Today, Ontario is reporting 478 new cases of COVID-19. This is the highest number of new cases in a day since May. It is important that all of us redouble our commitment to public health measures and do everything we can as individuals to slow the spread of COVID-19 if we want to avoid another shutdown like we experienced this spring.
There are steps we can all be taking to better protect each other, and ourselves. They are the same steps we have been taking for almost seven months, but we cannot become complacent.
Wash your hands- a lot. Please be serious about keeping your distance from people that you don't live with. Please keep wearing your mask as much as you can, especially when you’re with people you don’t live with. Weigh your options. Ask yourself: do I have to go or do I just want to go? And if I decide to go, how can I make it safer or lower the contact?
These are small steps we can all take as individuals, but it is also incumbent on our governments to do more to make it easier for all of us to make informed decisions about our safety.
As Vice-Chair of the Toronto Board of Health, I was proud to support a motion to call on the City’s Medical Officer of Health to publicly release data on workplace outbreaks of COVID-19. So far in our COVID-19 response, reporting outbreaks at specific locations have been limited to public institutions, like schools or long term care homes, or when there is a risk of widespread infection, and it proves difficult to contact everyone who may have been impacted, like the recent outbreak at Brass Rails.
As my colleague Councillor Perks outlined on Twitter last night, this has meant that private locations such as workplaces and businesses are not being reported to the same extent as public locations. This could be distorting the public perception of risk. We believe that if people had a more accurate understanding of where infections were occurring, you would all be better able to make safe decisions for yourself and your family.
The Board of Health also called on the Ontario Ministry of Health to increase testing capacity and develop an enhanced testing strategy aimed at suspected cases, contacts, and high-risk/high-need situations, including workplaces, schools, and neighbourhoods. This is another crucial step in our fight against COVID-19.
Another critical component of our COVID-19 response is ensuring that everyone has a safe, indoor place to live and isolate. Prior to the pandemic, City Council had adopted The HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan, an ambitious plan to help over 340,000 households through the approval of over 40,000 new affordable rental homes, including 18,000 supportive housing units over the next 10 years. It also proposes a range of actions to increase housing stability for Toronto residents.
As part of Council's approval of the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan, staff were directed to establish an Intergovernmental Working Group with the federal and provincial governments to develop a six-month action plan to address the urgent issue of homelessness in the City. On February 20, 2020, City Council further directed staff to establish an Inter-divisional Working Group and work with stakeholders to develop a six-month action plan to address homelessness.
Unfortunately, despite the disproportionate effect that COVID-19 has had on our homeless population, the formal working groups were delayed due to the onset of the pandemic, and are only now in the process of being established.
Since March, City Staff have been working hard to support our most vulnerable and marginalized residents by implementing a significant expansion of the emergency shelter system to create spaces for physical distancing and isolation and moving clients from the shelter system into permanent housing where possible. Still, we know that we haven’t been able to do enough. Many people are still living in parks because there are not enough temporary shelter spaces or they have not received suitable housing. We know people are experiencing complex mental health and addiction challenges, which makes it much harder to support them in our traditional shelter network.
As I have been saying for months, the City of Toronto cannot solve this challenge on our own. Notwithstanding the financial deficit, issues contributing to homelessness, mental health and addictions are all within the legislative jurisdiction of the Provincial and Federal Governments. Without the active participation from the other orders of government, Toronto will be unable to meet the demand for affordable and supportive housing, an overdose epidemic, mental health and public safety issues.
At today’s Planning and Housing Committee, City Staff gave us a number of updates of the actions taken to date in response to the pandemic, including a summary of the Housing and People Action Plan developed by the Mayor's Recovery Task Force, the joint Shelter Support and Housing Administration (SSHA)/United Way of Greater Toronto (UWGT) COVID-19 Interim Shelter Recovery Strategy and the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan to support a 24-month plan for the delivery of 3,000 affordable and supportive homes as part of recovery planning.
I encourage you to review these plans. They provide a roadmap to building the kind of supportive, safe and healthy neighbourhoods I know we are all looking for.
One action that we can take now is to look at expanding the Toronto Rent Bank program and the Eviction Prevention in the Community program. The committee supported my request to ask the Executive Director, Housing Secretariat to report back on the feasibility to:
- Introduce non-repayable grants to residents who cannot afford a temporary loan; and
- Expand the eligibility criteria of the Toronto Rent Bank and the Eviction Prevention in the Community program to capture more low-income residents and families.
They are also clear- without immediate and sustained funding from the Provincial and Federal governments, the City of Toronto will not be able to meet its obligations to care for those who are most vulnerable.
If you haven’t already, I urge you to learn more about our housing and homelessness crisis, and advocate to your provincial and federal representatives for direct financial support.
We have an opportunity to come through the COVID-19 pandemic kinder, stronger and more unified, but to do that, we must all work together.
Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.
Image description: A picture taken at night of a well lit Cathedral Church of St. James.
Photo credit: Peter Tomlinson
The St. Lawrence Neighbourhood will soon be seeing beautiful new lighting of the Cathedral Church of St. James. Situated at the northwest corner of Church Street and King Street East, there are few more recognizable landmarks in the neighbourhood. Testing of the new lighting is wrapping up, with it now being adjusted, meaning the project should be ready soon.
In 2011, the Heritage Lighting Master Plan for Old Town Toronto was completed, which included a lighting vision for the historic heart of the City, and opportunities to use nighttime lighting design to highlight architectural details. St. James Cathedral was identified as a site of particular importance and prominence in the lighting plan. Enhancement of this building is part of a strategy to highlight the heritage of the City, and to support the continued development of St. Lawrence and the Old Town as a tourist destination.
Established in the former Town of York in 1793, the current building was built following a fire in 1849, with several additions such as the bells, spire, and clocks being added over the next several decades. Today, the building sits adjacent to the newly renovated St. James Park and enjoys substantial heritage protections, including policies to protect views to the cathedral.
Following a request to the late Pam McConnell, section 37 money was provided by the City through interim Councillor Lucy Troisi and Councillor Wong-Tam to complete the funding of a heritage lighting program through the Churchwardens of The Cathedral Church of St. James.
The Toronto Transit Commission will be hosting its first-ever virtual Public Forum on Accessible Transit, partnered with TTC Board members, TTC staff and members of the Advisory Committee on Accessible Transit (ACAT). This consultation is held annually to hear from the public about the accessibility of conventional TTC and Wheel-Trans public transit services in Toronto.
When: Thursday, October 1, 2020 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Participate online: View the live stream
Participate by phone: 416-764-8658
The Public Forum on Accessible Transit will include captioning and ASL interpreters. You must register for the event, and you can pre-submit any questions you might have online or via twitter.
There will be a presentation by TTC staff on accessibility initiatives, and the TTC’s response to COVID-19. Following, there will be an open question and answer period. Questions may be submitted via the live stream platform, twitter or by phone. Feedback gathered through the virtual event will be used to inform the TTC’s accessibility planning activities.
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.
City of Toronto Completes Major Construction Projects this Summer and Continues Important Work to Renew Aging Infrastructure
This construction season, the City of Toronto has worked to accelerate as many important construction projects as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. Crews completed a number of major projects this summer, some on accelerated schedules due to lower traffic volumes, and will begin more work this fall to continue to renew and improve aging water and transportation infrastructure across the city.
Mayor John Tory Unveils New Toronto Sign and its First Wrap Recognizing the United Nations’ International Decade for People of African Descent
Mayor John Tory unveiled the City of Toronto’s new Toronto Sign on Nathan Phillips Square and its first wrap, Patterns of the People, in recognition of the United Nations’ International Decade for People of African Descent.
The City of Toronto invites residents and community leaders to help inspire climate action by becoming a Neighbourhood Climate Action Champion. Participants in this new City program will receive virtual training and support to empower them to support residents in developing innovative climate action projects that reflect the needs and values of their communities.
Toronto Public Health (TPH) is notifying patrons and staff who visited NOIR inside REBEL Entertainment Complex, located at 11 Polson Street, on September 11, 2020 between 10:30 p.m. and 2 a.m., about a potential exposure to COVID-19.
Four people who tested positive for COVID-19 are confirmed to have been at this establishment at the above date and time. All four cases are patrons. Anyone who was at the night club during this time may have been exposed to COVID-19.
Toronto Residents Can Show Love to Toronto by Becoming Tourists in their Own Neighbourhoods with StrollTO
Residents can participate in StrollTO, part of the City of Toronto’s ShowLoveTO initiative. StrollTO will feature self-guided itineraries for each of the City’s 25 wards to encourage residents to actively discover shops, stops, places and spaces on their local main streets.
Province of Ontario Updates
The Ontario government is implementing the largest flu immunization campaign in Ontario's history. The campaign is part of the province's comprehensive plan to prepare the health system for a second wave of COVID-19. The plan, entitled Keeping Ontarians Safe: Preparing for Future Waves of COVID-19, sets out a series of steps to prevent, identify and respond to any outbreak scenario this fall.
Premier Doug Ford joined his fellow Premiers to press the federal government on critical priorities for the people of Ontario, including strengthening frontline health care and moving shovel-ready infrastructure projects forward.
The Ontario government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and the Public Health Measures Table, is reducing limits on the number of people permitted to attend unmonitored and private social gatherings across the entire province. Earlier this week, the government imposed these restrictions in Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa.
Premier Doug Ford is pressing the federal government to immediately lay out a plan to fund provincial priorities, including responding to future waves and surges of COVID-19, strengthening health and long-term care, increasing testing and quarantine enforcement at the border, and making strategic investments in infrastructure projects to spur long-term recovery.
The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today announced that by-elections will be held on October 26, 2020, in the following two electoral districts:
- Toronto Centre, Ontario
- York Centre, Ontario
The Prime Minister took the opportunity to congratulate Nada Semaan, Director of the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, on her retirement from the Public Service and thanked her for her dedication and service to Canadians.
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.