There are a lot of updates about the pandemic’s impact on travel, schools, dog grooming and the economy. But this week, we also present activities and updates not related to the pandemic including our Community Recognition Ceremony tomorrow, Black History Month and the history of the Toronto Islands.
With 153 confirmed cases in Ontario coming from coronavirus variants, screening measures at Pearson Airport are being upgraded. As of now, all positive samples from Pearson Airport are immediately screened for the presence of the variant. Public Health Ontario will be able to check any positive specimen for the variant and provide real-time data on the spread of the variant. See more on Travel Restrictions below.
Schools in Toronto, York and Peel will be reopening on February 16. Education Minister Lecce is considering cancelling March Break in order to encourage people to stay in the province. He said he has sought advice from the chief medical officer of health on whether it might make sense to keep schools open throughout the spring break and expects to have his recommendation by next week. People want schools to reopen, but they want it done safely, and they don’t want cycles of opening and closing. To do this, we need paid sick days, broad asymptomatic testing, smaller classes and better ventilation.
Ford has also said that there could be an announcement next week regarding the eventual reopening of the economy as the current state of emergency is close to expiring.
After weeks of growing confusion among dog owners and groomers, the province is now allowing dog grooming with some restrictions, some of which include curbside pickup and drop-off of the animal, and services being done one at a time and by appointment only.
Two years after the Ford government cut support for children with autism, the province announced on Tuesday that children will be lumped into “needs categories” and caps will be imposed on their support based on their category assignment. My office has heard from a number of parents who are concerned that current services their children receive may be cut and others who are afraid their children will be left out of the program. The new program will support 600 children with autism, but there are 42,000 who need autism support services.
Last week, the Friends of the Foundry won an injunction to halt the demolition of this heritage property pending a full hearing to happen in a month. In granting the injunction, Judge Corbett ruled that the Ford government violated the Ontario Heritage Act in not consulting with communities before beginning demolition.
The “Well” construction site at Wellington and Spadina has been the site of a COVID outbreak involving 68 workers. Toronto Public Health is investigating and will be advising on appropriate measures.
Do you have a family member or friend in long term care? My colleague, MPP Lisa Gretzky (NDP Windsor West), is hosting a virtual town hall on caregiver access for congregate care settings on Saturday (details below).
February is Black History Month. Toronto History Museums is launching its new Awakenings program, a series of art projects created by Black, Indigenous and artists of colour. “We Were Always Here” is presented by Toronto’s world-renowned director Julien Christian Lutz aka Director X.
Interested in learning more about the local history of our community? Doug Taylor provides an enjoyable read about the history of the Toronto Islands in this blog.
There are many community members who have made Spadina-Fort York the vibrant community that it is. During the pandemic, many more have come forward to help others in ways large and small. On Saturday, we will acknowledge the contributions of some of these community builders at our virtual Community Recognition Ceremony.
Joan Prowse and Humera Siddiqui are just two of the recipients receiving recognition at the ceremony tomorrow evening at 7:00 pm. The event will be streamed live (details below).
Wishing you all a safe weekend,
- Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced the dates for the return of in-person learning in all remaining Ontario public health units (PHUs). The government's decision was based on the advice of Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, the unanimous recommendation of the Council of Medical Officers of Health, and with the support of local Medical Officers of Health. Elementary and secondary schools in the following PHUs will return to in-person learning on Tuesday, February 16, 2021: Peel Public Health; Toronto Public Health; and York Region Public Health. Before and after school programs will be permitted to reopen on that day and emergency child care will remain available until and including February 12, to support eligible front-line workers. The protocols at Toronto schools include mask use by all, active symptom screening, distancing, cohorting, ventilation, cleaning surfaces, and hand hygiene. Masking is also now required outdoors where physical distancing cannot be maintained.
- The NDP continues to call on the government to protect the reopening of schools by capping class sizes at 15 to allow for physical distancing, rolling out broad asymptomatic testing in schools to detect and isolate cases quickly, and providing paid family care and sick days so parents can keep their kids home from school if they have COVID symptoms or need to get tested.
- The Ontario government is looking at the possibility of cancelling March Break for students across Ontario. Education Minister Stephen Lecce said he expects to receive advice from chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams next week on whether to proceed with the break or keep them in school in an effort to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
School Boards Update
- The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) has advised parents that classes for students currently in the virtual learning model will continue as normal. All elementary school families that had indicated in December that they wanted their child(ren) to be considered for a switch from their learning model will be contacted regarding a final switching opportunity, where space is available, in February 2021. Parents should contact their school principal for more information. More information is available on the TDSB site here.
- Kindergarten registration at TDSB schools is open. More information available here.
- We are all concerned about the impact this pandemic is having on children’s mental health. The TDSB has assembled a range of mental health supports found here.
- All Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) schools will also reopen again after Family Day weekend on February 16. The board is working through the details of the latest federal school safety funding to make schools as safe as possible.
- Kindergarten registration at TCDSB schools is also now open. More information available here.
Vaccination Plan Update
- The Ontario government has updated its goal of completing the administration of first doses of COVID-19 vaccines to residents in each long-term care, high-risk retirement and First Nations elder care home to February 10. The province is expecting approximately 310,000 doses to be delivered in the remaining weeks of February.
- Ontario has received +411,000 vaccine doses, total. We have fewer than 80,000 LTC residents, but Ford hasn’t given them all a chance to be vaccinated yet. They should have been first in line and should all be vaccinated already.
- The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is warning provinces that there will be yet more disruptions to the supply of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine shots later this month, according to a document obtained by CBC News. The Massachusetts-based company told Canadian officials last week that the shipments for the week of February 1 would be reduced by 20-25%, and now it appears this month's second shipment is also likely to be lower than expected.
- Prime Minister Trudeau announced the government has signed a memorandum of understanding with Novavax to pursue the production of its COVID-19 vaccine at the National Research Council of Canada’s Biologics Manufacturing Centre in Montreal. The Prime Minister also announced investments to support vaccine, therapeutic, and biomanufacturing projects in Canada.
Mask By-laws Update
- Toronto City Council approved the extension of the City of Toronto’s temporary mask bylaws until the end of City Council’s June 8 and 9, 2021 meeting. The Mandatory Mask By-law 541-2020, as amended by By-law 664-2020, were both extended, as these bylaws were set to expire at the end of the February 2 and 3, 2021. City council has also recommended that Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health continue to conduct a monthly assessment regarding the need to continue these bylaws.
- Following complaints of people not wearing masks in public areas of condos and apartments, the City is launching a public education campaign to remind residents about the municipal bylaws and provincial regulations that require everyone to wear masks or face coverings in all indoor public settings, including common areas in multi-residential buildings. The campaign will run on digital screens in residential apartment buildings and condominiums, as well as online and on social media.
- The Ontario government is implementing a six-point plan to stop the spread of new COVID-19 variants, which includes mandatory on-arrival testing of international travellers, enhanced screening and sequencing to identify the new variants. Full details are outlined in the backgrounder.
- Four of Canada’s major airlines have suspended service to Mexico and the Caribbean. Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing and Air Transat have agreed to the measure in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. All international flights landing in Canada will now be funnelled to Toronto, Montreal, Calgary or Vancouver.
- Transport Minister Omar Alghabra says air travellers should be prepared for COVID-19 testing upon arrival in Canada and hotel quarantine requirements to come into effect as soon as February 4.
Skills Development Fund Applications Open
- Applications are now open for the Ontario government's new two-year $115 million Skills Development Fund. The fund is to support workers and apprentices and to help reduce obstacles to hiring, training and retraining workers for the province's economic recovery. Applicants, including employers, apprenticeship training delivery agents, unions, post-secondary institutions, community organizations and others can now submit proposals beginning today, until February 28, 2021.
Early Works Report for Exhibition Station
Metrolinx has released its final Early Works Report for Exhibition Station. The final report incorporates the feedback received during the consultation period from November 30, 2020 to January 5, 2021. The report provides details on the planned upgrades at Exhibition Station, the anticipated impacts from construction and the steps Metrolinx and its contractors can take to mitigate these effects. The upgrades include:
- opening an existing but currently unused passenger tunnel extension and tunnel entrance building with a walkway to Atlantic Avenue;
- a new station entrance and exit building to the north of the existing rail corridor that will serve both Ontario Line and GO customers while also serving as the pedestrian link between Liberty Village and Exhibition Place;
- a new Ontario Line platform to the north of the existing rail corridor;
- shifting two existing GO tracks to the north and creating a new GO platform to support GO Expansion plans; and
- a temporary pedestrian bridge over the existing tracks to give customers more ways to access GO platforms during construction.
For more information, email [email protected] or call 416-202-5100.
Metrolinx Track Update
- Metrolinx has provided an update regarding the northern track or EZero track. Originally the plan was to add one track on the north side and two on the south. After a more diligent and exhaustive look at the GO network expansion requirements, it was decided to descope the northern track or EZero, much to the satisfaction of neighbouring residences. The two tracks that will be added on the south, referred to as Tracks E7 and E8, will further facilitate increased access to train facilities. Here is a link to all the public records. You can subscribe to the Metrolinx e-newsletter by clicking here.
The Queen Street West BIA and Riverside BIA (Queen St E) have teamed up for a month-long event in support of over 400 businesses. The campaign features daily draws and weekly prizes. Learn more here.