We are now one year into this pandemic. It’s been an incredibly difficult year for everyone and for many it has been tragic. The vaccine rollout is happening and the one millionth Ontarian recently received their vaccination. We are still several months away, but we are approaching the end of this.
The rollout of the vaccines has been problematic, and we are doing our best to keep you informed. Some information is included below and we are preparing a more detailed list of questions and answers that we will be sharing next week. This is in place of the COVID-19 webinar on Monday, March 15th which, unfortunately, had to be cancelled. Instead, we have created a new Vaccine FAQ section you may find helpful.
See the new COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ section on this website.
Many of you are calling and emailing your concerns about the lockdown, the struggles of small businesses and the vaccine rollout. We are finding ways to help and I am taking your concerns to the legislature. See my comments in the legislature raising concern about the vaccine rollout, the need for safe schools and more.
Also, clocks spring forward one hour on Sunday, March 14th at 2:00 am. Don’t forget to adjust your clocks!
Be well, and contact [email protected] if you need assistance.
See the NEW COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ Section
COVID-19 Modelling Projections
- COVID-19 cases are back on the rise in most areas of Ontario and the province could see nearly 6,000 cases per day by April even outside of a so-called “worst case scenario,” the modelling projections released Thursday suggests. The Ontario COVID-19 Science Table says that outside of the vaccination of all willing residents and staff in long-term care homes, “progress has stalled” in combating the pandemic in the province. As of March 6, cases were increasing markedly in all but 13 of the province’s 34 local public health units. In the “medium” scenario outlined by modellers, cases will reach 5,800 per day by early April, and could hit 8,000 per day in the worst case scenario. The modellers say what is done in the next few weeks, irrespective of the vaccine rollout, will determine a lot about the next few months. Read the slides from the modelling presentation here.
- The Ontario Science Table has launched a new online dashboard focused on the variants of concern (VOCs). It shows that the variants continue to spread. The data is more or less right on track with what was predicted in models released by the table in late February. Critically, the reproduction value — an estimate of how many people each positive case will go on to infect — for VOCs is about 1.24, the table said. Any value above one suggests that the rate of new cases is growing. Meanwhile, for the "old" variants — those that were present before the current VOCs were circulating — the reproduction value is 0.9.
Housing and Homelessness Update
- The Ontario government announced it will be providing $255 million to help municipalities and Indigenous program partners respond to an increase in COVID-19 cases in some emergency shelters and help keep vulnerable people safe. Municipal service managers and Indigenous program partners can use the social services relief funding to acquire motel and hotel spaces to support physical distancing of shelter residents, hire more shelter staff, purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies, and add to rent and utility banks to help prevent more people from becoming homeless.
- About 1,000 people in Toronto's shelters and homeless encampments have received a COVID-19 vaccine, a health organization said, noting that immunization teams are learning how to build trust with the population to overcome hesitancy. The effort is being led by community-based health organizations, several hospitals, Ontario Health and Toronto Public Health, and is trying to reach those in more than 100 shelters, drop-in centres and encampments. The province initially had a two-tier vaccination plan for the homeless shelter system — shelter workers were in Phase 1 of Ontario's immunization effort while shelter residents and those living in homeless encampments were part of Phase 2. After calls from advocates to prioritize the homeless, the province shifted those individuals into Phase 1 at the end of last month.
- The City of Toronto has proposed a mixed-use residential building which will be located at 150 Queens Wharf Road in CityPlace. Residents are invited to submit feedback via the survey until March 26th. More information available here.
Co-op Housing Event March 17
- Are you interested in living in a housing co-op or expanding the housing co-op sector? Co-op residents and community members (who don't live in co-ops but want to) have organized this initial convening to present some ideas to expand existing and create new housing co-operatives in Toronto. MPP Chris Glover will co-host the event. Register here.
Long-Term Care Update
- The commission examining the impact of COVID-19 on Ontario's long-term care system has heard the government rejected proposals that could have helped protect vulnerable residents during the second wave because they were deemed too expensive. Dr. Allison McGeer said the plans were presented by doctors largely to the Ministry of Health, though some may have gone before the Ministry of Long-Term Care. In a recently released transcript, the doctors said the province "chose" not to hire thousands of additional long-term care staff, or place infection-control practitioners in homes, as officials in Quebec did. While Ontario was better prepared for the second wave, the province didn't do enough because it mistakenly believed the problems present in the first wave had been resolved, the panel heard.
- New analysis of the COVID-19 crisis in long-term care finds that the homes that experienced severe outbreaks were much more likely to experience staffing shortages and to use staffing agencies. The research was conducted by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) on behalf of the independent commission investigating the COVID-19 crisis in Ontario's long-term care homes. It adds data to a key problem in Ontario's response to the pandemic — when the virus hit some long-term care homes, they suffered what Minister Merrilee Fullerton has called a "staffing collapse." Workers fell sick and had to self-isolate, or were too afraid to work, and some homes could not bring in enough staff to provide adequate care for residents, particularly in the first wave. It was for that reason that the province brought in help from hospitals and, for some of the hardest-hit homes, the Canadian Armed Forces, according to Fullerton.
- Prioritizing long-term-care residents and staff in Ontario’s initial COVID-19 vaccine rollout is estimated to have prevented more than 2,600 infections and hundreds of hospitalizations and deaths, according to new research. In a science brief released Monday, doctors, epidemiologists and researchers with the province’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table show that had residents in long-term care not been prioritized in the Phase 1 rollout of the vaccine, 2,079 more infections could have occurred, of which 249 would have resulted in hospitalization and 615 in death. Similarly, by also targeting long-term-care home employees, the rollout prevented a further 590 infections, eight hospitalizations and one death among staff. The researchers estimate that there was a roughly 90 per cent reduction in cases among residents and a nearly 80 per cent reduction in staff cases eight weeks after vaccinations began in Ontario on December 14.
Tourism Industry Support
- The Ontario government announced the new Tourism Economic Recovery Ministerial Task Force. It will be chaired by former MPP and Cabinet minister, and former PC leader, Tim Hudak, and give expert advice and recommendations on how to help the province's $36-billion tourism industry recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The task force will deliver a report with its recommendations to the minister in spring 2021.
Music Industry Support
- The Ontario government announced it is investing $2.5 million through the Unison Benevolent Fund's COVID-19 Relief Program and the Canadian Live Music Association. Unison Benevolent Fund will receive a one-time grant of up to $2 million to immediately support individual musicians and industry workers, many of whom have lost their sources of income during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unison Benevolent Fund's COVID-19 Relief Program provides direct emergency financial assistance to members of the industry to cover necessary costs so they can continue to enrich our communities through music. The Canadian Live Music Association will receive a one-time grant of up to $500,000 to support local communities that wish to develop and implement music city strategies in a post-COVID-19 economy. A music city is a community of any size with a vibrant music economy, where municipal governments, music stakeholders and community members work together to help artists and music businesses reach their full potential.
Restaurant and Bar Support Fund
- A new private sector relief fund has launched to help support as many Ontario food and beverage establishments as possible in reopening and recovering from the financial setbacks of the pandemic. The Restaurant & Bar Support Fund is a registered not-for-profit established by concerned individuals who do not want to see the predicted numbers of closures and bankruptcies in Ontario’s food and beverage sector. Qualified applicants will receive a one-time grant of up to $5,000 to assist them in the reopening of their business. Priority is being given to applicants who demonstrate a commitment to their staff and neighbourhood. For more information, contact Tony Carvalho at [email protected] or call 416-276-5663.
FAO Report on Spending
- The Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO) released its update on the Province’s 2020-21 spending plan and actual spending through the first three quarters of 2020-21, from April 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020. To learn more, read the full report here.
- Spending through the first three quarters of 2020-21 was $10.3 billion, or 9.7 per cent, higher than during the same period in 2019-20.
- Health sector spending through the first three quarters of 2020-21 was 12.7 per cent higher than spending in the same period in 2019-20. For context, the health sector’s average annual growth rate between 2015-16 and 2019-20 was 3.6 per cent.
- The Province’s total 2020-21 spending plan has increased by $14.5 billion since the start of the fiscal year. The increases occurred in the first ($759 million) and second ($13.8 billion) quarters, while in the third quarter there was no change to the overall spending plan.
Ontario Place Special Advisor
- The Ontario government has appointed former Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders special advisor to Ontario Place. Minister MacLeod confirmed that the vision for Ontario Place will not include casinos or condos, the land will not be sold, and key heritage and recreational features of the site will remain, such as Trillium Park, the William G. Davis Trail, and the Cinesphere and the pods, which will be preserved for future use.
Waterfront Toronto Parliament Slip
- Waterfront Toronto announced that it is in advanced discussions with PortsToronto about the purchase of Parliament Slip so it can be developed into a destination recreational resource on our waterfront. Potential plans include new swimming pools, mooring locations, better access to the water's edge and floating structures on the water to accommodate concessions and a floating restaurant. In addition, a new WaveDeck will enable Waterfront Toronto to create important aquatic habitat beneath its surface (similar to the WaveDecks further west). The Parliament Slip initiative will also be supported by a planned community centre coming to the west side of the slip at the base of Aqualuna and adjacent to the purpose built rental/affordable rental building in Bayside. To learn more, Check out the Waterfront Toronto Backgrounder on the Slip and the updated Marine Use Strategy.