The City of Toronto continues to respond to COVID-19. Today, Mayor John Tory and Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa provided an update on the City’s measures to combat the resurgence of the virus in Toronto.
There are 27,530 cases of COVID-19 in the city, an increase of 321 new cases since yesterday. There are 140 people currently hospitalized. In total, 23,025 people have recovered from COVID-19. To date, there have been 1,358 COVID-19 deaths in Toronto. Case status data can be found on the City’s reporting platform.
Mayor Tory and Dr. de Villa today explained the many actions the City and Toronto Public Health continue to undertake to respond to the spread of COVID-19 in Northwest Toronto communities and ensure equitable access to resources to stay healthy.
Three Northwest Toronto wards – Etobicoke North, York South-Weston and Humber River-Black Creek – have neighbourhoods that are currently experiencing higher rates of COVID-19 transmission, lower testing rates and higher positivity rates for the virus, compared to other neighbourhoods in Toronto. Each ward is home to approximately 4 per cent of the city’s population. Etobicoke North accounted for 8.3 per cent of cases and Humber River-Black Creek accounted for 8.1 per cent of Toronto cases of COVID-19 in the past three weeks, while York South-Weston accounted for 6.9 per cent. Over the past three weeks, these wards, with 11.5 per cent of the city’s population, have 23.3 per cent of all Toronto COVID-19 cases.
Specific activities are needed to address the imbalance of COVID-19 cases in Toronto. The City is working with Toronto Public Health and community partners on several actions to fight the social detriments of health in at-risk communities:
Pop-up COVID-19 testing clinics
The City is collaborating with provincial colleagues at Ontario Health and community health organizations to provide space for community health clinic pop-up COVID-19 testing sites at City recreation facilities. The temporary COVID-19 testing sites offer walk-in and low-barrier testing for residents, including those who are experiencing homelessness. Three testing clinics have taken place at Gord & Irene Risk Community Centre, Elmbank Community Centre and Falstaff Community Centre. Planning for additional locations is underway.
People who are unsure if they should be tested for COVID-19 should take the Ministry of Health’s self-assessment, call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 and speak with a registered nurse or call their primary care provider. More information on COVID-19 testing, including assessment locations and details, is available on toronto.ca/covid-19.
Pop-up flu shot clinics
This year, getting a flu shot is more important than ever as getting vaccinated against the flu may reduce the number of individuals who need COVID-19 testing, as the symptoms are very similar. The annual flu vaccine is also important to protect vulnerable residents from more severe illness.
The City has collaborated with community health organizations to run flu shot clinics at recreation facilities. To date, 17 clinics have been confirmed at community centres across Toronto with more planned for November and December, including five dates at Humber Bay Park, Silver Creek Park and Angela James Arena. Information on these clinics is available from community health organizations.
More information on flu prevention for the 2020/21 flu season is available on toronto.ca/flu.
The ability to effectively self-isolate can be complicated for people living in multi-generational homes, homes with multiple people or people living together in small spaces – common living situations for low-income individuals and families.
In September, the City opened a voluntary self-isolation centre and is now working to increase awareness of the site through community groups. The site was created to provide a safe place for people to be able to safely keep apart from others when they live in a setting where effective isolation is difficult. A stay at the centre is offered by Toronto Public Health case managers and the decision to accept a stay at the centre is entirely voluntary. Toronto Public Health staff identify those who qualify for a stay through the case and contact management process based on the individual’s needs.
Outreach and public education
Toronto Public Health’s COVID-19 Outreach Rapid Response Team, which started in August, has provided information and referrals to more than 3,000 residents in Northwest Toronto through 42 online presentations, in-person canvassing and pop-up information tables in grocery stores, malls, places of worship, food banks, drop-in centres and apartment building lobbies.
A targeted public education campaign will be launched by the City and Toronto Public Health to increase accessibility of public health education materials. Materials are being redesigned and simplified and translated into approximately 30 languages spoken in neighbourhoods with the highest rates of COVID-19. Materials will be posted to the toronto.ca COVID-19 webpages as well as distributed via grassroots and community agencies
Support with Internet connectivity
To help residents in northwest neighbourhoods access online information during the pandemic, the City received donations to connect 25 large apartment buildings with free Internet access for up to one year. The first six buildings slated for the project are located in York South-Weston and together represent 900 apartment units.
Free Wi-Fi access also continues to be available inside and outside all Toronto Public Library locations and the Toronto Public Library Foundation continues to support distribution of free laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots through community agencies in Northwest Toronto including Jane Finch Centre, Rexdale Community Health Centre, Unison Health & Community Services and Syme Woolner Neighbourhood and Family Centre.
Addressing food insecurity
Since the onset of the pandemic, the City has been working with United Way Greater Toronto to provide strategic coordination of community agencies via Community Cluster Tables. The tables have allowed the City to focus efforts and provide needed services on a neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood basis, including to Northwestern Toronto communities. Working with the tables, through the TO Supports Investment Fund established to address social detriments of health, the City has provided:
The City continues to work with North York Harvest Food Bank to offer food bank service weekly from Toronto Public Library branches Albion and Jane/Sheppard. The City is now working with North York Harvest to expand food distribution throughout recreation facilities, with a focus on neighbourhoods.
More information on food access is available on toronto.ca. Residents in immediate need of food can call 211 for information on food program availability or view a map of local food service providers on the 211 website.
Streamlined employment and social services
As administrators of the Ontario Works program, the City has continued to provide both ongoing and emergency income support to residents during the pandemic. The process for accessing these supports has now been streamlined to better support mail-in and online services and minimize travel to Toronto Employment & Social Services local offices. Caseworkers continue to conduct service planning appointments and regular wellness checks with clients over the phone. Based on identification of client needs, caseworkers refer clients to local City and community-based partners that address issues of food security, housing stability, social isolation, health concerns and financial empowerment. Caseworkers now also help clients navigate pandemic-related federal benefits.
Nine City-run child care centres are currently operating in Northwest Toronto, with two more scheduled to open in November. The City is now providing additional funding and in-person mentor visits to child care operators in COVID-19 hotspots to support implementation of sound health and safety practices. The City has also revised child care fee subsidy policies to help families affected by COVID-19 by extending the allowable time for families to receive child care while searching for a job, ensuring Province of Ontario reopening stages do not negatively impact clients’ entitlement to a subsidy and increasing the number of days children can be absent from care due to illness. Children’s Services is now also providing in-person service by appointment to clients who are not able to access services online.
The City is also sharing information, training and resources to community child care and early years program providers across the city before they reopen and throughout operations to ensure staff and children are healthy and safe. More information about City child care and subsidies is available online.
In Northwest Toronto, the City operates the 337-bed Kipling Acres long-term care home as well as a 54-person supportive housing site promoting independent living. As in all City facilities, residents have been provided with face masks and information materials and screening and testing for COVID-19 and infection prevention and control has been prioritized. The City’s Homemakers and Nurses Service program, which provides homemaking services to more than 3,000 individuals who have limited financial resources and require assistance with household activities, also continues to operate.
While the Adult Day Program run out of Kipling Acres for seniors in the wider community has been suspended due to the pandemic, staff have been conducting wellness checks with clients throughout this period. The program has now launched further outreach through friendly visit calls and virtual calls, virtual programs, virtual family support groups, preparing and mailing activity packages to clients and creating and distributing resources to clients. The City has also supported seniors through webinars, presentations and direct emails to seniors and caregivers, seniors-serving agencies, and more than 100 housing providers.
As the City continues to work to support vulnerable residents and communities hardest hit by COVID-19, all people in the city have a part to play. Individuals should only consider leaving their homes for essential activities like work, education and fresh air and exercise. As much as possible, residents should limit contact with people not in the same household, keep at least six feet apart from people not in the same household and wear a mask when outside of their homes, especially in indoor settings and when physical distancing is difficult. Residents should wash hands frequently and remain at home when ill.
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.
“While we are all feeling the effects of this pandemic in some way, we know there are neighbourhoods in our city where some of our more vulnerable residents are being hit harder by this virus. The government of the City of Toronto itself is also working to make sure it is doing everything it can to help residents across our city but especially in areas where we know there is increased spread of the virus, like in the northwest. I am doing everything in my power to support the work the City is doing with Toronto Public Health and community agencies to take fast action to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
– Mayor John Tory
“We’re not all equal when it comes to COVID-19. People that live and work in the northwest areas of our city have been disproportionately impacted by this virus. These communities have some of the highest rates of COVID-19 but still face challenges accessing testing and supports. Since Day 1 our COVID response has focused on protecting the most vulnerable and marginalized in our city. In the midst of this second wave we will continue to do everything – absolutely everything – in our power to protect and support the residents of the northwest communities in our city.”
– Councillor Joe Cressy (Ward 10 Spadina-Fort York), Chair of the Board of Health
“I want to thank the team at Toronto Public Health for the incredible work they have been doing throughout the pandemic, and for working closely with me to fight the spread of this virus in my community. We have implemented many measures to try and curb the spread of COVID-19, including hosting multiple free mask distributions in North Etobicoke, releasing many public education pieces through social and traditional media platforms, and bringing multiple mobile testing pop-up sites to our community. With that being said, there is still more work to be done to curb the spread of this virus and I look forward to continuing this work with public health officials.”
– Councillor Michael Ford (Ward 1 Etobicoke North)
“Protecting at-risk communities is critical in our efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. Neighbourhoods that are experiencing higher virus positivity and transmission rates need targeted approaches and supports to access food, COVID-19 testing facilities, internet and information to navigate these challenging times. These actions being taken by the City to fight the social detriments of health in vulnerable neighbourhoods are an important step forward.”
– Councillor Frances Nunziata (Ward 5 York South-Weston)
“People in our hardest-hit communities need better access to testing with fast, reliable results so they can responsibly isolate and keep their loved ones and vulnerable people in their neighbourhood safe. We need to stop the spread of COVID-19 and it starts with the clinics and investment we are now seeing.”
– Councillor Anthony Perruzza (Ward 7 Humber River-Black Creek)
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