How a Toronto neighborhood called the coronavirus hotspot is pushing back COVID-19

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The Thorncliffe Park community says it is pushing back against COVID-19 and the “unfair” designation that it is a coronavirus hotspot, after three schools were forced to temporarily close due to an outbreak.
“We are worried and anxious,” said Ahmed Hussein with community group The Neighborhood Organization.

“We are concerned that people will think we are irresponsible, we are not taking the precautions that need to be taken – but I can guarantee you that the community is working very hard to take all the precautions and follow all the public health guidelines.”

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The Toronto District School Board has announced that the Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute is set to temporarily close its doors from Tuesday to Friday, December 18, after 14 students tested positive for COVID-19.

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Prior to that, Toronto Public Health closed Thorncliffe Park Public School after a series of tests resulted in 19 positive cases for COVID-19.

Fraser Mustard Early Learning Academy has also been temporarily closed after seeing seven confirmed cases of coronavirus in the past week and a half.

Hussein argues that the high number of positive cases is also due to his community ’embracing’ the COVID-19 test with open arms, encouraging as many members of their neighborhood to get tested as possible.

“The community has actually accepted that school children are tested to make sure everyone is safe,” he said.

“The community accepts the tests.”

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Thorncliffe Park has about double the tests run compared to its neighboring areas at more than 32 tests per 1,000 population for the week of November 22, which is the latest data available on the Toronto Public Health website.

The neighborhood test positivity rate was 10.6% for the same week.

Hussein says many members of the community are new immigrants with low-income work that usually involves an increased risk of catching the coronavirus.

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“Many members of our community are essential service workers, so they work in the food, transportation and health care sector,” he said.

“They have no choice, they have no sick leave, they have no vacation, they have to go. If they don’t go, they don’t get paid. ”

Hussein said community members opposed the stigma of their neighborhood being labeled a COVID-19 “hot spot” by the media and wanted to highlight how many of them have worked to help each other during the pandemic.

An example of this is a food bank run by The Neighborhood Organization, which the group says 800 families depend on for meals each week.

The volunteers who help out at the food bank, located in downtown East York, also go out of their way to help older members of the community.

“We have more than 50 people bringing food to the elderly at their doorstep and buying medicine for them,” Hussein said.

Another community member has taught new immigrants how to sew their own masks from discarded fabric because she says they are not able to purchase masks otherwise.

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“Not all people have jobs, they are not rich,” said Sediqa Nawrozian, who recently immigrated from Afghanistan, where she worked for women’s rights.

“They have economic problems or they don’t know how to get to the market because they are newcomers, there are language and cultural barriers.

She adds that the neighborhood organization has also put them in touch with a buyer who buys the masks they make at a fixed cost.

“Now they are very happy because they are selling the masks and making money,” she says with a smile. “I’m happy now too. ”

Nada Albaradan is a Syrian refugee and a grade 12 student at Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute.

She said she finds the stigma around her community “unfair” as she has worked for years to try to have a positive impact in her neighborhood, including teaching English to newly immigrated students at her school.

“I started helping other people because I went through situations that I didn’t find helpful, so it’s great to feel that you are able to provide this help.”


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