City of Toronto libraries, recreation centres, parks and other facilities continue to be vital in the City’s response to COVID-19. These important places have been the frontline of supporting Torontonians, ensuring access to information, providing for food security and facilitating access to health care.
Throughout spring, summer and now as colder weather rolls in, parks are a place to relax more safely, get fresh air and exercise. Now, schools across Toronto are using more than 220 City parks for outdoor learning. Teachers and students are able to use these spaces for physical education, lessons that would traditionally be in-class and socially distanced recess. Parks also remain open to the public during school hours and available for permitted and program uses at night and on weekends.
Other parks and recreation sites have been used for food distribution food-banks, flu shot clinics, and COVID-19 testing. Five pop-up COVID-19 testing locations have been held in City recreation facilities, with eight more scheduled in some of Toronto’s most vulnerable neighbourhoods. Testing clinics are a collaboration with the Province of Ontario and community health organizations. They are open to walk-ins and offer low-barrier testing for residents, including individuals experiencing homelessness.
City long-term care homes also support their wider communities. Kitchens in Brendale Acres and True Davidson Acres long-term care homes prepare approximately 3,600 meals every month for delivery by community Meals on Wheels agencies. Toronto Community Housing (TCHC) Seniors Housing unit, along with Paramedic Services, supports senior tenants within City-owned TCHC buildings with tenant wellness checks, mask distribution, and onsite flu vaccination.
Regular access to reliable information is a crucial aspect to stopping the spread of COVID-19. Free Wi-Fi access continues to be available inside and outside of all Toronto Public Library locations 24/7 – even when libraries are closed. The 82 operating branches also have computer access, which was prioritized upon reopening for students, job seekers and anyone looking to access the Internet.
At their peak mobilization, 12 Toronto Public Library branches were also working to feed their neighbours while community agencies put pandemic processes in place and resumed operations. By the end of September, Toronto Public Library branches had put together almost 14,000 hampers, and branches have now served more than 16,000 households, representing more than 46,000 people. The Albion and Jane/Sheppard branches continue to host North York Harvest food banks. The Albion branch is in Etobicoke North and Jane/Sheppard is in Humber River-Black Creek – two neighbourhoods in Northwest Toronto that have been particularly hard hit by COVID-19 and where food security remains a priority.
The City’s website is updated daily with the latest health advice and information about City services, social supports and economic recovery measures. Check toronto.ca/covid-19 for answers to common questions before contacting the Toronto Public Health COVID-19 Hotline or 311.
“Over the past seven months, we have used every City resource we have to respond to COVID-19. Our parks, libraries, recreation centres and other properties have always been neighbourhood gathering places that supported healthy, safe communities. Now more than ever, these places and the extraordinary staff that operate them, are protecting people all across the city, pivoting services in responsive, innovative ways and fighting this pandemic with everything we’ve got.”
– Mayor John Tory
“The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to all to find new and innovative ways to best use the spaces in our communities. At the City, we have transformed areas of our parks, libraries, community centres, and other municipal assets into places where people can get a COVID test or flu shot, visit a food bank, access free Wi-Fi, or learn in an outdoor classroom. By repurposing and adapting City facilities to meet the needs of Torontonians, we can help to protect our most vulnerable as we continue to work together to defeat this second wave.”
– Councillor Joe Cressy (Spadina-Fort York), Chair of the Toronto Board of Health
“The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged our city at all levels. City staff and community organizations continue to address these challenges by repurposing existing resources to keep our neighbourhoods safe and contain the spread of the virus. With continued teamwork and innovative thinking from government, businesses and Torontonians across the city, we will get through these challenging days and restore a healthy living environment and robust economy.”
– Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson (Scarborough Centre), Chair of the Economic and Community Development Committee
“City of Toronto facilities continue to remain a vital part of City’s COVID-19 response. It is important that the people of Toronto, especially our most vulnerable, have access to resources such as free Wi-Fi, outdoor green space and food banks. These key facilities will be crucial moving forward into the colder months.”
– Councillor James Pasternak (York Centre), Chari of the Infrastructure and Environment Committee
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