In its first-ever virtual meeting, Toronto city council unanimously voted Thursday to extend Mayor John Tory’s state of emergency declaration until the COVID-19 municipal emergency has ended.
The state of emergency was declared on March 23 on the advice of Toronto’s medical officer of health and the Office of Emergency Management.
Thursday’s vote included extending the new physical distancing emergency bylaws, to retain physical distancing regulations in parks and public squares for the duration of the COVID-19 municipal emergency. It happened as the city updated its pandemic-related death toll to 347, with 5,360 residents having tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
“I am proud of how the city has responded to this ongoing emergency,” Tory said.
“In the face of these challenges, great work has been done quickly by Dr. Eileen de Villa and her public health team, the emergency operations centre led by Chief Matthew Pegg, and staff across each city division, under the leadership of our City Manager Chris Murray,” he continued.
“I want to thank the hundreds of thousands of Toronto residents who have done the right and the responsible thing and helped us in this ongoing war to flatten the curve and defeat this virus. You have saved lives. And by continuing to do the right thing and stay home as much as possible, you are continuing to save lives during this emergency.”
Several of the day’s items related directly to COVID-19 and Toronto’s ongoing efforts to protect residents and slow the spread of the virus.
The meeting, which was held online to comply with provincial rules limiting the size of gatherings, streamed live on YouTube.
Councillors called into the meeting from their home offices and kitchens. The digital gathering featured a few minor hiccups as some councillors fumbled with their mute buttons when attendance was called to start the meeting.
Speaker Frances Nunziata was the only councillor physically present at city hall, where she and a small team of city clerks coordinated the meeting.
The declaration of a municipal emergency is part of the city’s ongoing efforts to stop the spread of the disease.
In a news release the city said this extension will ensure the municipal government can continue to respond quickly to the emergency, administer other necessary city business, plan for recovery and focus on protecting the health of all residents.
In extending this declaration, the city is strongly encouraging residents to continue staying home as much as possible, keeping their distance from one another, protecting the vulnerable and reducing the impact on the health-care system.
Thursday’s sitting was the council’s first ever virtual meeting amid the ongoing pandemic.
The special meeting, called by Tory in accordance with provincial regulations limiting group gatherings, included only motions deemed urgent by the mayor.
“I believe it will be a while yet before we can gather again in person,” Tory said during his opening remarks.
“But I’m committed to making sure that we have regular meetings to deal with urgent business.”