The province announced that Toronto will be moving to the Grey zone as of 12:01 am Monday, March 8. While many businesses will remain closed, retail stores can reopen across the city, including those located in shopping malls. Most stores, however, will be limited to no more than 25% of their regular capacity. Grocers, pharmacies, convenience stores and other businesses that primarily sell food will be allowed up to 50% of their regular capacity. Entering the grey zone also means that outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people will be permitted once again.
Vaccines are the light at the end of a very long tunnel. Health Canada announced approval of the first one-shot COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, making it the fourth vaccine that can be administered to Canadians. The Ontario government also announced their plan to accelerate their vaccine rollout. This is all very welcome news.
Toronto hospitals and their partner Ontario Health Teams (OHTs) are accepting pre-registrations from priority populations identified as part of Phase I in the Ontario Vaccine Distribution Plan.
- People who are 80 years of age and older (born in 1941 or before)
- Health care workers in priority risk groups
- Indigenous adults (16 years and older)
See below for the latest Vaccine Information.
Over the past weeks, I’ve been fielding an increasing number of calls from parents, business owners and other community members who are frustrated with the lockdown, the homelessness crisis and the vaccine rollout. Almost all of the calls start with a recognition that we need to do what is necessary to protect people’s health, but they are frustrated that people are freezing in tents in parks, that big box stores are open while local small businesses are forced to close, that children’s education has been disrupted for a year and that they aren’t able to visit family and friends.
The frustration is understandable. Lockdowns were never supposed to be the solution, they were supposed to be one tool to curb the spread and to buy time for the government to protect vulnerable residents in long-term care homes, to make schools and workplaces safe and to set up asymptomatic testing-and-tracing regimes so that new outbreaks could be contained.
We have made the necessary sacrifices and they are having the desired impact — the number of daily cases is going down, but we need the government to do it’s part as well. We are pushing the government on a number of fronts — paid sick days to reduce workplace transmission, asymptomatic testing in schools, and supports so small businesses can survive the pandemic and lead our economic recovery.
My office has also established community workgroups on homelessness, small business supports and protecting community voice in planning decisions. If you are interested in joining any of these groups, please email my office.
Monday, March 8th is International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate women’s achievements while calling out inequality. This year’s theme is #choosetochallenge.
St. Patrick’s Day is March 17th. Children are invited to submit artwork for display in the windows of my Bathurst Street office. Colouring pictures of leprechauns, clovers and pots of gold are welcome. See details below.
AstraZeneca Pharmacy Vaccine Pilot
Select pharmacies in Toronto will begin booking appointments for the AstraZeneca vaccine for people ages 60-64 as of the day of vaccination or, if they will be, or have been 60 to 64 in 2021. That means those who are turning 60 or 65 this year are also eligible. The government is working to send pharmacies guidelines to clarify eligibility for the pharmacy shots.
In order to book, you must have a valid Ontario OHIP card, or other form of valid government-issued identification.
Booking information and pharmacy sites available here.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is not recommended for people ages 65 and older due to “limited information on the efficacy of this vaccine in this age group” as advised by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.
Phase 1: What You Need to Know
Hospitals and Ontario Health Teams in the City of Toronto are currently accepting registration and/or appointment booking for eligible individuals for the COVID-19 Vaccine. Please note that new appointments become available every Thursday at 7:00 pm.
Who is eligible now:
· People who are 80 years of age and older (born in 1941 or before)
· Health care workers in Highest Priority and Very High Priority risk groups
· Indigenous Adults (16 years of age or older)
· Adults receiving chronic home care
Where to register:
- Eligible people in the above categories can currently book appointments to receive a vaccine through local hospitals and health teams. Register here: https://vaccineto.ca/landing
For Step-by-Step Instructions on how to book, please click this link.
- Beginning Friday, March 12, residents 80 years of age and older will be able to register for appointments at the City’s mass-vaccination clinics using the Province’s online registration system.
- The vaccines will be administered at these sites starting March 17.
The registration link will be available on this site: https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/covid-19-protect-yourself-others/covid-19-vaccines/
The Metro Toronto Convention Centre will be the closest mass-vaccination site in Spadina-Fort York.
- The vaccines will be administered at these sites starting March 17.
- The provincial registration system, called COVaxON, is a web-based portal and call centre that will be operational starting on March 15th with appointments starting on March 22nd.
- For Step-by-Step Instructions on how to book, please click this link.
- People can also call 1-888-385-1910 for assistance to complete pre-registration forms and book appointments at local vaccine clinics operated by participating hospitals and OHTs.
St. Patrick's Day
Children, help us celebrate St. Patrick’s Day! Colour some pictures like the one of the leprechaun below, or other St. Paddy’s Day themes of your choice, and email it to us. We’ll print your art and display it in the windows of our Bathurst Street office.
Toronto moves to Grey Zone
- The province announced today that Toronto will be moving to the grey zone as of 12:01 a.m. Monday, March 8. This will allow non-essential retail businesses to open and the stay-at-home order will be lifted. While many businesses will remain closed, retail stores can reopen across the city, including those located in shopping malls. Most stores, however, will be limited to no more than 25% of their regular capacity. Grocers, pharmacies, convenience stores and other businesses that primarily sell food will be allowed up to 50% of their regular capacity. Entering the grey zone also means that outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people will be permitted once again.
Medical officers of health in both Toronto and Peel Region requested last week that their local public health units be placed into the most restrictive category in order to prevent a possible surge in new cases triggered by more transmissible COVID-19 variants. Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott warned, “Despite this positive step forward, a return to the framework is not a return to normal. As we continue vaccinating more Ontarians, it remains critical for everyone to continue to follow public health measures and stay home as much as possible to protect themselves, their loved ones and their communities.”
- The Ontario government announced its plan to accelerate the province’s vaccine rollout and expects to administer the first dose of COVID-19 vaccines to all Ontarians over the age of 60 by the end of May, two months ahead of schedule. Phase Two is scheduled to start in April and run until July. Ontarians aged 60 to 79 years old are placed at the top of the prioritization ladder in Phase Two. Seniors will continue to receive the Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna vaccines while those under 64 will start receiving the newly approved AstraZeneca vaccine as early as next week. The government announced that it will delay the time interval between the first and second doses from roughly three weeks to four months starting on March 10. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has recommended extending the vaccination dose interval for all Health Canada approved vaccines, while still maintaining effective immunization against the disease.
Next in line for Phase Two are individuals in the at-risk category, broken down into three levels: those with health conditions and in congregate settings, those in specific hotspot zones, and workers who cannot work from home. Residents defined as those who cannot work from home, could start getting first doses at the beginning of June, and includes educators and school staff, first responders and workers in sectors like manufacturing and food processing. The government provided a list of these at-risk individuals based on those considered highest-risk, high-risk and at-risk. The highest-risk category includes organ transplant recipients and those with kidney disease, while the at-risk category includes those with dementia, diabetes and liver disease. Phase Two will also target hot spots in all of Ontario’s 34 public health units across the province.
Members of the vaccine task force said they expect 133 mass vaccination clinics to begin operating in 26 of 34 health units by the end of March. About 80% of all vaccine doses administered during Phases Two and Three will be done through these clinics. What vaccine someone receives will depend on where they live and how they choose to get it. Because each of the four vaccines approved in Canada have different characteristics, some people will be limited in terms of choice.
If you have questions about the vaccine program, please contact Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000. They are available Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm.
- Health Canada has approved the first one-shot COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, making it the fourth vaccine that can be administered to Canadians. Canada can now use the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines in its ongoing mass vaccination campaign. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be logistically easier to administer as it can be shipped at temperatures between two- to eight-degrees Celsius and stored in those refrigerated conditions for at least three months.
- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed optimism that his government’s timeline for vaccinating Canadians against COVID-19 could be accelerated as more shots are approved and guidelines for administering them evolve. Despite delays in the delivery of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine last month, Canada is now “fully back on track and even ahead of schedule” when it comes to its supply of the various drugs, he said, noting the country should receive more than the six million doses of COVID-19 vaccines it initially expected to get by the end of March.
Housing and Homelessness Update
- The Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO) released its review of Ontario’s housing and homelessness programs, which examines program spending and how the number of households supported has changed over time. The report then projects the impact of these programs on core housing, need and chronic homelessness. The FAO reviewed the timing of the $4.0 billion NHS spending commitment and found that 50% of the spending will occur after 2024-25. This will result in annual housing programs spending in Ontario that is lower than 2018-19 levels until 2024-25, as funding for new NHS programs will not make up for the lost funding under expiring agreements. The FAO concluded that it is unlikely that the Province will end chronic homelessness in Ontario by 2025 without new policy measures. To learn more, read the full report here.
The Ontario's NDP's Housing and Tenant Rights critic Jessica Bell and Poverty and Homelessness critic Rima Berns-McGown made this statement in response to the Financial Accountability Office's report, released Thursday, on the state of housing and homelessness in Ontario:
“Today's FAO report tells us loud and clear that the Ford government is failing to address Ontario's housing and homelessness crisis. It's clear Doug Ford will not meet his promise to end chronic homelessness by 2025. Ford isn't doing enough to support the thousands of Ontarians paying too much in rent to make ends meet. It's not doing enough to address the ballooning wait list for social housing--now 15 years long. The FAO report shows that the number of people in core housing need is expected to grow by more than 80,000 families, and projected funding from the province will see annual funding for housing programs cut by an average $160 million. The government stopped counting the number of homeless people in the province in 2018, making it impossible to provide adequate supports to those in need.
- The City of Toronto will begin vaccinating people experiencing homelessness in Toronto’s shelter system starting this week. This effort is part of several vaccination efforts being undertaken in Toronto ahead of the arrival of larger amounts of COVID-19 vaccine. Provincial officials confirmed that vaccinating those experiencing homelessness is now part of its Phase One priority for vaccinations. Toronto Public Health is working with its health care partners and the City’s Shelter Support and Housing Administration to identify homeless shelters at the highest risk of contracting COVID-19 to begin this important program of vaccination.
TDSB Schools Update
- The Toronto District School board is planning for a full return to the classroom in September. “The ministry has asked school boards to plan for no COVID-related funding at this time, meaning that we will plan for in-person learning,” TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird said in an emailed statement to the Toronto Star. The TDSB recognizes this will depend on the status of the pandemic and the advice of public health officials, he said, adding the board is making “contingency plans for the need for remote, virtual learning in addition to in-person learning should this be necessary.” Meanwhile, with six months to go before the fall school term begins, other boards are asking parents to choose now between in-person or online classes — without the option to switch later on.
- The TDSB Ebase booking system is now open to accept applications for summer permits. Summer permits can run from Monday July 5 to August 20, 2021. Applications that are submitted by March 22 will be processed in accordance with established prioritization criteria. During the months of July and August, a number of TDSB’s indoor facilities are available for permits during the daytime, from 8:00 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday excluding holidays. While the TDSB Permit Unit has not been able to confirm that the programs will be allowed to be delivered, as part of the planning process, they have decided to open and receive information indicating interest to deliver outdoor activities using its school fields should the current restrictions be lifted.
Condo Gyms Update
- The City’s bylaw enforcement division recently confirmed that in their interpretation of Ontario Regulation 82/20, it is up to each individual condo board or corporation to determine whether or not a gym or fitness facility should remain open at this time. A gym or fitness facility remaining open is not in direct violation of Ontario Regulation 82/20. Since condo amenities are considered residential spaces, the ability to enforce restrictions is limited. However, gyms and fitness facilities continue to be banned in apartment buildings under the City of Toronto bylaw, which falls under a different categorization than condo buildings.
Support for Arts Sector
- The Ontario government announced it will support the arts sector with a one-time investment of $25 million to help artists and arts organizations survive the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the funding, $24 million will be provided to 140 arts organizations with $1 million provided directly to artists and creators from across the province.
- Arts Chats is a new discussion series that centres the voices of Toronto's artists and arts workers. As part of Toronto Arts Foundation’s ongoing research into the importance of the arts in city and community-building, Arts Chats brings together a diverse array of speakers from a variety of disciplines to discuss timely and under-studied issues that affect them, their practice and the impacts of their work. Presented live via Zoom each Thursday in March, the public will hear directly from artists and arts workers about where they think researchers, funders and donors should be focusing their work and advocacy. These perspectives are key to understanding how to support the sector’s rebuilding through 2021 and beyond. For more information, contact Shawn Newman, Research & Impact Manager, at [email protected]
Support for Seniors
- The Ontario government announced it is investing $14.3 million in 2020-21 to support nearly 300 Seniors Active Living Centres. These programs will deliver new virtual initiatives to help keep seniors safe and socially connected as they continue to self-isolate due to COVID-19.
Speaker’s Book Award
- The Honourable Ted Arnott is pleased to announce the launch of the 2021 Speaker’s Book Award. This award recognizes works by Ontario authors covering historical and cultural aspects of the province with special consideration given to works focusing on Ontario’s parliamentary heritage and on provincial political discourse. Online applications are accepted from March 1 to May 14, 2021. The winning book will be announced in autumn 2021. For more information, visit the Legislative Assembly web site or contact Haley Shanoff at 416-325-8094 or [email protected].
CaféTO Registration Open
- The CaféTO program aims to provide space for expanded outdoor dining areas to help some restaurants and bars who are impacted by COVID-19. Restaurants and bars operating in Toronto must follow current public health guidelines as developed by Toronto Public Health and the Province of Ontario. Registration will remain open until March 26.
SafeTO Community Conversations on Gun Violence
The City of Toronto is providing this opportunity to engage in solutions-focussed discussions on gun violence as part of the development of SafeTO. Topics of discussion will include:
- Violence Response and Recovery
- Violence Intervention and Interruption
- Violence Prevention
Complete the SafeTO online survey before March 15, 2021.
COVID-19 Pop-Up Testing
- Cecil St. Community Centre is hosting Parkdale Queen West CHC and UHN Social Medicine to provide COVID-19 testing for residents in the surrounding areas. No appointment is needed.
GO Rail Network Electrification Addendum
- Metrolinx and Hydro One (co-proponents) recently concluded a virtual public update to the GO Rail Network Electrification Addendum. The website had 406 visitors and was the last round of public consultation for the addendum. The feedback, comments and technical studies from the investigative and consultation phase was collected to develop the Environmental Project Report Addendum.
The GO Rail Network Electrification Environmental Project Report Addendum has been posted on Metrolinx Engage and can be accessed here. The 30-day review period began on February 23, 2021 and will continue through to March 24, 2021. During this period, you are invited to read the report and share any questions and provide feedback to: [email protected] (East of Union Station); [email protected] (West of Union Station).