Toronto is recalling more than 60,000 faulty surgical masks that were distributed to workers at long-term care homes in late March.
The news comes as city officials announced 10 more deaths in Toronto due to COVID-19 at their daily briefing on Tuesday, a more than 30 per cent increase since Monday.
The masks were reportedly tearing and ripping while in use, and the city has now determined the equipment did not meet safety standards.
The 62,600 masks were distributed to long-term care homes on March 28. The city says it is trying to determine how many workers used the masks after they were delivered, and if any employee was exposed to the novel coronavirus while using the masks.
The masks were distributed at three long-term care facilities with confirmed COVID-19 outbreaks: Seven Oaks, Kipling Acres and Lakeshore Lodge.
“The loss of this inventory makes for a significant shortfall of surgical masks for the city,” said Toronto Media Relations in a news release Tuesday.
The city is now turning to its stockpile of surgical masks as a stop-gap measure, but said it is moving quickly to place a new order. Toronto has asked the Ontario government to help expedite the order.
“All future orders of personal protective equipment will now undergo additional scrutiny and verification,” said fire chief Matthew Pegg at the Tuesday news conference.
Toronto said it spent $200,000 on the masks, which the vendor has agreed to refund. In an email, city spokesperson Brad Ross said Toronto will not release the name of the company “as there may be legal recourse in the future.”
Number of dead rises to 42
The city’s announcement of 10 more residents dying of COVID-19 brings the death toll to 42.
Toronto is now reporting 1,449 total cases, including 1,218 confirmed cases and 231 considered probable.
There are 142 patients in hospital, down from 145 hospitalizations reported on Monday. There are 63 patients in intensive care units, three more than on Monday.
Eighty-two people have recovered from the virus.
City reports COVID-19 case at Seaton House
Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city’s medical officer of health, reported a case of COVID-19 at Seaton House, a Toronto shelter. The man and a person with whom he shared a room are now into self-isolation. Toronto Public Health (TPH) is following up with close contacts.
TPH is also working with Seaton House staff to ensure infection prevention and control measures are in place and people at the shelter are practising physical distancing to protect other residents and staff, De Villa said.
These infection prevention and control measures include: enhancing cleaning and disinfection of the shelter; signs prominently displayed about hand washing; and active screening of staff and clients.
The city is reducing capacity at the shelter and limiting the use of bunk beds. Twenty people at the shelter have been moved to hotels. More will be moved by the end of the week to limit the spread of the virus, De Villa added.
City workers to clean up mess left at donation boxes
Toronto Mayor John Tory announced on Tuesday that city solid waste management services workers have launched a blitz to collect items dumped at overflowing clothing drop boxes. He said people have been dropping goods off even though the boxes are full, and they have been leaving their garbage behind as well.
The workers will pick up the items left around the bins and clear the areas surrounding them, he said.
“These boxes play an important role in the city — they help reduce waste and raise money for worthwhile charities. Right now, in response to COVID-19, many charities are not accepting donations or emptying boxes,” the city said in a news release on Tuesday.
“The city urges all residents who want to make a donation to confirm with charities whether or not they are currently accepting donations. Illegal dumping of garbage by donation bins is not permitted.”
Earlier this week, Diabetes Canada issued an open letter to community leaders and elected officials to help raise awareness about the issue.
The association, which stopped donation pickups on March 23 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, had said the bin situation was “posing a serious health and safety issue.”
City fields hundreds of complaints, issues 12 tickets
Toronto on Monday received 385 complaints about people using amenities in closed parks and not respecting physical distancing regulations, though enforcement officers issued only 12 tickets related to those violations.
Pegg said the city has now issued 26 tickets since it began enforcing new bylaws to enforce physical distancing in parks and squares on Saturday, April 4.
He said parks are now quieter than on the weekend, but pointed to persistent concerns about the use of off-leash dog parks, playgrounds and skateboard parks, which are all closed. He said people are also playing ball hockey, soccer and basketball at city facilities.
The city is urging residents to “find creative ways” to connect with family as Passover and Easter arrive later this week.
On Monday, Tory said residents should do their grocery shopping as soon as possible, in order to avoid the possibility of larger crowds closer to the weekend.