Toronto officials urge province to extend lockdown but reopen outdoor facilities

Toronto officials urge province to extend lockdown but reopen outdoor facilities-Milenio Stadium-Ontario
Volunteers give the thumbs up during a temporary COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the Woodbine racetrack and casino, in northeast Toronto, on May 5, 2021. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

More than half of adults in Toronto have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and officials say the city’s ramping up for its busiest vaccination week so far. 

Ontario probably won’t be ready to leave stay-at-home order on May 20, experts say

“This is a non-stop effort,” Mayor John Tory said in a statement Saturday, announcing the milestone. “It’s about saving lives and getting life back to normal. It’s about hope, summer, jobs, family and good health.”

“Now let’s get on to 65 per cent Toronto — on our way back to the lives we know and love,” Tory said.

That will likely happen by the end of May across Ontario, Health Minister Christine Elliott told reporters last week.

Greater Toronto and Hamilton area mayors have asked the province to provide more details as soon as possible about whether the stay-at-home will be extended beyond May 20.

“As the Victoria Day long weekend approaches, people and businesses have begun to ask perfectly reasonable questions as to where things will stand as of that time, so they can make plans of all kinds, business and pleasure,” the statement said Monday.

Last week, Ontario’s Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe said she’d be “surprised” if things opened up at the end of May. Elliott echoed that sentiment Monday, saying “we need to stay the course for right now.”

New cases slowing down

Elliott reported 807 new cases in Toronto, an encouraging sign the third wave may be plateauing after the city recorded more than 1,000 new daily cases throughout April. Toronto recorded 1,095 hospitalizations over the weekend while also seeing 269 patients moved into intensive care and 37 more die.

Still, the city’s data shows “some signs of improvement,” said Dr. Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health.

“We are starting to see signs for cautious optimism with small decreases in case numbers.”

She noted the number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations and active outbreaks are down.

Daily cases could be down to 400 by June 1, but only if the ongoing lockdown continues, de Villa said. She urged the province to extend its stay-at-home order.

The board passed a motion calling on the province to reopen outdoor recreation amenities, first closed in April to much criticism. Elliott has previously stated there’s no plans to change the rules around tennis courts or golf courses until cases significantly decline.

“This is a subject constantly being discussed by people in Toronto Public Health,” de Villa said.

The outdoors and warm weather are allies in helping people improve their mental and physical health in a way that reduces the spread of COVID-19, she said.

The board also urged the province to extend the allocation of 50 per cent of vaccine supplies to hot spot communities for an extra two weeks, for a total of one month.

Clinics add music, giveaways

More than 1.4 million doses have been administered in Toronto as of Monday, with many residents across the GTA hunting down vaccines through social media and word of mouth. It’s becoming common to see long line-ups outside pharmacies and pop-up clinics across the region.

Some community organizations are getting creative with their vaccine clinics, including the Jamaican Canadian Association that targeted Black residents and administered 2,231 doses this weekend. It offered Caribbean music and food. Most of the residents who were vaccinated at the clinic were between the ages of 18 and 30.

The clinic was designed to help address vaccine hesitancy and build immunity in the Black community.

“Everyone appreciated the joyful celebratory nature of the event,” Dr. David Burt, an immunologist with the city’s Black Scientists’ Task Force on Vaccine Equity, told the board of health Monday.

Peel, meanwhile, is planning a “doses after dark” campaign — a 32-hour vaccine clinic this weekend with the goal of administering 7,600 doses. It will run from 12:30 p.m. Saturday to 8:30 p.m. Sunday.

“This will be like no other Peel clinic held so far,” the region said in a news release. There will be “special guests” including Peel’s “most notable” doctors and vaccine administers “as we roll out the red carpet for our overnighters!”

There will be surprises, giveaways and a “shot clock” that tracks the number of doses.

This clinic is part of a greater push administer a record-setting 150,000 doses in the hard hit region this week.

Vaccines eligibility expands

Vaccine eligibility will expand this week to include people who:

  • Have an at-risk health condition such as dementia, diabetes and sickle cell disease on, as of Tuesday.
  • Cannot work from home, such as in essential retail, manufacturing, social services, courts, transportation, financial services, veterinarians and others, as of Tuesday.
  • Are 40 years and older in non-hot spot communities, as of Thursday.

The province also quietly expanded eligibility for Pfizer shots last week to all adults at select pharmacies, including 78 locations in Toronto and Peel Region.

It announced on Monday that frontline health-care workers will be eligible for their second dose by the end of this week, earlier than the four-month interval.


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