The city will create more space on sidewalks and curb lanes for pedestrians and delivery drivers to practise physical distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor John Tory says.
Under a new program called CurbTO, the city will make room at 10 “hot spots” or “pinch points” where it is challenging for people to keep two metres apart because of lineups or congestion outside essential businesses, Tory said Monday at a news briefing at city hall.
He made the announcement as Toronto closes in on 300 deaths due to COVID-19 and 5,000 cases of the novel coronavirus.
Tory said the program will be expanded to 100 locations soon at busy retail areas where there is a need for “curb lane installations.”
Staff will use signs and barriers to create the additional space, he added.
“Each location will have unique conditions that will be assessed carefully by Toronto Public Health and Transportation Services staff to develop the most appropriate solution,” Tory said.
“In some cases, city staff may be able to suggest line-up configurations to the business operator that alleviates crowding concerns. In other cases, a temporary curb lane closure may be the most effective response.”
Under the program, the city will create what it calls:
- “Curb lane pedestrian zones” in which pedestrians trying to move past lineups outside essential businesses will have more space.
- “Temporary parking pick-up zones” in which drivers delivering food and medicine will be allowed to park for up to 10 minutes near an essential business where they are picking up or dropping off goods. Those zones will be created in areas that are now restricted parking zones.
The 10 hot spots are:
- Carlton Street and Church Street – Pedestrian zone.
- Danforth Avenue and Broadview Avenue – Pedestrian and Parking zones.
- Dupont Street and Lansdowne Avenue – Pedestrian zone.
- Bay Street and Yorkville Avenue – Parking Zone.
- Front Street East and Berkeley Street – Pedestrian and Parking zones.
- Gerrard Street East and Parliament Street – Pedestrian zone.
- Gerrard Street East and Broadview Avenue – Pedestrian and Parking zones.
- King Street West and Spadina Avenue – Parking zone.
- Bloor Street West and Bathurst Street – Pedestrian and Parking zones.
- Queen Street East and Carlaw Avenue – Pedestrian zone.
Tory said officials from Toronto Public Health, Toronto police and the city’s transportation services worked with his office to draft what he called a “common sense approach” to areas where lineups have been unavoidable. Staff from councillors’ offices also helped.
Number of Toronto COVID-19 deaths nearing 300
A total of 297 people have died of COVID-19 in Toronto and a total of 2,670 people have recovered, Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city’s medical officer of health said on Monday.
De Villa, who also spoke at the news conference, said 308 people are in hospital with COVID-19 infections, with 104 in intensive care units.
Toronto has 4,973 cases, of which 4,493 are confirmed and 480 are probable.
One case involves a teen currently being treated at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. The teen is an isolation room in stable condition.
“I trust that patient is in very good hands,” she said.
De Villa said the number of people who have recovered from COVID-19 is “promising,” but added that there are many criteria that need to be met before the city can relax its restrictions.
Those considerations include a decrease in the number of new cases over time, sufficient acute and critical capacity in hospitals, availability of personal protective equipment (PPE), sufficient case and contact tracing capacity to contain community spread of the virus, and the ability to identify new suspected outbreaks rapidly.
“Our thoughts are with everyone who has lost loved ones to COVID-19,” De Villa said.
De Villa noted that public health measures are working, but said: “As I indicated last week, while we believe our rates of new infections are starting to level off, we are still in the middle of our local pandemic outbreak.”
Anxiety rising due to restrictions, medical officer says
Current restrictions mean many people are experiencing anxiety and are worried about the future, she added.
“I know these are exceptionally difficult times we are living through. Many of us are working from home, balancing child care, managing stress from local business closures, experiencing financial loss, and trying to adjust to these unique challenges all at once,” De Villa said.
“We are all trying our very best to cope with these adjustments that all outside of our control and affect our mental health.”
De Villa encouraged Toronto residents to do the following to preserve mental health: connect with others; be active; keep learning; be mindful; and give back.
City has new portal and dashboard to track PPE
Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg, head of the city’s emergency response team, said the city’s PPE management portal and dashboard is up and running at its emergency operations centre.
“This is a powerful tool that has been built in-house by our technology services team, in direct response to our needs during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said at the news conference.
Pegg said the portal tracks PPE inventory across the city and provides a number of analytical tools that will help the city to predict future PPE needs.
On the weekend, the city’s 311 line received and processed 3,427 calls, of which 2,081 were on Saturday and 1,346 on Sunday, Pegg added.
The majority of calls were for services related to concerns about wildlife, social waste collection and various city services. About 23 per cent were related to concerns about large gatherings and house parties and a lack of physical distancing in essential stores, trails, walkways and city parks.
As for enforcement, Pegg said five tickets were issued to non-essential businesses that were operating, 31 tickets were issued to people engaged in illegal activities in parks and seven tickets were issued to people gathering in large groups.