City of Toronto mandating stricter restrictions to decrease COVID-19 transmission in Toronto

Today, the Medical Officer of Health announced a number of public health measures to be introduced when the City of Toronto is moved by the Province of Ontario into the provincial COVID-19 response framework on November 14.

Dr. de Villa's recommendations come as the city sees its COVID-19 numbers going in the wrong direction. Beyond her recommendation that Toronto be moved into the Red – Control category in the provincial framework, Dr. de Villa introduced a number of directives to help reduce the spread of the virus in our community.

The City initially requested one additional week to prepare and monitor COVID-19 trends before being moved to the Orange – Restrict category. After carefully examining the situation, City officials determined Toronto requires strengthened protections and guidance for high-risk sectors and activities.

Today, Toronto recorded its highest number of new COVID-19 infections, with 533 new cases. In the most recent two weeks, October 25 to November 6, there have been 209 COVID-19 outbreaks declared, including 19 outbreaks in long-term care homes. The city has also seen an 18 per cent increase of COVID-19 patients in hospitals over the two-week period. The Medical Officer of Health also noted worrisome challenges in other jurisdictions, including British Columbia, Manitoba, and Quebec where additional measures have also been undertaken to reduce the level of virus transmission.

The new protections would come into effect at 12:01 a.m. this Saturday and include strengthened COVID-19 precautions for businesses and public spaces:

  • Social gatherings should only be with those you live with and/or one or two essential supports
  • Restrict close contacts only to those you live with and your essential supports
  • Limit in-person activities outside the home to essential activities only – going to work or school, health care, shopping for your household and health needs, and getting exercise and physical activity
  • Businesses and workplaces should implement work from home wherever possible
  • Businesses should review their HVAC systems to ensure they are in good working order
  • Workplaces should appoint a compliance officer to ensure implementation of occupational health and safety and infection prevention and control measures
  • Indoor dining will remain closed
  • Indoor fitness classes are not permitted
  • Meeting and event spaces will remain closed
  • In malls, patrons should not be permitted to consume food or drink while walking through malls
  • Casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments will remain closed
The above measures would be enforced under a combination of the Section 22 order and the Province’s Reopening Ontario Act. Beyond legislated measures, the Medical Officer of Health is recommending additional actions for every person in the city, including everyone limiting contact to the people in their household only. One of the best ways to stop the spread of COVID-19 is to stay home and only go out for activities that cannot be done from home, school, fresh air and exercise.

The new precautions prioritize public health and the protection of vulnerable people in the city. Unfortunately, the concession is further restrictions on businesses that were looking forward to partial reopening and resumption of many services. The City continues to advocate for business supports from all levels of government and provide help for businesses. Information on business and sector-specific supports is available online: https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/covid-19-economic-support-recovery-for-businesses/covid-19-business-sector-resources/.

A backgrounder explaining the proposed COVID-19 public health protections and recommendations is attached. The City’s website will be updated in the coming days with sector-specific guidance to navigate the upcoming change in requirements: https://www.toronto.ca/covid-19/.

Quotes:

“Our focus remains on saving lives, on protecting the health of our residents, especially our most vulnerable residents in long-term care homes and schools, and keeping our healthcare system from being overwhelmed. Today, Dr. de Villa outlined the actions she is recommending in the face of the rising COVID-19 cases in our city and region. She has been clear with me that these actions are needed in order to stop the spread of this virus in Toronto. I know the vast majority of people support doing everything we can in order to confront COVID-19 and get our lives back to normal. We need your help right now to do just that. I thank Torontonians for their ongoing patience and understanding as our city – just like every other city around the world – works to confront the greatest challenge of our generation."

- Mayor John Tory

“COVID-19 is spreading at an alarming rate that we haven’t seen before in our city.  While we’ve seen some progress with the temporary restrictions that were imposed last month, more action is required now to protect the people of Toronto from rampant virus spread. Given the circumstances, as your Medical Officer of Health, I am using my authority to take actions that are necessary given what our city and our residents are facing. These decisions aren’t ones I take lightly, however, in my professional opinion they are needed to reduce virus spread, save lives, protect our health system for those who need it most, and mitigate broader health, social and economic impacts.”

- Dr. Eileen de Villa, Medical Officer of Health

“In recent weeks, the trend in COVID-19 cases in our city clearly shows that we are moving in the wrong direction. This can't become our new normal – we have to act now. What's best for our local economy is also what is best for the health and safety of our residents: businesses can't thrive when COVID-19 is surging. Business owners and employees deserve to have a reopening that doesn't put themselves or their customers at risk, and that's sustainable. That's why we must continue to take the steps to control the spread of this virus, so that in the future we can reopen safely, and for good.”

- Councillor Joe Cressy (Spadina-Fort York), Chair of the Toronto Board of Health

 

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