This afternoon, the Ontario government announced that it has extended all emergency orders under the Reopening Ontario Act (ROA) for at least another month. The emergency orders, which were set to expire today, have been extended until March 21. The full list of orders being extended can be found here.
The province also announced that the stay-at-home order for Toronto, Peel Region and North Bay-Parry Sound has been officially extended until March 8. This decision was made based on the national COVID-19 modelling that was also released today. Health officials have predicted that, with the continuing spread of variants, even the current level of public health measures will not be enough to prevent a resurgence of the virus. The modelling shows the curve will spike to 20,000 cases per day by mid-March if public health restrictions are relaxed even further.
I know this is not the information any of us wanted to hear. We are now almost a year into this pandemic and it is taking a toll on everyone, and for many who have lost loved ones, it has been tragic. Our overall numbers are going down and, if we can contain the new variants, we can break the cycle of opening and closing.
To help us through this time, we need the government to provide paid sick days for workers, rent supports for residents and an eviction moratorium so more people do not become homeless. We also need rent and other supports for small businesses to make sure they make it through the pandemic.
This lockdown is difficult for many, especially since 52% of us in Spadina-Fort York live alone - the highest percentage in the country. So it’s very important that we maintain social connections while maintaining distancing protocols. The public health guidelines ask us to restrict ourselves to essential trips, but these essential trips also include going outside to exercise, which is important for both our physical and emotional health.
People have also found innovative ways of connecting. In my area of Fort York, we have had online book and parent clubs and trivia games. We also had a robust pots and pans #togetherwedoit event every Friday in the first wave. Perhaps it’s time to start it again. Thank you Caroline Lama for sharing her vibrant artwork with us. See the Artist’s Corner below.
If you have some activities in your area or some ideas for social activities, please share them with my office and we will include them in the next update.
Emergency & Stay-at-Home Orders Extended
- The Ontario government has extended all emergency orders under the Reopening Ontario Act (ROA) for at least another month. The full list of orders being extended by the Ontario government can be found here. The Stay-at-Home order and all existing public health and workplace safety measures will be extended for an additional two weeks in the Toronto and Peel Public Health Regions, along with the North Bay-Parry Sound District. More information can be found here.
- Adults over the age of 80 will now be included in Phase 1 of the vaccine distribution plan. The Ontario government says that it will be up to each local public health unit to determine how people over the age of 80 will be notified. Some options discussed include going through a family physician’s office or a local advertising campaign. The Phase 1 priority groups include staff in retirement homes, adults receiving home care, Indigenous adults and health care workers in lower-risk community settings. This will also include professionals such as chiropractors, optometrists and registered massage therapists. Nursing-home and retirement-home staff and the highest-risk health care workers, as well as isolated and northern Indigenous communities, are still the immediate priority. Along with those 60-80 years old, the second phase of Ontario’s vaccine program prioritizes Black and racialized communities who are disproportionately affected by the coronavirus. It also focuses on those with high-risk medical conditions, essential employees such as teachers, those in the food industry and construction workers. More on Ontario’s vaccination program can be found here.
- The Ministry of Health said that Ontario is developing an online site for vaccine appointments, while a customer service desk will also eventually be available for those not comfortable using the web portal. The scheduling software is said to be ready for use at the end of February or in early March. A call desk is also being set up for those who are not comfortable making appointments online and the province said it may reach out to some seniors through their family doctors.
- Ontario is not submitting key COVID-19 data to the federal government's health agency, making it difficult to get a clear, national picture of how the first phase of the country's vaccination program is progressing. Since December 19, provinces and territories have been reporting the number of people vaccinated in three target populations that are top priority groups. The data is gathered by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and published once a week on its vaccine coverage website — with one key exception. "Data for Ontario are not included," reads a disclaimer on the PHAC site. The reason given is that the province's data is “not broken down by key population groups.” A spokesperson for Ontario's Ministry of Health said the ministry is working with PHAC to provide more data in “the near future.”
- According to the latest amended version of Ontario Regulation 82/20 of the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020, as of February 10, all “residential construction activities or projects and related services” are allowed to continue across the province, including Toronto. This means that a residential project or renovation is able to resume whether or not it was approved on January 12, 2021.
Main Street Relief Grant Expanded
- The Ontario government is expanding the number of small businesses that can apply for the Main Street Relief Grant to help offset the costs of purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE). Small businesses with 2-19 employees in all eligible sectors (expanded from 2-9 employees) including those in the arts, entertainment, and recreation sector, can now apply for up to $1,000 in financial support. This one-time grant reimburses main street businesses for up to $1,000 in PPE costs incurred since March 17, 2020. Eligible businesses now include those in the following sectors: retail trade; accommodation and food services; repair and maintenance; personal and laundry services; gyms and yoga studios; and arts, entertainment, and recreation.
Federal Benefits Extended
- The federal government announced that it will extend Canadians’ access to pandemic benefits.The Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB), the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) and Employment Insurance (EI) will all see extensions in the number of weeks eligible recipients can receive them. More information available here.
- The federal government announced that, as of February 22, 2021, all travellers arriving by air will be required to reserve, prior to departure to Canada, a three-night stay in a government-approved hotel. These new measures are in addition to existing mandatory pre-boarding and health requirements for air travellers. These measures will apply to non-essential travellers travelling for discretionary purposes, and will not impact essential travellers/workers that will be exempt from these policies. More information on the new travel measures can be found here.
West Neighbourhood House Community Reference Panel
- West Neighbourhood House (formerly St. Christopher House) has been working to support the community in Toronto’s west end for over 100 years. They have launched a special project —the West Downtown Neighbourhoods Community Reference Panel — to work with community members to plan for the future. They are looking for volunteers to take part in this project. The deadline to volunteer is February 25, 2021.
The Community Reference Panel will consist of 28 randomly selected volunteers representing the community. The panelists will learn from experts about the present and future challenges facing the community, deliberate on options, and create recommendations that will make West Neighborhood House —and the community— better prepared for the future. The Panel is an intensive, one-off process that will take place over a weekend and one additional Saturday. The project team will work with and support participants throughout the process. If needed, a stipend will be offered for participation. Our team will also provide further support if needed, including but not limited to lending tablets to enable internet access and providing individual learning assistance.
Caroline Lama is an architect and a painter living in Toronto. The distinctive style in her colourful paintings and collages reflects the vibrant spirit, atmosphere and richness of the many places that she visited. In this piece entitled "Niagara Falls Triptych", the view shows the juxtaposition of random geometric shapes from different textural material ‐ wood, beads, metal, broken plastic toy pieces, cloth, lint, parchment paper drenched in cooking oil and matches. When viewed close‐up, you can see abstract geometric shapes. Moving away, the shapes merge into a clearer landscape.
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Trustee Norm Di Pasquale, Toronto Catholic District School Board
Trustee Stephanie Donaldson, Toronto District School Board