115 people have now died of COVID-19 in Toronto
Toronto has 2,543 cases as city takes stock of existing personal protective equipment
A total of 115 people have died of COVID-19 in Toronto, the city's medical officer of health said on Tuesday.
On Monday, Dr. Eileen de Villa had reported 92 deaths linked to the spread of novel coronavirus.
As of 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, De Villa said the city had 2,543 cases of the virus. Of this number, 2,257 are confirmed, while 286 are probable.
De Villa said 223 people are in hospital with 90 in intensive care units.
Sixty-eight of the deaths have occurred in the city's long-term care homes. There has been one death in a retirement home.
There are 38 outbreaks in long-term care homes and 14 in retirement homes in Toronto.
One of those outbreaks is at the Eatonville Care Centre in Etobicoke. The facility confirmed Monday evening that 25 of its patients had died. On Tuesday, Eatonville announced that number had risen to 27.
Medical officer extends condolences to families
De Villa expressed condolences to families that have lost loved ones to COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care and retirement homes.
"I'm truly concerned about the devastating impacts of COVID-19 that we are seeing at our long-term care homes and these are affecting our loved ones in the community," she said.
But she added: "While I completely appreciate the desire to know details about individual cases, our focus needs to be on managing our local outbreak response and protecting the privacy of these individual and their families during this difficult time."
De Villa said Toronto Public Health (TPH) has no plans to provide detailed data on cases per facility right now. "These numbers are constantly changing as situations evolve, often many times daily," she said.
TPH has been working with long-term care and retirement homes to implement infection prevention and outbreak measures, she said. These include:
- Initiating twice a day screening of residents and staff to monitor for COVID-19 symptoms and catch new infections as early as possible.
- Implementing physical distancing measures and cancelling all group activities.
- Enhancing cleaning particularly for frequently touched surfaces.
- Ensuring that personal protective equipment is used appropriately to minimize health risks.
De Villa noted that staff members working at any of the city's 10 long-term care homes run have been asked to choose the city as their primary employer and that will help to reduce the risk of exposure facing residents and staff in city-run homes.
To make it an easier choice for employees, the city has offered additional hours of work and overtime, she said.
"The staff working in long-term care homes are critical to keeping our loved ones safe. To do this they need to stay healthy. We need to protect them and our best line of defence is to reduce community transmission: stay at home as much as possible and, when you do go out, practise physical distancing," she added.
A new emergency order to be issued by the province on Tuesday will make it mandatory that staff only work at one facility to limit the spread of the virus among vulnerable seniors.
De Villa, along with Mayor John Tory and Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg, head of the city's emergency response team, spoke at a news conference at city hall.
New website created to help small businesses
The mayor, for his part, said the city is trying to draw attention to the creation of a new online donation platform, Distantly.ca, designed to help small businesses suffering massive losses. Tory said the city is fully supportive of the grassroots initiative, which he called a "free, secure, community crowdfunding tool."
The platform was developed through a partnership of the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA), a non-profit umbrella organization working with 83 Business Improvement Areas that represent more than 40,000 business and property owners, and Digital Main Street, an initiative that helps businesses launch an online presence.
Other partners included David McArthur, Enterprise, Totum Life Science, and Migeotte.
Tory said the platform will allow community members to donate to their favourite small businesses securely, using a directory, to help lessen the impact of the crisis.
He said residents can support main street businesses, such as coffee shops, restaurants and hair salons, that have been forced to close or cut back operations because they have been deemed non-essential.
The mayor said the donations will help businesses with such expenses as rent and payroll.
"One of my greatest fears is that Toronto comes through this crisis and sees its main street businesses decimated and our streets devoid of the activity that make our city's life, in normal times, so exciting and so fulfilling. And of course, these main streets, and all of that activity, keep the city healthy at the same time," he said.
"With this in mind, city staff are working on developing a range of solutions with partners in the community, while also continuing to advocate for additional support from the provincial and federal governments to ensure we don't lose our small-business community."
Local businesses can visit the website to set up a free account and contact their local Business Improvement Association for help.
The idea for the online donation platform, founded by Susan McArthur, a former partner at a venture capital fund, and Daniel Spataro and Moe Katib, co-founders of Buildable Technologies, came after Tory asked local companies at a TechTO event to provide ideas to help the city respond to the outbreak.
"We need more ideas like this," Tory added.
City takes inventory of existing PPE
Pegg, meanwhile, said the city is committed to ensuring front-line staff, including emergency responders, those working with people experiencing homelessness, and staff in long-term care homes, have the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need to stay safe and protect the city's health.
Pegg said PPE used the most by city staff in the fight against COVID-19 are surgical masks, N95 respirators, isolation gowns, face shields and medical gloves.
Respirators are used primarily by first responders, while other PPE is used largely in support of shelter and long-term care home operations, he said.
Currently, the city's PPE inventory is:
- N-95 respirators: the city has 107 days of inventory at today's consumption rate, 33 days at worst-case scenario consumption.
- Surgical masks: the city has 52 days of inventory at today's consumption rate, 25 days at worst-case scenario consumption.
- Isolation gowns: the city has 51 days of inventory at today's consumption rate, 18 days at worst-case scenario consumption.
- Face shields: the city has 26 days of inventory at today's consumption rate, 8 days at worst-case scenario consumption.
- Surgical gloves: constant inventory available.
In a worst-case scenario, there would be full-blown COVID-19 outbreaks at every city-run shelter and long-term care home and there would be significant community transmission, he added.
"The availability of quality PPE continues to be a very real global challenge. And we are continuing to work with our provincial partners to ensure our PPE needs continue to be met," Pegg said.