Toronto deploys ‘targeted’ COVID-19 response for ‘red light’ neighborhoods

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Toronto is launching an enhanced COVID-19 response program targeting some of the city’s worst-affected neighborhoods.

Mayor John Tory announced the program during the city’s COVID-19 update on Monday, as Toronto was under a provincial lockdown in an attempt to curb the spread of the disease.

“We cannot stop the spread of COVID-19 in parts of our city as it rages like wildfire in other parts of the city and we owe it to the most vulnerable to ensure that further measures are provided, additional supports are provided in their fight against COVID-19, ”Tory said. “We have to fight this virus everywhere, and we have to stop it everywhere.”

Data collected by Toronto Public Health has shown that the number of cases and positivity rates are higher in some areas of the city while testing rates are lower, particularly in the northwest corner of the city and northeast of Scarborough.

Tory said data shows the virus has a disproportionate impact on people who are indigenous, black or racialized, have insecure jobs, live in low income, live in multigenerational housing, or find it difficult to find a home. take time off work when they are sick.

“We are stepping up our support plan to address this issue, in partnership with 11 highly trusted community partners,” Tory said. “The city is immediately launching a series of urgent initiatives in targeted neighborhoods to increase support and testing for residents of COVID-19 hotspots.

“It’s an effort of all hands on the bridge. Every part of city government that we can mobilize is involved.

These measures will include wider sharing of public health information, better access to testing for COVID-19, as well as “essential supports” for those who test positive and their families to address the reluctance to test. .

Tory said the city is working to increase the number of provincial testing sites, use buses for more mobile testing, and provide more transportation to testing sites with extended hours.

The city also continues to pressure upper echelons of government to continue or implement other support measures to help the most vulnerable.

In particular, Tory said the city is renewing a demand for the province to continue to ban residential evictions during the pandemic.

Another major problem affecting parts of the city is the reluctance to get tested for fear that a positive test will lead to loss of income.

“Right now, people in the city of Toronto are waking up with symptoms of COVID-19, going to work and passing the virus on to their co-workers. Why, because they fear losing their job and / or their paycheque, and they feel pressured to continue working without getting tested so they can put food on the table, ”Tory said.

Tory said current federal and provincial supports for workers who need to take time off to self-isolate are either inadequate or well understood. He said he raised the issue with federal and provincial ministers, but in the meantime he calls on employers to “do the right thing” by supporting workers who have to take time to isolate themselves because they have tested positive or have symptoms.

Following Tory, Toronto’s medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa reiterated that many frontline workers rely on those who can stay home as much as possible to do so.

“We owe it to them, to those of us who can choose to separate more than others. We owe it to them to choose wisely and in a way that limits the risk for those who do not have a choice to separate, and who are even more at risk of becoming ill because of it, ”said de Villa. “This is more true for some communities in Toronto than for others.

De Villa said she remained “very concerned” about the direction the city is taking in terms of progress in the fight against the pandemic and urged people to reduce unnecessary travel and interactions in order to do their part.

“I urge you to act with the care and caution we all demonstrated last spring,” she said. “As I have said time and time again, with every choice we are able to make, we can reduce the likelihood of worse infection rates and lessen the shock of what is yet to come.”

She said the ability to allow Christmas gatherings and other events next year depends on the city’s ability to contain the spread of the virus during the current lockdown.

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