March 10, 2021
Over the last 12 months, the City of Toronto has made significant strides to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus and support the recovery and rebuild of the city. Key accomplishments the City has delivered this year that have helped our restart and recovery include:
Toronto Public Health (TPH)
- TPH reported and continues to report COVID-19 case data daily.
- Created a monitoring dashboard that is updated three times per week to continue closely monitoring trends of COVID-19 cases, health care and public health capacity, and lab turnaround.
- The City and seven health care partners offered COVID-19 immunization clinics to administer the second dose of vaccine at all 87 long-term care homes in Toronto, protecting some of the city’s most vulnerable residents and representing a significant achievement in the City’s ongoing response to the pandemic.
- Established accelerated plans to stand-up nine mass immunization clinics across Toronto through an accelerated schedule.
- Opened Toronto’s first COVID-19 voluntary isolation site, providing a safe, comfortable place to self-isolate, primarily for people with COVID-19 infection. Managed more than 100,000 cases of COVID-19 and hundreds of organizations with outbreaks.
- Implemented a mandatory mask bylaw for all indoor settings, including common areas for apartment buildings and condominiums. Developed signage, guidance and a policy to educate the community and support businesses with implementation of this change.
- Developed 40+ guidance documents for businesses and settings that have reopened to address the unique circumstances of those settings, including day camps, pools and splash pads, personal service settings and outdoor patios.
- Revised TPH’s COVID-19 guidance for Elementary & Secondary Schools to reflect enhanced protections, including mask use by all, active symptom screening, distancing, cohorting, ventilation, cleaning surfaces and hand hygiene. The guidance is comprehensive and represents the care and attention that is being applied to school operations.
- Placed actions in schools to keep schools safe and reduce the spread of COVID-19 and variants, including coordinating testing, requiring daily screening and cohorting and providing infection prevention and control advice.
- Collaborated with the City’s Technology Services Division to launch the Coronavirus Rapid Entry (CORES) Case and Contact Management System to quickly and easily document each individual case investigation efficiently and share data with the Ministry of Health. The web-based, secure system allows TPH to better keep up with the volume of new reports and prioritize individual cases that require urgent follow-up, such as healthcare workers.
- Opened eight emergency child care centres during the mandated closure from March to June 2020, which provided care to 393 children of essential workers. And again, during the mandated closure of school age programs from January to February 2021, supported 35 emergency child care providers, which provided care to 510 school-age children of essential workers.
- Reopened 37 Toronto Early Learning & Child Care Centres, with an operating capacity of 1,631 children, and distributed 500 COVID-19 health, safety and wellbeing kits to families in child care.
- Hosted virtual community of practice live group sessions for nearly 3,200 child care staff to support centres in planning to reopen safely and received more than 100,000 views of the online health and safety training modules. Supported 134 child care programs with mentor visits to support ongoing implementation of sound health and safety practices.
- Provided virtual supports for children with extra support needs to support their transition back into child care programs.
- 53 EarlyON service providers supported parents/caregivers and their children ages 0-6 by providing a wide range of virtual and remote services, distributing essential resources (including tablets, craft/activity kits, food hampers and pandemic-related supplies) and facilitating access to critical financial, housing and health resources. In 2020, approximately 40,000 facilitated sessions were delivered and over 10,000 videos were posted online.
Transportation and TTC
- Implemented ActiveTO, a suite of programs that created shared space on neighbourhood streets, opened major roads each weekend for people to be physically active while respecting physical distancing guidelines and delivered a more connected and expanded cycling network.
- Introduced Toronto’s first RapidTO priority bus corridor to make transit in Scarborough faster and more reliable. The RapidTO Eglinton Corridor includes parts of Eglinton Avenue East, Kingston Rd. and Morningside Ave.
- Conducted advanced annual weekend maintenance and improvement closures for both the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway to take advantage of lower traffic volumes.
- Continued the advancement of critical Vision Zero road safety actions, such as speed limit reductions, geometric safety improvements, intersection safety measures, installation of more School Safety Zones, and the rotation of Automated Speed Enforcement devices to new Community Safety Zones around the city.
- The Automatic Train Control (ATC) construction team installed the last scheduled cable for the Line 1 ATC project in February 2021 which is a significant accomplishment in a difficult part of the tunnel. This major milestone indicates full speed ahead for the new signaling system.
- TTC expedited the Chester Station Easier Access project in 2020 by closing the station for two weeks in June, the elevators, pedestrian walkway, and exterior work were completed ahead of schedule.
- TTC replaced more than 10 kilometres of old rail in the last year, almost doubled the expected output of track maintenance work and successfully completed a 10-day closure that expedited tunnel improvements and accelerated ATC installation.
- TTC has distributed 1.24 million masks to riders who do not have one, community organizations and schools.
Culture, Economic Development and Business Supports
- CurbTO was created to help businesses, services and community agencies support physical distancing outside and inside their buildings while also accommodating increased demand for delivery and pickup services. At it’s peak, more than 200 locations were installed around the city.
- CaféTO, which is returning in 2021, supported 801 restaurants in 62 Business Improvement Areas (BIA) with 96 of the total number of restaurants not in an area with a BIA. The program saw 439 curb lane closures installed, which occupied 9,638 square metres of space and 44 public parklets.
- Economic Development and Culture has put more than 25 innovative new programs in place to help approximately 12,000 business owners stabilize and begin to rebuild. Digital Main Street alone has supported more than 5,000 businesses with virtual assistance, building more than 4,000 online retail stores with ShopHERE powered by Google, while providing meaningful work experience for more than 1,600 students and youth.
- TOArtist COVID-19 Emergency Response, an artists’ relief fund in collaboration with the Toronto Arts Council, was created and disbursed $837,000 in emergency funds to 982 Toronto artists at the outset of the pandemic.
- The Indigenous Arts and Culture Partnerships Fund was established to support partnerships and collaborations that create new opportunities for Indigenous-led arts and culture. Providing a maximum of $10,000 per project, incubation funding will support the development of new partnerships and first-time initiatives.
- DriveInTO was launched to help event organizers safely set up large-scale, high-value, temporary drive-in experiences throughout Toronto during the summer. The program provided $150,000 to support eight free nights offered by local film and arts organizations to create a diversity of programming and provide community access.
- Supported the Lights-On: Recovery and Reboot in Live Entertainment initiative, a series of outreach activities organized by Ryerson’s School of Creative Industries, Toronto Arts Council and Toronto Arts Foundation, with support from the City, TO Live, SOCAN and the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts to explore how to safely reopen cultural venues.
- The Creative Co-Location Property Tax Subclass was expanded to include live music venues providing 50 per cent property tax relief for 45 eligible venues sharing a total tax savings of $1.7 million.
- Virtual programming was piloted, with Canada Day going online and featuring 56 artists and performing groups to an audience of 120,000. City staff led the development of the Arts@Home platform, launched in May 2020, to move arts education materials online to assist parents with the shift to home learning and reimagining a fully digital Nuit Blanche 2020.
- Staff supported the safe reopening of museums and cultural centres and provided support to third-party partners for a variety of events from farmers markets to festivals.
Parks, Forestry and Recreation
- CampTO has offered approximately 1,200 programs with more than 17,900 registrations, offering 41,600 service hours.
- ParksPlayTO and Summer in the 6IX has offered more than 15,000 services hours with approximately 18,000 visits.
- Approximately 660,000 participants have accessed outdoor pools across the City as part of SwimTO.
- Provided access to 220 park locations to Toronto schools to support outdoor learning and physical distancing.
- Reopened amenities in 1,500 parks after the mandated closure from March to June 2020 and developed more than 60 COVID-19 guidelines for the safe resumption of services.
- Provided access to community recreation facilities for COVID-19 testing, immunization clinics, shelters, food banks, sanitation services and emergency cooling centres.
- Welcome T.O. Winter Parks Plan saw the opening of 54 outdoor ice rinks which hosted more than 675,000 visits for leisure skating since late December 2020, 46 community-built and maintained natural ice rinks, eight snow loops for walking and snowshoeing at the City’s five golf courses and 23 toboggan hills across Toronto, as well as vehicle-free weekends in High Park.
- The City more than doubled its supply of winter park washrooms, expanded winter maintenance in 60 large and high-destination parks including clearing paved pathways and added more than 50,000 square metres of winter maintenance in park parking lots.
- Continued to provide forestry services, including storm clean-up, tree protection and stewardship programs, and invasive species management.
Toronto Public Library
- Through the Wi-Fi on Wheels program, the City of Toronto and Toronto Public Library (TPL) offered free outdoor Wi-Fi access through the TPL BookMobile, five anchored devices (iPads) and staff, at select parks in north-west Toronto from August 4 to 8, 2020 to ensure vulnerable populations had access to online services and tools during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Through expanded TPL online resources ebook (including eAudiobooks and eVideo) use increased by 36 per cent in 2020.
- TPL introduced new live and online programs for audiences of all ages – in 2020, 72,872 people attended more than 960 new online programs.
- Launched new digital library cards with over 38,000 new customers registered for the Overdrive access card and more than 6,600 for the new digital access card.
- Provided TPL Internet Connectivity Kits to low income families and individuals to help bridge the digital divide. With funding through the TPL Foundation and the City of Toronto, TPL staff have provided over 650 households with kits. TPL partnered with the City’s Community Coordination Plan to identify agencies and clients with the most urgent need.
- TPL staff called more than 15,000 seniors, aged 70 to 100, who are often vulnerable due to isolation. During these wellness calls, staff have a friendly conversation with seniors, provide assistance with library resources and make referrals as needed.
- A COVID-19 Enforcement Team has been established to enforce the City’s physical distancing bylaw amendments for parks and public squares, mandatory mask or face covering bylaws, licensing bylaw amendments for food and drink establishments and provincial public health regulations. The City’s coordinated enforcement team remains focused on providing education about bylaws and provincial orders. Ensuring compliance through education and awareness remains the preferred method of engagement, but enforcement actions continues to take place if necessary.
- As of February 28, the coordinated enforcement team has received more than 46,000 complaints, issued 2,184 tickets to date and educated more than 52,000 people.
- Conducted approximately 22,000 compliance checks in response to 18,000 complaints related to businesses.
- The RentSafeTO Apartment Standards program is enforcing COVID-19 health and safety measures in rental apartment buildings and the City’s temporary bylaw requiring masks or face coverings in common areas in apartment buildings and condominiums.
Licensing and Permits
- Launched new online Business Licences & Permits Application and Renewal platforms so businesses can apply for and renew licences and permits virtually. To date, 2,454 new licence applications have been processed and 115 licences and permits have been renewed through these platforms, and the team continues to improve the process for enhanced client experience.
- The City is providing a temporary reduction in the renewal fees (50 per cent reduction) and regulatory charges (75 per cent reduction) for the taxicab and limousine industry. This $3.22 million initiative includes assistance for over 8,500 drivers in the city.
Shelter and Housing
- Moved more than 3,600 people throughout the emergency shelter system to achieve physical distancing of two metres between shelter beds. This was achieved through opening of 40 new, temporary shelter and hotel locations, at least 25 of which are currently active.
- Permanently housed more than 3,200 people who were homeless through a combination of housing allowances and rent-geared-to-income units.
- Launched a new Rapid ReHousing Initiative to prioritize access to housing for existing shelter clients into Toronto Community Housing.
- Moved almost 1,390 people from at least 82 encampments to inside safe spaces including hotels, shelter and housing.
- Worked with health care partners to establish dedicated isolation and recovery programs with medical supports for people experiencing homelessness to isolate and recover from COVID-19 in a safe and dignified way, and to ensure the health care system was not overwhelmed. This first-of-its-kind facility in Canada has been done in partnership with Inner City Health Associates and other community health providers.
- Provided more than $6 million in funding to shelters, 24-hour respites and drop-ins run by partner agencies for infection prevention and control, personal protective equipment, wage increases and extended hours of service.
- Developed a partnership with the United Way Greater Toronto (UWGT) to develop a COVID-19 Shelter Interim Recovery Strategy. The strategy is guiding City and partner agency response to homelessness over the next six- to 12-months. The report was adopted by Council on September 30, 2020.
- Supported partners leading pilot vaccination clinics for frontline shelter workers and people experiencing homelessness.
- This significant response began at the start of the pandemic with unprecedented speed in order to save lives and protect vulnerable people who are at greater risk of COVID-19 related harms.
- Allocated $2.7 million to address youth violence and community response to violence during the pandemic.
- Distributed $9.62 million to 85 community-based agencies, supporting vulnerable populations impacted by the pandemic, with funds prioritized for Black- and Indigenous-led organizations in all rounds of the allocation.
- Distributed 48,150 food hampers to 3,795 eligible residents through a partnership with the Red Cross.
- Through the TO Supports Investment Fund, $5.1 million was distributed to 38 organizations to provide community-driven and informed food security initiatives in underserved neighbourhoods and individuals across the City.
- More than $1 million received through the COVID-19 DonateTO portal for emergency food programs and matched to community needs.
- More than 640,000 prepared meals distributed via partnerships with 168 community agencies.
- Between April 27, 2020 and February 13 of this year, more than 127,000 mental health support calls/sessions have been held with Torontonians. Of that number, almost 115,000 people received direct mental health support and more than 12,000 received a warm transfer for mental health support.
- The City has partnered with Cisco and other technology and telecommunications companies to provide free temporary internet access to some of Toronto’s most vulnerable communities for up to one year. These Wi-Fi hotspots will improve digital access for many Torontonians with low incomes living in residential tower communities.
- The global pandemic required that the City rewrite its 2020 heat season plans to address COVID-19 during one of the hottest summer seasons in at least two decades. To achieve this, 10 City divisions came together with Fred Victor to serve 2,585 residents who accessed the City’s 15 Emergency Cooling Centres on 26 Heat Warning days. More than 50 front-line staff were trained to operate the Cooling Centers and do street outreach on heat-related illness and COVID-19 protocols. There were no known cases of COVID-19 transmission associated with the Emergency Cooling Centre program.
- Once the City transitioned to Phase 2 and 3 of the Province’s reopening plans, 420 cool spaces joined the Heat Relief Network.
- More than 60,000 bookmarks, flyers, and posters with public health advice on how to beat the heat were distributed.
Recovery and Rebuild
- Received nearly 13,800 responses on the public survey on COVID-19 recovery and rebuild from May 29 to July 15, 2020.
- 20 virtual meetings with more than 200 stakeholders, including those hosted by Mayor Tory.
- Received input from more than 240 theme-based roundtables and meetings with stakeholders, individuals and organizations.
COVID-19 Materials and Resources
- As the trustworthy source of information on the City’s pandemic response, recovery plans and immunization, toronto.ca/covid19 content has been viewed 22.5 million times since March 13, 2020.
- As a companion to the thorough information provided on the COVID-19 web pages, the City introduced a chatbot to assist residents and businesses with common pandemic-related questions. The COVID-19 Chatbot has answered 25,402 questions since May 2020.
- The City also reached residents through social media, providing broad access to accurate and quality information resulting in follower growth on all platforms (Instagram 64%, Twitter 11%, Facebook 52%, YouTube 987%).
- Key communications materials and public education campaigns have been developed in multiple languages and in accessible formats to ensure residents are able to access important information on how to stay safe and find helpful City services.
- To address the increase in City-led virtual engagement events and town halls, a detailed web page was developed to outline participation tips and key accessibility guidance for using Webex.
- Issued nearly 600 news releases and responded to more than 4,000 media inquiries related to COVID-19.
- Held more than 150 media briefings since March 2020, with a total of 73,807 views. All briefings included real-time captioning and featured ASL and Deaf interpreters.
- Developed web content, downloadable and printable posters (in multiple languages), social media (organic and paid), online ads, radio spots, digital billboards, newspaper ads, digital screens in residential buildings and transit shelters.
- City-developed posters for physical distancing and mask wearing have been downloaded 52,000 times.
- Provided a virtual experience of the High Park Cherry Blossom trees during peak bloom in 2020, to encourage residents to stay home. Experience included a 24/7 livestream called BloomCam that had approximately 124,996 unique viewers and 222,722 total views. The live and recorded walking tours on social media had more than 90,000 views.
City Budget and Property Taxes
- City Council approved a 2021 City budget that manages the significant impacts of COVID-19, while preserving existing services within public health guidelines, continuing to invest in key capital projects and keeping property taxes affordable with City-led mitigation strategies totalling $573 million in savings and offsets.
- Provided a 60-day grace period on all property tax and utility bills at the outset of the pandemic.
- Offered a property tax deferral program, where property owners could apply to defer taxes for up to six months without incurring interest or late payment penalties.
Other City Services
- To help staff move into a remote working environment, the City deployed over 4,000 technology assets, increased the City’s remote work user capacity by over 230 per cent with the support of telecom providers, set up mobile contact centers for approximately 1,100 staff in 311, TPS and other divisions, and equipped around 5,000 staff with technology and office chairs from their existing work stations.
- The Work Zone Coordination team has approved more than 7,800 rush hour exemptions and extended work hours for private developers and utilities to support worker safety.
- Completed 15 new street art wall murals celebrating Toronto’s Front Line Heroes as part of the Street Art Toronto program.
- Developed a new program to help pet owners who are experiencing hardship and struggling to care and provide necessities for their pets due to COVID-19. Funded by a $30,000 grant from PetSmart Charities Canada, $60,000 from individual donations and $155,000 grant from the Scheinburg Relief Fund, the program allowed the City to provide over 1,970 electronic gift cards to pet owners, allowing them to purchase pet food and supplies.
- Throughout the pandemic, Toronto Water has provided uninterrupted critical services including safe drinking water, wastewater collection and treatment, stormwater management, emergency repairs and response, and construction projects related to these services.
- Throughout the pandemic, Solid Waste Management Services has provided regular garbage, recycling and organics collection without interruption. The division also transformed the 2020 Community Environment Days to drive-thru events at City Drop-off Depots and adapted the Community Reduce & Reuse Programs to provide more online instruction on topics such as sewing, bike repair and food preservation.
- Continued to advance the development of infrastructure that enables the City to turn the biogas produced from processing organics into renewable natural gas that can be used to fuel City vehicles and/or heat City buildings.
- Lawrence Market maintained continuous operations for essential businesses the entire duration of the COVID-19 health emergency in Toronto thus far. The Market enacted enhanced safety precautions including capacity management, mandatory use of masks, physical distancing and enhanced sanitization protocols.
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