The strain of COVID-19 is costing Toronto $65 million a week as revenues from deferred property tax, decreased transit use and increasing costs for things like personal protective equipment and additional shelter spaces, the city said Friday.
Mayor John Tory spoke of the increasing demands on the city at a news conference hours after Ontario unveiled worrying projections about the toll that the virus could take on the city, calling on the federal government to do more to support cities bearing the brunt of the spread.
“I was scared,” Tory said of his reaction upon seeing the projections. “I’m not ashamed to say that. Who wouldn’t be?”
Tory also announced the city could impose fines on anyone caught breaking a new bylaw prohibiting people from standing within two metres of each other in city parks and squares.
The city also announced Friday it is cancelling spring recreation, arts, and museum programs, meaning some 5,400 recreational workers normally hired at this time of year will not be.
The briefing follows the province’s unveiling of what Premier Doug Ford deemed “stark” modelling projections for COVID-19 in Ontario, suggesting 1,600 Ontarians could die by the end of April if nothing more is done to stem the spread. All told, the models suggest the virus could kill 3,000 to 15,000 people over the course of the pandemic.
As of Friday afternoon, Toronto reported a total of 812 confirmed cases of COVID-19, another 174 probable cases, with 89 people in hospital, 42 of which are in intensive care. The city has also seen 13 deaths.
Of the infections so far, 27 per cent have been identified as community spread.
Since Jan. 15, 2020, Greater Toronto Area public health units account for 53 per cent of Ontario’s more than 3,200 cases of the virus.
Meanwhile, the number of available intensive care beds in certain parts of the Toronto area is rapidly shrinking as the number of COVID-19 patients surges higher, according to data obtained by CBC News.
The bylaw will remain in effect for at least the next 30 days and is limited to interactions in city parks and squares, where where city officials say they are seeing the most problems with crowding. The bylaw is also limited to two or more people who don’t live together.
Toronto Public Health advised this week that people limit their time outdoors to essential trips, but the updated guidelines still allow for walking pets or getting daily exercise so long as physical distancing of two metres is possible.
The measures come as temperatures creep upward with the start of spring, with some converging on parks and boardwalks, raising concerns that the rules may not be being taken seriously enough.