Toronto has a total of 2,362 cases of COVID-19, city officials reported on Monday afternoon.
Of that number, 2,088 are confirmed, while 274 are probable. A total of 92 people have died of the virus in the city, according to Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city’s medical officer of health, as of 12:30 p.m. on Monday.
De Villa said 210 people are in hospital, with 80 of those in intensive care units.
A total of 39 long-term care homes have one or more cases. Fifty of the deaths have occurred in those homes, she said.
“As you can appreciate, I am very concerned about these outbreaks in long-term care homes and the devastating impact they have on our parents, our grandparents and our loved ones,” de Villa told reporters.
“We know that any infectious disease can spread faster in congregate settings like long-term care homes, and these settings are especially concerning because residents are generally older and more vulnerable to infection due to compromised immune systems or other chronic health issues.”
De Villa reported the numbers at an afternoon news conference at city hall. Mayor John Tory and Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg, head of the city’s emergency response team, also spoke.
Rate of infection slowing in care homes with high rates
Health officials, however, are starting to see that “stringent” outbreak control measures are beginning to have a positive effect, she added.
The rate of new infections is slowing in long-term care homes that have had a high number of cases, she said.
“I want to recognize the tremendous effort these outbreak measures involve. Hundreds of staff across all our long-term care homes are working tirelessly and are committed to protecting and caring for our loved ones in those settings.”
About 30 per cent of the cases are the result of community spread. She added it continues to be important to stay home and practise physical distancing.
“It is difficult, truly difficult, to witness the increasing impact of COVID-19 on our community, particularly on our city’s most vulnerable. We know that COVID-19 continues to circulate in Toronto.”
25 people experiencing homelessness have COVID-19
Meanwhile, in the city’s shelter system, 25 people who are experiencing homelessness have tested positive for the virus, according to Mary-Anne Bedard, general manager of the city’s shelter, support and housing administration.
The confirmed cases are in seven different homeless service settings in Toronto.
Earlier, Dr. Allison Chris, associate medical officer of health, said in an email to CBC Toronto that Toronto Public Health (TPH) is working to prevent further spread of the virus in its shelter system.
“Given that COVID-19 is spreading in our community, this is not unexpected, and we were prepared for the unfortunate situation of having cases in the shelter system,” Chris said.
When a person using the city’s shelter system tests positive, Toronto Public Health (TPH) investigates and works with the city’s Shelter Support and Housing Administration and shelter staff to reduce the spread of the virus to other people in the shelter and staff members.
TPH usually recommends:
- Identifying anyone who may have had close contact with the infected person and providing them with instructions to follow to stop the spread.
- Enhanced screening and monitoring for symptoms of staff and clients.
- Issuing referrals for testing and isolating people if necessary.
- Increasing cleaning, especially of high-touch surfaces.
- Taking steps to increase the amount of physical distancing at that shelter.
“All individuals experiencing homelessness, who are under investigation for or identified as COVID-19 positive, are being cared for by the appropriate health-care providers and facilities capable of providing safe isolation and observation consistent with public health direction.” Chris added.
City working to open COVID-19 recovery centre for homeless
TPH is working with Inner City Health Associates, a group of more than 100 doctors working in more than 50 shelters and drop-ins in Toronto to provide health care, and the Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network, to create a program at a COVID-19 recovery centre for people who are experiencing homelessness and have tested positive.
She said TPH has a location for the recovery centre and is working to ensure “all appropriate staffing, medical supports and facility requirements” are in place according to infection prevention and control standards. The standards are required to ensure the city can provide services to people with the virus safely.
“The site will be online very shortly and will be the product of an important collaborative effort between the city, community health and hospital sectors,” she said.
To prevent shelter staff from getting the virus, she said TPH is investigating all confirmed cases closely.
“This includes case investigation to carefully assess and investigate each situation to determine where a person may have gotten the infection and determine who they may have exposed,” she said.
City takes steps to improve distancing in shelters
As for homeless advocates who say the city is not doing enough to prevent the spread among people experiencing homelessness, the city said it has taken “significant preventative measures,” including opening nine facilities with more than 400 spaces to allow for more physical distancing.
The city added that the new temporary programs it has set up are required to meet the TPH guideline for physical distancing to protect people using the system and staff members.
“We have encouraged shelters to implement additional spacing between beds where possible. We will be expanding other program capacity in order to create additional physical distancing in the rest of the shelter system,” the city said n a statement.
“We are currently undertaking an assessment of what proportion of our existing shelter sites are able to meet the physical distancing guidelines and how to mitigate locations that aren’t able to meet that.”
People who are awaiting results will not be admitted into the regular shelter system, the city said. They will stay at a designated isolation site until they receive their result. And any person who tests positive for COVID-19 will remain in isolation until he or she recovers.