On the first day back to school, I wish all students, teachers, and support staff a Safe September return.
With a large majority of the student registration process now complete, we know that approximately 79% or 57,000 secondary students will be learning in-person, while approximately 21% or 14,000 secondary students will be learning in the Virtual School. For elementary school children, 70% (107,601) indicated an in-person option and 30% (47,462) indicated a virtual school option.
Back to school is a time of year typically filled with excitement. This year, many are feeling uneasy about this. Some may be worried about their child's ability to follow directions for physical distancing and wearing a mask. Others may be concerned about bringing the virus home to grandparents or other vulnerable relatives. So for today's update, I want to share advice from Dr. Eileen de Villa for a safer return to school and safer socializing.
If you are sending your kids back to school there are ways to help them prepare:
- Help them practice wearing a mask at home, so they can get comfortable with this before going into the classroom;
- Teach them how to put their mask on properly, how to wear it, and how to take it off;
- Make sure your child's mask fits comfortably and covers their nose, mouth, and chin;
- Send at least two clean masks with your child to school each day and explain to them when they should change their mask;
- Send two bags to store clean and dirty masks separately; and
- Remind your child not to share or trade their masks with their friends.
You can also help prepare your kids by explaining how school will be different this year:
- Teach them how to wash their hands, practice physical distancing and wear their mask;
- Remind them you can sense a smile in someone's eyes even under a mask. So they should greet their friends with a big smile, a wave from a safe distance and not share their food or other personal items; and
- Create a routine to screen your child for symptoms of COVID-19 before school each day.
It's also important to watch for signs of stress or anxiety in your child. They may have a lot on their minds and they may or may not talk about it. Remind them that it's important to think about COVID-19 and their actions when they're at school, but let them know that it won't be this way forever.
Let them know that it might be a little bit like looking both ways before crossing the street, or wearing your seatbelt because it's all about their safety and good habits to protect them. Ask them about their day so they can share their feelings. For example, they may be worried that a friend got too close, or that someone wasn't wearing their mask the right way.
More than ever it's especially important to keep your children at home if they're sick. It's also very important for everyone to get the flu vaccine this fall.
While the Province and local school boards are responsible for the back to school plans, recognizing how critical back-to-school plans are for our COVID-19 response plan, Toronto Public Health has been providing guidance to Toronto school boards on these plans to ensure a safer return to school for children.
Toronto Public Health is establishing a team of more than 70 nurses to provide strong support to our local schools as they reopen. These nurses will be visible in schools and provide education and training sessions to school staff, parents, and caregivers to promote infection prevention and control measures, and other public health advice to limit opportunities for virus spread.
Public health teams will also be providing limited mental health and well-being support in school settings, along with rapid-response outbreak investigation, case management, and support the planning process for testing if a COVID-19 case is detected in a school setting.
Elbow bumps and distanced high fives all around. We’re in this together and you’re doing great!
Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.
I would like to extend a huge congratulations to all the wonderful organizers from St. James Town Community Clean-up, which took place last Friday, September 4. In the midst of the ongoing pandemic, organizers worked hard to ensure participants were abiding by the public health guidelines including providing PPEs and tracking registration for all participants. Volunteers spent the afternoon cleaning up the various greenspace in and around St. James Town and ended the day with a community yoga session. Shout-out and a big thank you to the organizers and community who came together to help clean.
The event was led by St. James Town Youth United with support from Peacebuilders Canada, Community Healing Project, St. James Town Community Corner, Street Health, The Neighbourhood Group, and the City of Toronto. Now more than ever these types of events provide a sense of community and connectedness.
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.
A City of Toronto staff report going before the General Government and Licensing Committee on September 14 provides an update on the ongoing Union Station Revitalization Project and the impact of COVID-19 as the City and partners continue to work toward project completion this year.
The City of Toronto’s Shelter Support and Housing Administration (SSHA) Division is moving to make the wearing of masks or other face coverings by clients mandatory in indoor common areas of shelters. This follows discussions about the change with the City’s partners across the homelessness services sector. As part of the City’s COVID-19 Resurgence Plan, review and enhancement of all Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) measures are ongoing to ensure continued protection of vulnerable residents.
Toronto Public Health and York Region Public Health are notifying people who attended Miracle Arena for All Nations events about potential exposures to COVID-19. On Sunday, August 16 several attendees who were contagious with COVID-19 attended events at the church’s two locations at 20 Milvan Drive in Toronto and 10800 Weston Road in the City of Vaughan, the Regional Municipality of York. To date, a total of 15 people from across the GTA have since tested positive for COVID-19 and can be traced back to these events. Anyone who attended these, or other events related to this church, is advised to monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms until Friday, September 18, as there may be others in the group who were contagious.
For the first time in Toronto’s history, the City’s 50 Automated Speed Enforcement cameras will be fully operational throughout the back-to-school season to protect the health and safety of children returning to school by curbing speeding and providing an opportunity to walk and cycle in a safe environment.
Over the last six months, the City has made significant strides to contain the spread of the virus and support the recovery and rebuild of the city. Toronto has made it through the summer with good progress in the fight against COVID-19.
The Ontario government is providing $2 million from the Ontario Together Fund to the Bracebridge-based company, Smart Safe Science, to make lighter, breathable, and more comfortable face masks. This investment will help the company create 50 local jobs and when at full capacity, produce 200,000 made-in-Ontario masks monthly and build up regional personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturing capacity to help protect healthcare and frontline workers across the province and ensure they continue their critical work during the outbreak of COVID-19.
As students, teachers, and staff return to school, the Ontario government is providing up to $1.3 billion in critical supports and has delivered more than 37 million pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) to safely reopen classrooms across the province. These investments are part of Ontario's comprehensive back to school plan which was developed in consultation with medical experts, school boards, and educators.
Every Canadian deserves a safe and affordable place to call home. That's why the governments of Canada and Ontario are investing over $5.4 million in two new affordable housing developments to give people at risk of homelessness in the Waterloo region a stable place to live.
The Ontario government is providing $650,000 to One Vision, One Voice, a community-led project that supports the delivery of culturally appropriate services for African-Canadian and Black children and youth in the child welfare system. The funding will be used for pilot programs to help youth stay connected to their communities, which is a key commitment of the province's strategy to redesign the child welfare system.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today announced the following changes in the senior ranks of the Public Service:
Christyne Tremblay, currently Deputy Minister of Natural Resources, becomes Deputy Clerk of the Privy Council, Associate Secretary to the Cabinet, and Deputy Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, effective September 9, 2020.
Jean-François Tremblay, currently Deputy Minister of Indigenous Services, becomes Deputy Minister of Natural Resources, effective September 21, 2020.
Christiane Fox, currently Deputy Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, becomes Deputy Minister of Indigenous Services, effective September 21, 2020.
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.