COVID-19 in Toronto: Cancellation of major festivals extended, city-run summer camps called off
On Friday, city reported a total of 657 deaths linked to COVID-19
Toronto officials extended the cancellation of major festivals and called off all city-run summer camps and recreation programs on Friday, as the city continues to grapple with infections and deaths related to COVID-19.
Mayor John Tory made the announcements at a news conference, adding that parents who have already paid to enroll their children in summer camps will have their money refunded in the coming weeks.
City officials say they are working on a possible alternative that would serve about half as many children as usual, which would depend on both the province lifting current orders and on the recommendations of Toronto Public Health.
"We know how important these camps are ... and we know they are a fun part for many in the city," Tory said Friday.
"Nothing is more important than the health of our children — we just cannot put them at risk."
WATCH | John Tory cancels all city-run summer camps to 'protect the health' of children
The cancellation of city-led and city-permitted festivals, meanwhile, has been extended "to slow the spread of COVID-19," the city said in a news release issued Friday.
Festivals and events with an attendance of more than 250 people have been called off until at least July 31, while those with an attendance of 25,000 people or more will be cancelled until at least August 31.
Those events include Salsa on St Clair, Toronto Outdoor Art Fair, Beaches International Jazz Festival, Jerkfest, and Taste of the Danforth, among others.
"Major summer festivals and events require long lead times for planning, rely on city sites, supports or permissions, and present higher public-health risks given limits to physical distancing and exposure to attendees from outside the area," the city said in the release.
The city has also previously announced that all Canada Day events will be called off due to COVID-19, while the Canadian National Exhibition called off its 2020 event earlier this week.
The news comes as Toronto's coronavirus curve appears to be flattening, while the city still deals with a large number of active cases, though it's impossible to say exactly how many. Here's a look at the city's latest data:
- Toronto has had 8,257 confirmed cases, but 6,034 of those people have now recovered.
- There have been 657 deaths linked to COVID-19.
- There have been 134 outbreaks at institutions, an increase of eight since Thursday.
Standoff over homeless encampments
Meanwhile, a standoff between Toronto's homeless and city officials was underway at several encampments downtown Friday, days after dozens of people living in tents were moved into apartment buildings to protect the vulnerable as part of the city's COVID-19 response.
Police officers, city workers and heavy machinery were downtown taking down tents that the city says were abandoned after moving several people into housing last week.
The city said it was clearing out the camps after offering various types of housing to the people living there.
There have been a total of 55 fires at homeless encampments this year, 15 of which took place in the past two weeks, Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said at the news conference Friday.
Those who refused the city's offer of inside housing would have their tents removed, said Mary-Anne Bedard, Toronto's general manager of shelter, support and housing administration.
"We have made a commitment not to clear a site without offering everyone a placement, but we're not always able to offer everyone a placement of their choice," Bedard said.
Bedard said the spaces being offered by the city have all been deemed safe sites, with social distancing measures in place.
Jason Phillips says an eviction notice went up a few days ago on the tent where he lives underneath the Gardiner Expressway. He says the city offered him a spot in a shelter, which he refused because he feels safer outside during the COVID-19 pandemic.
After a woman stood in front of a bulldozer that was set to take his tent down, Phillips says the city offered him a hotel room — which he accepted.
ActiveTO road closures released
These updates come one day after the city unveiled a list of roads set to close as part of its ActiveTO plan, which involves creating 57 kilometres of "quiet streets" to promote outdoor activity while maintaining physical distancing measures.
As of Thursday, the following locations were closed to all vehicles except local traffic:
- Kensington Market, in the area that borders Nassau Avenue, Spadina Avenue, Augusta Avenue and Dundas Street West.
- Shaughnessy Boulevard between Van Horne Avenue and Havenbrook Boulevard.
- Havenbrook Boulevard between Shaughnessy Boulevard and Manorpark Court.
The following roads will be closed on a "trial basis" during the coming long weekend, from Saturday at 6 a.m. to Monday at 11 p.m.:
- All eastbound lanes on Lake Shore Boulevard West between Windermere Avenue to Stadium Road.
- Bayview Avenue from Mill Street to Rosedale Valley Road.
- River Street from Gerrard Street East to Bayview Avenue.
WATCH | Map details ActiveTO road closures across the city
With files from The Canadian Press