Toronto officials are taking steps to increase health measures in response to the worsening coronavirus pandemic, as the city has seen an increase of 500 per cent in the number of cases over the past two weeks.
Toronto Mayor John Tory made the announcement alongside Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, and Toronto’s general manager of emergency management, Matthew Pegg, at a news conference at City Hall on Wednesday.
It’s been 64 days since the first confirmed case in Toronto and 50 days since the World Health Organization gave the virus the name COVID-19.
On March 18, Toronto had 102 confirmed cases and 43 probable COVID-19 cases. Ten people were in hospital and four people in ICU (intensive care unit).
On March 23, numbers had climbed to 239 confirmed cases, 65 probable, 14 people in hospital and five in the ICU.
As of Tuesday, the end of March, there were 628 confirmed cases, 165 probable, 65 people in hospital and 33 in ICU.
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“In terms of our case counts, in the last two weeks, we have seen a more than 500 per cent increase in these counts,” de Villa said. “This is not a favourable projectory and as your medical officer of health responsible for protecting the city’s health, I am deeply concerned.”
“It is my belief that we must absolutely implement stronger measures to avoid the type of results that we’re seeing in places like New York City. One only has to look at the numbers to see what is happening there.”
De Villa implemented the following measures that will take effect immediately Wednesday for up to 12 weeks.
- All those confirmed positive are to stay home under the Health Protection and Promotion Act for 14 days.
- All those who have had close contact with someone confirmed positive are to stay home for 14 days.
- Everyone who is not sick or has not travelled is “strongly directed” to stay home except for the following essential needs: accessing healthcare or medication, groceries once a week, walking pets and daily exercise, while maintaining social distancing protocols.
- Residents returning home from international travel are to stay home, as directed by a federal order.
- Anyone over the age of 70 is encouraged to stay home as much as possible.
- The city is looking to increase support for those experiencing homelessness in regard to self-isolation.
- Only businesses deemed essential should remain open but are to practice maintaining social distancing protocols, infection prevention and control practices and limit in-person access.
- Businesses are also asked to increase cleaning and active screening of employees at all businesses.
Tory said they have drafted a bylaw to enforce the social distancing protocols and will bring it forward if people don’t begin to follow the new measures.
De Villa said she is speaking with the provincial government and health officials, who have just implemented the same measures.
She said she was also specifically looking to work with provincial partners to reduce the amount of businesses that are still open.
“I feel the need and obligation to you the residents of Toronto to use my powers as your medical officer of health to the greatest extent possible to save lives, to reduce the impact on our healthcare system and ultimately, as well, to mitigate social an economic impacts on our city.”
According to the City, Toronto’s retail sector is estimated to have already lost $291 million.
“Our Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa has been clear that the healthcare system depends on these actions – failure to do more will result in its inability to manage. That would cost lives,” said Tory.
“The sacrifices we are asking people to make now will save lives and allow for a quicker recovery.”