Toronto

Toronto Public Health failed to conduct contact tracing for 52 patients who tested positive for COVID-19

Toronto Public Health failed to conduct contact tracing after receiving 52 reports of patients who tested positive for COVID-19 between March 21 and April 6, the city's medical officer of health announced Friday. 

‘There is no increased risk to our community and our population,’ medical officer of health says

Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city's medical officer of health, speaking at a news conference on Friday. (CBC)

Toronto Public Health failed to conduct contact tracing after receiving 52 reports of patients who tested positive for COVID-19 between March 21 and April 6, the city's medical officer of health announced Friday. 

At a news conference Friday afternoon, Dr. Eileen de Villa said she wanted to assure residents that all 52 people were aware of their positive diagnosis at the time, and isolated. themselves appropriately

"As such, there is no increased risk to our community and our population," de Villa said.

"This occurred, unfortunately, because there was an error in how these lab reports were received," she added.

"Upon learning of this matter late yesterday evening, I immediately asked my team to take action to correct this situation. I also asked them to determine how this happened  and to work to ensure that it does not happen again," de Villa added.

5,796 cases of COVID-19 in Toronto

As of 11 a.m. Friday, there are 5,796 people infected with COVID-19 in Toronto, de Villa said.

This includes 5,230 confirmed cases and 566 probable cases.

There are 350 people in hospital, of which 112 are in intensive care units.

In total, 394 people have died of COVID-19 in Toronto since the outbreak began.

6 staff, 1 child test positive for COVID-19 at Jesse Ketchum centre

The medical officer of health also provided an update on the outbreak at Jesse Ketchum Early Learning and Child-care Centre, one of the city's seven licensed locations providing care for the children of essential and critical care service workers

She said six staff and one child have tested positive for COVID-19, while two children have tested negative. 

WATCH: Dr. Eileen de Villa speaks about COVID-19 outbreak at Jesse Ketchum Centre

Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city's medical officer of health, provided an update on Friday to cases of COVID-19 at Jesse Ketchum Early Learning and Child-care Centre.  1:13

"My team continues to work with Children's Services and Public Health Ontario to manage this outbreak," de Villa said.

"This includes reviewing the infection prevention and control protocols in place at these centres to see if changes can be made to prevent infection from spreading in these important centres.

"My team is completing a thorough investigation of all cases and their contacts to determine where they may have gotten their infection and to whom they may have spread it," de Villa added.

Toronto to celebrate a virtual Canada Day due to COVID-19

Meanwhile, Toronto will join other municipalities across Canada in celebrating a virtual Canada Day on July 1 to stop the spread of COVID-19 and save lives, Mayor John Tory announced Friday.

"This emergency situation is changing the way we do many things, including for this year how we will celebrate Canada's birthday," Tory said at an afternoon news conference.

"It falls upon me to share this sad, but I believe sensible, news with you about Canada Day in Toronto in 2020."

Tory said all in-person Canada Day events will be cancelled. These include:

  • Fireworks at Ashbridge's Bay, Centennial Park, Milliken Park, Stan Wadlow Park and Weston Lions Park.
  • Celebrations in Mel Lastman Square.
  • Scarborough's annual Canada Day event.
  • Centennial Park Canada Day Celebration.
  • East York Canada Day parade and festival.

"Believe me, I'm as disappointed as you are about the cancellation of these events … but we just can't this year, out of caution and out of an overriding concern for public health," Tory said.

WATCH: Mayor John Tory announces virtual Canada Day for 2020:

Toronto Mayor John Tory shared the 'sad,' but 'sensible' news that all city-led and city-permitted Canada Day events will be canceled. 1:22

Meanwhile, with sunny spring weather forecast for Toronto this weekend, there seems to be a gulf appearing between the mayor and the city's top doctor about whether or not residents should go outside.

Sunday's day-time high is expected to be 21 C, Environment Canada says, with a mix of sun and clouds throughout the morning and afternoon. Given that many people have been staying mostly at home for weeks now, the lure of the outdoors may tempt even those most dedicated to sheltering in place.

Mayor John Tory announcing at a news conference on Friday that Toronto will celebrate a virtual Canada Day due to COVID-19. (CBC)

Tory acknowledged as much in an interview with CBC Radio's Metro Morning on Friday.

"I know people are going to go outside. It's going be a glorious day on Sunday — that first day we have every spring where you feel like you can feel the warmth of the sun and you just want to be outside," he said.

"I just think if people are careful and they're mindful of the two metres [of physical distancing] they can go to the park, even though I know we're supposed to be telling them to stay home."

Indeed, "stay home" has been the consistent message from de Villa. She has repeatedly said that residents should only go out for essential travel, though she has encouraged exercise as a way to stay physically and mentally fit during the emergency measures that have been in place since March.

"But try to limit the amount of time that people are out there, so as not to risk crossing paths and inadvertently spreading COVID-19 or fuelling the spread of COVID-19 in our city," de Villa said in her own interview with Metro Morning.

Warm weather in Toronto on April 2, 2020, draws people outside despite warnings from the prime minister to stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

She added that she hopes a "majority of people" will continue to stay home whenever possible, despite the nice weather on the way.

"It's really important in terms of ... building on the success we've had thus far in managing COVID-19 in our community. We want to get our city back, to return to something resembling normal. And I think the fastest way for us to do that is to continue to stay the course," de Villa told guest host Jill Dempsey.

The medical officer of health's primary concern is that in a place as dense as downtown Toronto, people outside may find themselves in a large group even though they intended to maintain proper distancing measures.

The Waterfront Business Improvement Area, which represents a coalition of businesses in the popular lakefront area in and around Queen's Quay, echoed those concerns this week. The organization sent out a news release Friday morning encouraging residents to avoid peak times at the waterfront, namely between the hours of 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. 

"The water is always a popular destination for people who want to get out and enjoy the warm weather," said Tim Kocur, executive director of the Waterfront BIA.

"But public health is paramount right now. We encourage everyone to stay at home or visit during non-peak hours if you do choose to visit the waterfront this weekend."

Confusing messages

De Villa said she understands that the messaging may be frustrating, and, in some instances, rather confusing. 

Earlier this week, for example, B.C.'s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry encouraged residents there to get outside. Speaking to reporters, Henry said that the risk of COVID-19 transmission outside is "infinitesimally small" in most circumstances.

But not all jurisdictions can follow the same advice, de Villa said.

As for Tory, he said he is confident that residents will take responsibility and ensure they are maintaining safe physical distancing.

"I know the medical officer of health says people should stay home. And I know that's her first choice because it's simpler to not have to worry about how close people are to each other. But I'm realistic," he explained.

"My hope is that we're to the stage now where people are familiar enough with what they're being asked to do in the interests of getting this emergency over with and getting back to more normal life that people will separate themselves."

With files from Desmond Brown, Metro Morning and Lucas Powers

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