Toronto reports 2nd COVID-19-related death in its shelter system

A man in his 70s is the second person in the city's shelter system to die of COVID-19.

Man in his 70s who was resident at Seaton House died on Monday

The city reported on Wednesday the second COVID-19 death in its shelter system. A man in his 70s who was a resident at Seaton House died on Monday. There is an outbreak at the shelter. All residents have been tested and 28 of them have tested positive. (City of Toronto)

A man in his 70s is the second person in the city's shelter system to die of COVID-19.

Dr. Eileen De Villa, the city's medical officer of health, reported the death at a news briefing about COVID-19 in Toronto on Wednesday.

De Villa said the man had been a resident at Seaton House and died in hospital on Monday.

There is still an outbreak at the shelter, near Gerrard Street East and Jarvis Street, and 28 residents who have tested positive have been moved to a different site to go into isolation. The outbreak began on April 6, De Villa said.

All residents at the shelter have been tested. An outbreak is declared when two or more people in a shelter have tested positive for the virus.

De Villa said the outbreak will be declared over when there are no new cases in the shelter after 14 days.

"While this outbreak has been ongoing for a number of weeks, my team has confirmed that all of the appropriate measures are being taken to protect the health of residents and staff in this facility," De Villa said at city hall.

"We continue to carefully monitor this situation and my team is working hard with the staff at Seaton House to end this outbreak."

Toronto Public Health (TPH) has worked with the city to make sure there is infection prevention and control measures in place, physical distancing among shelter residents, enhanced cleaning and disinfection, and signs about handwashing and COVID-19 symptoms, she added.

9 homeless people in hospital with COVID-19

Mary-Anne Bedard, general manager of the city's shelter, support and housing administration, said the city is monitoring the situation closely and is in contact regularly with TPH to make sure its measures in the shelter system are adequate.

"It's always been our plan for as long as possible to keep COVID-19 out of the shelter system because we were aware of how vulnerable the clients were," Bedard told reporters.

"And we are working very hard to mitigate the harm that this virus does to this population."

Bedard said the city has moved more than 2,500 people experiencing homelessness out of shelters and tents and into housing in the last few weeks.

"We remain confident that our response is working well," she said.

Nine people experiencing homelessness are in hospital with COVID-19. Neither De Villa nor Bedard said how many of them are in intensive care units.

A 52-year-old man, Joseph Chibala, was the first person in the city's shelter system to die of COVID-19. He died in hospital on May 8.

Mary-Anne Bedard, the city's general manager of shelter, support and housing administration, says: 'It's always been our plan for as long as possible to keep COVID-19 out of the shelter system because we were aware of how vulnerable the clients were. And we are working very hard to mitigate the harm that this virus does to this population.' (CBC)

The city reported 169 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the cumulative total to 7,944.

A total of 634 people have died of COVID-19 in Toronto. A total of 5,655 people have recovered, an increase of 206 since Tuesday.

There are 127 outbreaks in long-term care homes, retirement homes and hospitals. Nine shelters have reported cases.

Tory 'very encouraged' by Ford's comments on TTC

Mayor John Tory, who also spoke at the news conference, said the Toronto Transit Commission will need financial investment from the federal and provincial governments to keep operations going now that the pandemic has greatly decreased ridership. The TTC board met online on Wednesday.

Tory said he was "very encouraged" by comments made earlier on Wednesday by Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who said he would "be at the table" when the time comes for a discussion about financial help. Ford added that the federal government needs to be involved.

"They'll need our support and we'll be there," Ford said. "We'll be at the table. But we can't do it alone. We need the federal government to support us. It's just too big of a ticket."

The TTC's ridership and revenue levels have been decimated by COVID-19, a new report shows. Now the question is whether the provincial and federal governments will step in with financial help for the transit agency. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

Ford and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were noncommittal, however, when they were asked on Wednesday if their governments will come up with a financial bailout for the TTC.

Trudeau and Ford said they're aware of the challenges that the TTC is facing, with Ford going as far as calling it "very concerning," but neither would commit to spending more to keep the transit agency running. 

In a new report, the TTC says its ridership and revenues figures are about 80 to 90 per cent below where they should be, and that it has already lost 63 per cent of the passenger revenue it expected to make in 2020.

Combined with the money the agency is spending to deal with COVID-19, it's losing an estimated $92 million a week. 

The TTC says it has talked to both governments to advise them on the situation. 

Tory added he has asked the TTC to provide "clear information and direction" to transit riders on how to maintain physical distancing when people begin to return to work.

City to look at areas where it can expand restaurant patios

Meanwhile, Tory said he has asked city staff from Transportation Services to provide him with a list of possible areas where restaurant patio space could be expanded on "appropriate" sidewalks and streets to help businesses that are suffering during the pandemic.

The mayor said he hopes to have the plan soon and he believes the expansion would be useful in the recovery period.

"I think not only could this provide us with a more enjoyable summer... but I also believe that it could be a lifeline for some of our restaurants and especially in light of the fact they will probably be required to have tables both inside and outside that are space further apart," Tory said.

"I think we can sweep away some of the red tape and get this done as a way of making the city even more friendly for everybody but also for our hard-working friends in the restaurant business."

Startup company to help restaurants with digital orders

At the news conference, Tory announced that the city has enlisted the help of a Toronto start up company, Ritual ONE, to provide businesses with a way to accept digital orders.

Ritual ONE helps restaurants and food service companies, including grocers, butchers, bakeries and coffee shops, with take orders from their own websites and social media accounts. Customers will be able to choose between pick-up and delivery.

Businesses that sign up for Ritual ONE by June 1 will receive the service free for life and will not pay any commission or monthly subscription fees on its orders. Businesses will be provided with an expert to help support them as they adopt the service. They can sign up for Ritual ONE here.

Councillor hopes to contribute to ActiveTO

Meanwhile, the city is also expected to reveal details this week about its ActiveTO plan, which will create a network of quieter streets so people can go outside while physically distancing from others.

On Wednesday, Coun. Mike Layton tweeted out a list of roads he's hoping will be part of that plan.

Also from city hall:

With files from Muriel Draaisma, John Rieti


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