Toronto – COVID-19 Update – Toronto continues to respond to COVID-19. Today, Mayor John Tory, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa and Fire Chief and General Manager of the Office of Emergency Management Matthew Pegg announced the City is requesting that Toronto remain in the Shutdown Zone under the provincial Lockdown Regulation and subject to the Stay-at-Home Order until March 9 at the earliest in order to protect the healthcare system and save lives.
Since the start of the pandemic there have been a total of 93,455 cases of COVID-19 in the city, an increase of 302 new cases today. There are 378 people hospitalized. To date, there have been 2,563 COVID-19 deaths in Toronto. In total, 86,749 people have recovered.
Dr. de Villa has asked the Province of Ontario to keep Toronto in the Shutdown Zone of the Lockdown Regulation and subject to the Stay-at-Home Order for an additional two weeks, until March 9th at the earliest.
The request stems from significant concern around new COVID-19 variants of concern (VOC) that are appearing in settings across Toronto. Variants have now been identified in long-term care homes, hospitals, a shelter and a meat packing plant. The extension of the regulation would allow public health officials to focus on the safe reopening of schools and monitoring the new variants in the city.
Dr. de Villa explained the current concerning situation in Toronto, characterizing today’s variant count as the tip of an iceberg. On February 13, Dr. de Villa and Peel’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence C. Loh wrote to Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, to request a two-week extension of the Lockdown Regulation-Shutdown Zone and Stay-at-Home Order in Toronto and Peel. In the letter, Drs. de Villa and Loh outline four critical reasons to delay the cities re-entering the provincial Response Framework on February 22:
1. Percentage of population vaccinated: While the City and healthcare partners have been able to vaccinate many long-term care and high-risk retirement home residents, staff and essential caregivers, Toronto and Peel currently have largely unvaccinated populations. With uncertainty related to supply, it is unclear when the City and partners will be able to continue to vaccinate large portions of the population.
2. Experience of other jurisdictions with variants of concern: Learning from other jurisdictions shows variant growth can be exponential without significant public health measures in place. A loosening of public health measures runs the significant risk of leading to another potential lockdown. As we have seen in other jurisdictions, such as the United Kingdom and Ireland, additional measures and strong lockdowns have been required to curb the increase of variant of concern transmission.