic. Many parents including myself have made the difficult decision to return their children to school or daycare. These are our friends and family members who risk exposure everyday so that we can maintain as much of our day to day lives as possible.
It is then essential that there is adequate sick leave and job protection should people become sick, and have the support they need to isolate and recover.
Additionally, many Canadians have not seen their income recover. Whether they are employed in sectors that are still operating well under pre-COVID-19 levels, like the arts and hospitality sectors, or have not been able to re-open at all, like bathhouses - millions of Canadians still need support.
With CERB ending this weekend, most people will be transitioned to an updated Employment Insurance program at the end of the month. This is a critical step.
But we also know that even the recently announced expanded EI program has left many holes in our social safety net. In response, today the Government of Canada announced the introduction of Bill C-2 to create three new temporary Recovery Benefits to support Canadians who are unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19. Specifically, the legislation includes:
- A Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) of $500 per week for up to 26 weeks, to workers who are self-employed or are not eligible for EI and who still require income support. This Benefit would support Canadians who have not returned to work due to COVID-19 or whose income has dropped by at least 50%. These workers must be available and looking for work, and must accept work where it is reasonable to do so;
- A Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) of $500 per week for up to two weeks, for workers who are sick or must self-isolate for reasons related to COVID-19. This Benefit supports our commitment to ensure all Canadian workers have access to paid sick leave; and
- A Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) of $500 per week for up to 26 weeks per household, for eligible Canadians unable to work because they must care for a child under the age of 12 or family member because schools, day-cares or care facilities are closed due to COVID-19 or because the child or family member is sick and/or required to quarantine.
These changes will also establish a minimum weekly benefit payment of $500 for all EI recipients, at the same level as the CERB. Canadians will be able to apply for EI, CRB, CRSB, and CRCB through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
While the legislation still needs to receive Royal Assent before it comes into effect, I am relieved to see more details about these supports. I am also glad to see that the weekly amount will remain consistent across the different types of support.
More needs to be done to ensure the safety of Canadians as a response to COVID-19, but also to make sure that the society we build back meets everyone’s needs more equitably. That means a Canada-wide early learning and childcare system, investments in affordable and supportive housing, infrastructure investments in clean energy and transit projects.
These commitments couldn’t be more timely. It is Gender Equality week in Canada, and as we know, COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on women, especially in terms of economic impact. Let’s make sure that our recovery responds to that. In yesterday’s Speech from the Throne, the Federal Government outlined the beginnings of their commitments to some of these ideals, including the creation of a nationwide early-learning and child care system that will enable women who are predominantly family caregivers, to gain a chance to re-enter the labour market. Top economists from many financial institutions have noted that there will be no national economic recovery without a she-covery. We must all work together to ensure the Federal government keeps its promise to Canadians.
Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.
Image description: Multiple people in the Distillery District at night, participating in the Toronto Christmas Market. There are string lights overhead with some people taking photos.
Every year, more than half a million residents visit the historic Distillery District to enjoy the activities, some shopping and treats offered by the Toronto Christmas Market. As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Toronto and across Ontario, it comes as no surprise that the organizers have decided to cancel the event in order to promote the health and safety of their communities and patrons.
Given the popularity of this event and the ongoing struggle of small businesses, I worry for businesses in the area. As a former small business owner myself, I know the challenges well, and can only imagine the added stress placed during this pandemic. This will be a financial blow for businesses in the Distillery as the Christmas Market brought over 700,000 people over its six week period.
The organizers have begun preparations for a different winter which will still provide outdoor activities for folks visiting the Distillery. Beginning November and running until March, the Distillery will transform into a Winter Village in the hopes of still inviting people to enjoy the area, while maintaining a safe physical distance.
We have all been working together to find new ways of celebrating these holidays and staying safe. This year is unlike any other we have ever seen, and with the creativity and resilience from our communities, I have no doubt that we will be able to make this holiday season very bright.
Our friends at Ryerson University have recently formed a Ryerson Advisory Committee to Combat Anti-Asian Racism spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the data released by Statistics Canada more than 30 percent of Canadians who identified as Chinese said they have perceived an increase in harassment or attacks on the basis of race, ethnicity, or skin colour in their neighbourhoods since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by 27 percent of those who identified as Korean. Most witnesses to these acts of hate are reluctant to report them or are unaware of the options for addressing these incidents.
The group’s founding members include Judge Maryka Omatsu, the first East Asian woman to be appointed a judge in Canada, as well as a team from Ryerson University that includes Chancellor Janice Fukakusa, Dean of Arts Pamela Sugiman, and Julia Shin Doi, general counsel and secretary of the Board of Governors and university privacy officer. They have worked together to compile the Responding to Hate toolkit which delves into the differences between hate crimes, hate incidents, and acts of discrimination, and directs victims and witnesses on how to respond to each with a list of resources.
The group’s aim is to use the strong influence of its members, along with the university network, to improve reporting of incidents of hate or discrimination, and to ultimately change the narrative, speaking to the positive contributions of Asian Canadians.
Making Cents: Talking City Budgets with Kristyn Wong-Tam
Image content: promotional poster for Making Cents Budget Series panel event with Councillor Wong-Tam
Every day we walk through our own neighbourhoods and local streets, visiting parks, friends, and businesses. We each travel the city in different ways; walking, cycling or taking public transit. What makes us feel safe as we visit friends, and businesses in our neighbourhoods? How do we get to our local coffee shop? Is there a public green space we can explore? If we feel sick, is there a nearby clinic? When we ask these questions, we consider the social determinants of health, including disability, food insecurity, access to healthcare, housing, gender, and gender identity, to name a few. All of this and more contributes to our own wellness and that of our neighbourhoods.
Join Councillor Wong-Tam this Monday, September 28 from 3 p.m. - 4 p.m. EST to learn how our municipal budget can be used to create healthy neighbourhoods. What do healthy communities look like? What do our streets look like? How can our budget reflect the needs of our neighbourhoods? In answering these questions and more, we can examine how the City of Toronto budget can impact the health, safety, and wellness of our communities.
When: September 28, 2020, from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Registrants will be provided with a link to watch
- Andrea Reimer Former Deputy Mayor, City of Vancouver
- Dr. Suzanne Shoush Academic physician, University of Toronto DFCM
- Paul Taylor Executive Director, FoodShare Toronto
- Susan Davies Executive Director, Gerstein Crisis Centre
- Amanda O'Rourke Executive Director, 8 80 Cities
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 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.
How to Create a Safe Social Circle
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.
Image description: Toronto Public Health infographic about how to create a safe social circle. Information on the infographic is listed below.
To create a safe social circle, follow these five simple steps:
- Step 1: Start with your current circle: the people you live with or who regularly come into your household.
- Step 2: If your current circle is under 10 people, you can add members to your circle, including another household, family members or friends.
- Step 3: Get agreement from everyone that they will join the circle.
- Step 4: Keep your social circle sade. Maintain physical distancing with anyone outside of your circle.
- Step 5: Be true to your social circle. No one should be part of more than one circle.
The City of Toronto is one of United Way’s strongest and most long-standing partners, with thousands of employees coming together during its United Way Employee Campaign to raise more than $1 million annually to help ensure the community remains strong and vibrant.
On June 24, 2020, the Ontario Court of Appeal issued a decision that Jim Karygiannis was subject to the penalties imposed by the Municipal Elections Act, 1996, which included the forfeiture of his seat as City Councillor for Ward 22.
City of Toronto Extends Cancellation of Outdoor Major Events and Provides $565,000 to Support Cultural Festivals Impacted by COVID-19
To slow the spread of COVID-19, the City of Toronto is extending the cancellation of City-led and City-permitted outdoor major events to December 31.
A key role of public health in the battle against COVID-19 is to use current evidence and local data to inform decisions about public health actions to keep residents safer as we live with COVID-19. Today, Toronto Public Health is pleased to launch enhancements to the COVID-19 data dashboard. This updated dashboard will provide more detailed information to help residents better understand how this virus is affecting our community.
Province of Ontario Updates
The Ontario government is providing people with convenient and timely access to free COVID-19 testing at pharmacies in the province. As of Friday, up to 60 pharmacies in Ontario will begin offering testing by appointment only, with further locations coming online in the coming weeks. This initiative will expand testing capacity well beyond the province's 150 assessment centres.
The Ontario government is making it easier, faster and more affordable to access the justice system by investing in technology and providing more services online. This will enable the province to provide more remote proceedings and reduce the number of courthouse visits, making the justice system safer to access during the COVID-19 outbreak and recovery period.
The Ontario government is launching a recruitment campaign to increase its team of frontline health and safety inspectors by 98 and help ensure workplaces across the province are doing their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19. With these new hires, there will be more labour inspectors on the ground than ever before in the province's history.
The Ontario government is proposing to modernize large-scale provincial student testing to better prepare youth for the future, and re-build parent confidence in the education system. The Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO), which creates and administers assessments, will procure a firm to develop an online, adaptive testing platform.
The Speech from the Throne opens every new session of Parliament. The Speech introduces the government’s direction and goals, and outlines how it will work to achieve them. On September 23, 2020, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, delivered the Speech from the Throne to open the second session of the 43rd Parliament and outline the government’s agenda.
Government of Canada Introduces Legislation to Support Canadians Through Recovery Benefits and Extend Access to Funds for Emergency Measures
Workers not eligible for EI will be able to access income support through new Recovery Benefits. Today, the Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Chrystia Freeland, and the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough, announced the introduction of Bill C-2, to create three new temporary Recovery Benefits to support Canadians who are unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19.
The eyes of the literary world will be on Canada as the guest of honour country for the very first special edition of the Frankfurt Book Fair from October 14 to 18, 2020. The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage, announced Canada’s virtual programming for this year’s special edition, in a video message today.
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.