News conference COVID-19: March 21, 2020

Good afternoon everybody welcome to the
City Hall briefing on COVID-19 for Saturday, March the 21st today’s speaker order is Fire Chief and General Manager of the Office of Emergency Management, Matthew Pegg followed by City Manager Chris Murray and then Toronto’s Medical
Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa this briefing is being live-streamed on the
City’s YouTube channel with American Sign Language provided as well it was also available on WebEx for any media who are online. We will start with questions here at City Hall and then we’ll move online and back and forth and
and so on with that I will ask Chief Pegg to please give us his remarks, Chief. Thanks Brad, good afternoon in the
interest of time I won’t repeat what the City Manager is going to say about
the outstanding work the Toronto Public Service is continuing
to do to keep Toronto safe and resilient. However, over the past number of weeks
you’ve heard me commonly make reference to both essential City services and
critical City services. I would like to be very clear about what I mean when I make reference to essential City services. Essential City services include all of the following, all emergency services including police, fire
and paramedics and our dedicated 911 and emergency dispatch professionals who receive, process and dispatch emergency services each and every day Toronto Water staff who continue to
ensure our drinking water is reliable, safe and remains at the high standard we
have all come to expect. Shelter, Support and Housing staff,
who continue to ensure that our shelters and respite sites remain open. Long-Term Care staff who ensure that our long-term care homes continue to operate. Solid Waste staff who ensure that our garbage, organics and recycling collection
continues. Transportation staff who ensure that our roads remain safe and
open, including snow removal services, road maintenance and other related
functions. Toronto Hydro staff who are ensuring that our electricity remains
reliable. TTC staff who are ensuring that we continue to be able to move
efficiently and safely throughout the city. Our 3-1-1 staff, who continue to
ensure that our residents can get in contact with us when they need us. And of
course our amazing public health professionals who are on the front lines
of this pandemic each day. There are also many critical services that are
operating every day who are making it possible for the city’s essential
services to function. Examples of critical services include
Technology Services who ensure that our IT systems remain reliable. Procurement, Materials Management
and Finance staff who ensure that we are able to order, receive and
pay for the personal protective equipment and other supplies that we
need. Our mechanics, who ensure that the City’s fleet stays on the road. Our administrative professionals, lawyers and experts who ensure that the City is able
to efficiently and effectively respond to the ever-changing landscape that is
emerging and the list goes on. The City Manager is going to speak specifically
about many of these important functions and the actions the City is taking to
keep our city moving, healthy and safe. Yesterday we had questions about the
enforcement of the provincial orders that accompany the declaration of the
provincial COVID-19 emergency. The City will respond to concerns on a priority
basis but to be clear only the police can enforce these
provincial orders. As always the public can call 3-1-1 and we will investigate and if necessary request police to take appropriate action. The first course of
action however is always education. I want to be very clear about the
penalties associated with violating the the provincial orders as
these are very serious. An individual found guilty of violating these orders is subject to a fine of up to $100,000 and imprisonment of up to one year. A director or officer of a corporation who is found guilty of violating these
orders is subject to a fine of up to $500,000 and imprisonment of up to one year. A corporation who is found guilty of violating these orders is subject to
a fine of up to 10 million dollars. I also want to be clear that a person can
be found guilty of a separate offense on each day that an offence occurs. Our collective goal remains the same we need people and businesses to comply
with not only the orders but with the advice being provided by Public Health. Enforcement action will be taken when warranted and required, but I truly hope
that this is not required. This is all extraordinarily unprecedented for each of us. I want to thank the public service our team at the Emergency Operations
Centre and the public as we continue to adapt to changing circumstances on a
daily basis. I encourage everyone to make their first point of access for credible information about Public Health response and City
service impacts, and once again, please do not call 911 when seeking information
about COVID-19 or City services. 911 is for use in emergency situations requiring response by police, paramedics
or fire services. I will now invite City Manager
Chris Murray to address you. Thank you chief Pegg and good afternoon everyone. I want the public and importantly our workforce to know the very deliberate steps that
the City is taking to ensure both essential and critical services are
maintained but also everything we are doing as an employer to protect our
workforce from COVID-19. The health and safety of our employees, it should go
without saying, is one of my top priorities. It was when I joined it is
right now and it will be when all of this is behind us. It is one of the
reasons in fact the City took the extraordinary step of closing its
building to the public and scaling back some of its services, resulting in
employees who were not providing critical or essential services to be
able to leave the workplace. The decision and I want to be clear, was not made
because our workplaces are unsafe, on the contrary, we are taking every precaution
reasonable given the situation to make our workplaces safe as. As an employer we’ve taken several preventative measures to protect the health and safety of our
employees including, telework options wherever possible, following stringent
social distancing measures in the workplace, enhanced cleaning protocols
and methods to focus high touch points in workplaces, key information for staff
through regular communications, creating an employee email account that is
actively monitored and staffed with resources to respond to employee
questions, a dedicated employee support line that will be up next week that
employees can call. The establishment of a dedicated employee online portal for
all things COVID-19 and including educational information, tips
and best practices and mental health resources, signage throughout all City
facilities about proper hand-washing and social distancing measures such as no
more than three people in an elevator. As well, as preventive measures taken
specifically for our public facing employees include, implementing employee self-screening assessments by Toronto Fire and paramedics that are
conducted at the start of each shift. 3-1-1 conducting pre-screening assessments for essential home visits by services like Toronto Water. Screening of
employees entering the Emergency Operations Center will start tomorrow.
Conducting screening assessments at locations where our staff are providing
essential services such as such as at shelters and providing drivers with
hands sanitizers and wipes. Social distancing is a critical part of
all our collective efforts in Toronto in the response to COVID-19. Having much of
our workplace at home is in and of itself helping to contribute to the safety of
those who are required to come into work to keep essential and critical services
running. The City’s support to combat COVID-19 goes well beyond the absolute
need for first responders to be available. It also includes the need to
maintain the City’s fleet of vehicles keeping the TTC operational and ensuring
Toronto Hydro, Toronto Water, Solid Waste and Transportation staff are available.
You seen the work that Chief Pegg and his team are doing at the EOC. Critical
supports there include logistics, information technology support,
purchasing support, finance support communications support, community
supports as we’ve announced yesterday as well as administrative supports, I could
go on as the Chief has gone on and there are many things that are critical to the
way in which we run this organization. Each of these roles is critical in our
effort to combat COVID-19. None of us have ever seen anything like this before
and I think that’s true around the world. That we can all agree on is an
incredibly important opportunity for us to rise to the occasion. As the chief has
said repeatedly, we must remain nimble and flexible and if I can add, we’ve got
this as the Chief has said many times. We are after all public servants. That is
what we do and it is our job to earn each and every day your trust and
confidence. To that end City employees at home may be called in and redeployed to ensure continued delivery of critical services during this
unprecedented time. I know just how caring and committed that the City’s
workforce is and how much they care about this great city. I think is born
and bred in every single Toronto public servant to serve this community well and
I think we do that with tremendous pride. And I hear it constantly from people
about serving this community about wanting to help out in these times that
we’re facing. The services we provide are critical to the millions of residents
and businesses and I am thankful to have a dedicated and committed public service
that continues to show up and do an outstanding job during this extremely
difficult time. To them I simply say thank you. We are in this constant
contact with the various unions that represent our workers and I remain
committed to working together to ensure our workforce is safe, listened to and
cared for and with that I thank you. I’ll now ask Dr. de Villa to make her comments. Good afternoon and thank you Chris and
Chief Pegg. As you’ve just heard the city runs a number of services many of which
are critical to the millions of residents and the many businesses of our
city. One of these services is Toronto Public Health, your local Public Health
Department. At Toronto Public Health our key function at this time is leading the
response to COVID-19. A key component of our response is limiting virus spread by
encouraging people to limit their social interactions as much as possible. We are
doing this to protect the health and safety of all of our residents this
includes all those that are needed to provide essential services and essential
City services at this critical time. This is why I’m asking, once again, for
everyone to contribute to our public health response. To do your part by
working from home wear and if you can, By staying home except to get essential
supplies. By maintaining social distance or keeping six feet away from others
wherever possible. Staying at home keeping your distance from as many
people as possible helps to protect those providing essential and critical
services. It helps them to keep healthy so that they can do their jobs, so that
our city can run safely. Turning now to the situation in our city as of one
o’clock this afternoon, there are a hundred and ninety three confirmed cases
of COVID-19 in Toronto and ten people who are currently hospitalized. We continue
to see more cases of COVID-19 and yes, we do see community transmission. We are now also expecting an influx of returning travelers coming home from March Break
travel. Many of these travelers have recently been to areas work COVID-19 is
circulating. At this time my message to returning travelers is to stay home for
14 days even if you don’t have symptoms of illness. This is critical, it’s
critical to protect yourself, your family and your community. If you need to
restock your fridge or your cupboards, I would ask that you order your groceries
online. Order your supplies online, or ask a friend or family member to pick-up
these supplies for you. In closing I’m asking everyone, everyone to please make
every effort and to take every opportunity to practice social
distancing. We all have a responsibility to help reduce virus spread. So please
stay home, stay safe and take care of each other. Thank you and we’re happy to
take any questions. Melissa from City TV. So yesterday we had our first positive case of the virus found in a client at a
homeless shelter, I know other municipalities have looked at relocating
at people within the homeless shelters in order to make sure that they stay
safe what are we looking at here in the city to also ensure their safety. So there are a number of collaborations and collaborative efforts that happen that
have happened I should say between Toronto Public Health and our colleagues
at Shelter Support and Housing Administration and I might just turn it
over to Mary-Anne Bedard to speak more specifically to that. For those online, Mary-Anne Bedard is the General Manager of Shelter, Support and Housing. So thank you for the question. We have taken every precaution based on public health
standards and the advice of Dr. de Villa and we will continue to do that.
We have been rapidly rehousing people permanently into housing. This week alone
we housed 15 people into permanent housing. We’ve opened up new programs to create the opportunity for social distancing in existing programs. We’ve
created new space for people to self isolate due to travel or exposure. We’re
the first in Canada to create a medically supported isolation site for
people while they wait for test results. We’ve increased hotel accommodation for
people in shelter. We’ve implemented screening processes at all points of
entry in person and on the phone for those seeking shelter. We’ve supported
enhanced measures for infection prevention and control and we’ve also
identified now a location for COVID-19 recovery for people who are in the
shelter system who have been infected. We’re also still seeing massive lineups
across the city at grocery stores people coming in to really close proximity with
one another. What are your message to those people? Is
there anything that can be done to sort of mitigate that and separate these
people while they are going to the grocery stores and trying to get their
supplies? So, we do appreciate that people are trying to get their supplies through
the grocery stores and that’s one those essential needs that people need
to continue meeting for themselves and for their households. So we’re strongly
encouraging businesses and we’ve made the strong recommendation that social
distancing as much as possible should be respected. So I think this is a community
effort, right, we’re talking about how do we achieve social distancing for
ourselves for our families and for our whole community. So at an individual
level, trying to go at you know less busy times would certainly help with respect
to reducing crowding and increasing social distancing. That can be done at an
individual level. However there are things many opportunities I would say
for businesses in our community to enhance social distancing, so they can
create you know different hours for different sub-populations they can
actually create and delineate spaces for people to to create you know six feet
between those who might be lining up or seeking to purchase and pay for their
items. We know that there are self-service checkouts so you don’t have
to interact with other people but certainly line management, store
management, crowd management, these are things that businesses do on a regular
basis or have to do from time-to-time and we would encourage businesses to
engage in those kinds of efforts in order to reduce crowding and to increase
social distancing. Okay we’ll go online now to Talia Ricci from CBC go ahead
Talia. Actually, I don’t have any questions, my question was answered already. Okay thank you we’ll come back here then to Beatrice from CP24 Dr. de Villa, we’re
hearing a lot today from doctors especially concerned about personal
protective equipment certainly if these physicians nurses don’t have this
equipment they can’t treat people who have COVID-19. We heard from the
premiere today asking for manufacturers to come forward and help this situation
as well. How dire is the situation here in the City of Toronto when it
comes to these supplies. Do we have enough. So, that’s an interesting question
and I’ve heard that there are many challenges with risk
to personal protective equipment and supply. That is an area that is within
the realm of the responsibility of our provincial counterparts so we’ve let
them take the lead that is their area. So I can’t comment specifically on that. We
would encourage people in our community including primary care providers to do
active screening to try to minimize the you know need for personal protective
equipment to be used and to protect themselves and their environments
in the mean time, but so far what we have done is when we have heard of challenges
and issues from our primary care providers in our community we’ve done
our very best to connect them with the appropriate people in the provincial
government at the ministry in order that they can address their concerns as
quickly as possible. My second question is about playgrounds, we heard heard the last couple days he’s saying playdates are not part of social distancing but yet
we’re still seeing families and I’ve personally seen lots of them at
playgrounds across the city. What can we do to get that message across and is
there consideration to actually shut down these playgrounds or put up signage
to say do not use this equipment. So we do want to strike an appropriate balance here. It getting outside getting physical activity and and certainly providing
children that opportunity to burn-off some energy, we can all appreciate why
that’s important. The issue here is around how do we maintain social
distancing. How do you keep six feet apart from others as much as possible
wherever possible and we realize that there isn’t perfection, you know
perfection is impossible to achieve. However there are a number of things
that can be done and are being done, so signage is one of them. Reminding
people to keep you know that six foot distance wherever possible. I think the
other important thing here of course is to the reminders of hand-washing and
good personal hygiene. These are important things to protect oneself and
one’s children these are the things that I think we can do to try to create that
balance, so that people do have that opportunity. Kids need to get outside.
Good to expend some physical energy. Good to get some physical activity. How
to do that as safely as possible is where we’re trying to move people
towards. So your help with that and getting that message out there would be
very much appreciated. Is signage going up? Yes, it is. Any other questions? Anybody
online have a question? One more here… We’ve been talking about social
distancing a lot and how we need to flatten the curve and that window is
getting narrow. We’re seeing that a lot of people are complying however
yesterday while seeing the young people waiting in line for that video game over
at EB Games obviously dangerous proximities are we just not getting to
the young people in our city or is a messaging just not clear enough what are
we doing anything in order to get through to the younger generation that
might not be getting the message. Well I think that in public health practice you know whether we’re talking about an infectious disease outbreak situation or
even in you know standard times, changing behavior is difficult, right? Whether
you’re young or old changing behavior is difficult. So I think first and foremost
we need to recognize that that is not an easy thing to do and that’s certainly
what I’ve been trying to say through my messaging that I recognize that this is
not easy. but we continue to try to reinforce the
message, we continue to put the message out there and to describe very clearly,
very specifically, what it is we mean by social distancing and social distancing
is a bit of a it’s a it’s an unusual term I would say. Really what it means is
is physical distancing, keep six feet away from others wherever possible. So I
think that’s a relatively simple message behavior change is not simple, so we
continue to repeat the message and I would encourage businesses as well, we
can’t put it all on the all on the individuals we can encourage individuals
but we know that business owners have an opportunity to play their part and have
a responsibility as well. So I would encourage businesses to make
it easy for people to keep that six foot distance. Putting tape on the ground
showing where six you know what six feet apart looks like is one very simple
measure that can be done to support people in doing the right thing. Further to that, what we’ve, in our newsroom at CP24, we’ve heard a lot of concerns from
retail workers specifically who say why am i still going to my job every day at
a at a business who in all likelihood is not an essential service but there are
still people coming in to shop. Malls have certainly reduced hours but they
are still open some stores are still staying open. What’s your message to
these these people who are frustrated that they haven’t had that opportunity
to stay home despite not working in an essential or critical service? Well I think this is an ongoing conversation right now with individuals in our
community and with business owned business owners. We are trying to
encourage that social distancing this is incredibly important in terms of
reducing virus spread and we recognize that there are some businesses that need
to continue running in order for the city to continue to function. In order
for people to continue to be able to live. We talked about groceries, we talked
about medications so they’re clear clearly some stores and some businesses
that need to continue to operate and the the really strong message here is for
those who need to continue to operate for those whose services and products
are necessary in order that life in the city can continue, we would encourage
them to take every opportunity to encourage social distancing, to promote
social distancing and it may be just as simple as indicating to customers you
need to stand this far apart from each other in order to maintain that physical
distance and to keep us all safe. Okay, thank you everybody for coming. you

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