Toronto’s High-Risk Communities Need Much More Support, COVID-19 Awareness Officers Say

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After spending nine months and planning to do health awareness work in his home community of Thorncliffe Park, Aamir Sukhera fears that slowing the spread of COVID-19 has become an almost impossible task.“It’s a 1.5 kilometer radius of giant towers with thousands of people,” said Sekhra, who is part of the local nonprofit The Neighborhood Organization.

“So we expected to have a lot of cases, we just didn’t think it would be that high. ”

Like many low-income and high-density neighborhoods in Toronto, rates of COVID-19 in Thorncliffe Park have exceeded other areas of the city during much of the pandemic.

According to data from Toronto Public Health, the region has 649 cases per 100,000 population, almost three times more than neighboring Leaside.

These numbers are the result of a combination of deep-rooted systemic issues and a lack of support for low-income residents, according to several community health organizations in Toronto. Addressing these challenges becomes an increasingly urgent task, they say, as the city enters another lockdown and seeks to push back the second wave of the pandemic.

The high-rise apartment buildings that tower over Thorncliffe Park can make it difficult for residents to avoid contact with others, local health workers say. (Muriel Draaisma / CBC)

“We don’t want to be a burden on the rest of our city,” Sukhera said. “But the circumstances here prevent people from doing what’s right for the community as a whole. ”

He said dense skyscrapers, multigenerational homes and a workforce dominated by essential frontline workers have made it difficult to slow down the novel coronavirus.

“Now is the time to put resources in the hands of those who need them most,” added Cheryl Prescod, executive director of the Black Creek Community Health Center, where local COVID-19 cases have reached 773 percent. 000 inhabitants.

Toronto deploys ‘enhanced’ supports

The city of Toronto announced on Monday what it calls enhanced COVID-19 support for communities in the city’s northwest and northeast corners.

These improvements include initiatives around testing, including the introduction of some mobile testing and transportation to other testing sites, as well as an education and awareness program that will draw on local agencies.

“We owe it to the most vulnerable to make sure that additional measures are provided, additional supports are provided in their fight against COVID-19,” said Mayor John Tory.

The province has also noted the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities like Thorncliffe Park and Black Creek. In a COVID-19 modeling update Thursday afternoon, provincial public health officials said “long-standing structural factors” increased the risk of disease.

But despite these acknowledgments of inequity and expressions of support, community outreach workers say authorities are not doing enough to help residents living in the city’s pandemic hotspots.

Cheryl Prescod, of the Black Creek Community Health Center, said cases “won’t come down if we don’t intervene quickly.” (Zoom)

Sukhera said programs to help COVID-19 patients pay rent and eat are essential. Without them, he said people could not be reasonably expected to strictly follow public health recommendations because being tested or self-isolating could mean losing a paycheck.

“There is the right thing to do, and everyone knows what it is,” Sukhera said. “But in their defense, they still have to pay the rent and not have their families evicted from their homes. ”

Despite these obstacles, Prescod of the Black Creek Community Health Center said his organization will continue its outreach work throughout the winter.

She said she hoped that gains could be made, but not without additional help for communities like hers.

“Without proper resources and sufficient funds to fix some of our faulty systems, we cannot hold onto this hope for very long.

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