Toronto is launching a COVID-19 response initiative to focus more attention on certain hotspots throughout the city.
Mayor John Tory announced Monday that the city will be expanding their targeted response in parts of the city where case numbers are much higher.
Tory says he know these parts of the city are suffering through the pandemic much worse than others. He specifically pointed out the city’s northwest end and northeast Scarborough.
“We can’t stop the parts of COVID-19 in some parts of our city while it rages like wildfire in other parts. We owe it to the most vulnerable to ensure extra measures are provided.”
Health officials have been clear that citywide restrictions are necessary to fight the virus. But Tory says the lockdown must also be complimented with enhanced supports to protect essential workers while proactively targeting and providing specific help to the people and the areas that are hardest hit.
“The pandemic has exacerbated longstanding systemic health inequities,” says Tory.
He says these inequities are mostly correlated to things like poverty, racism and inequality.
The mayor says COVID-19 is spreading disproportionately in neighbourhoods with more minorities, people who live on low income and those who live in multi-generational housing.
These hotspot areas are experiencing significantly higher rates of COVID-19 transmission, lower testing rates and higher positivity rates compared to the rest of the city.
The city is immediately launching an urgent set of initiatives in targeted neighbourhoods. The initiatives include a broader and more inclusive sharing of public health information and better access to COVID-19 testing.
To address the lower testing rates, they hope to expand provincial testing sites by using city facilities and buses for mobile testing. They also want to expand the operating hours for these testing sites.
Tory says the city will intensify community outreach and engagement. This includes helping residents who face multiple barriers such as food support, income services and access to mental health support.
They also plan to provide more critical support to individuals who test positive and their families. For those who test positive and cannot work the city is working on ways to remove the threat of eviction.
He says people continue to go to work sick out of fear of losing their jobs. He wants to ensure all residents can get tested with confidence that a positive test won’t result in anyone losing employment.
“Right now people in the city of Toronto are waking up with COVID-19 symptoms, going to work, and giving the virus to their coworkers,” says Tory.
While city officials work on getting support from the province and federal government, staff will begin implementing parts of the plan this week. Including education and outreach initiatives.