Toronto cancels all city events and permits until June 30 citing COVID-19 outbreak
Pride Parade, TD Toronto Jazz Festival cancelled as city has 793 cases
Toronto Mayor John Tory says all major city events and event permits are cancelled until June 30 as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise.
Pride Toronto's Festival Weekend, which includes the Pride Parade slated for June 28, and the TD Toronto Jazz Festival are among the cancelled events.
The city now has 793 cases of the virus. Of this number, 628 are confirmed and 165 are considered probable. A total of 65 people are in hospital, with 33 in intensive care beds. The city has registered eight deaths attributed to COVID-19.
Tory said the city has to take these steps to ensure the health of its citizens, including essential workers and vulnerable people.
The events include festivals, conferences and cultural programs, Tory added. Included are all city permits for major events organized by external groups at civic centres, parks and public spaces, and city-operated museums and cultural centres.
"This is not an easy decision to make, but it is necessary to protect the public and to save lives," Tory said.
Pride Toronto says it will not host Festival Weekend
As for Pride Month, Tory said it will proceed, but Pride Toronto said it will no longer host Festival Weekend on June 26 to 28.
"Our team is working hard to deliver Pride celebrations in new, creative, and unique ways that ensure safety and physical distancing," Pride Toronto said in a statement on Tuesday.
"It is critically important that all organizations and people take every action possible to limit the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision by public health authorities to cancel permits through the month of June is a necessary one," the statement continues.
"Any future programming will be in alignment with the recommendations of the public health authorities and the communities we serve. At this time, we must all do our part to ensure the health and safety of our community."
Pride Toronto thanked the city for making the health of its community a priority.
Environment not right for large scale events, mayor says
At a news conference at city hall, Tory told reporters that all city facilities, including non-emergency city child-care facilities in schools, will be closed until further notice. City-operated programs will also continue to be cancelled.
The mayor added that the TTC is adding buses on routes that it has identified as being overcrowded.
"We know this pandemic is changing how we go about our daily lives in our city. And that will also mean many of the events we treasure in our city every year will not be able to go ahead as scheduled this year," he said.
"While we treasure many of these events and the important contribution they make in our life, protecting the health and safety of Toronto residents is our primary concern right now."
Tory said many of the major events involve hundreds and thousands of people and he doubts the environment in the city will have changed to the point where they could continue.
"Festivals and events are treasured moments in neighbourhoods across the city. But the sooner we heed the advice of our medical experts ... the sooner we get back to the things we enjoy and love," he added.
Get groceries once a week if possible, medical officer says
Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city's medical officer of health, expressed dismay during the news conference over the failure of some Toronto residents to take her instructions to heart and to practise physical distancing.
"The lives of our essential workers and the lives of our most vulnerable citizens, their lives are in your hands," De Villa said.
"It depends on each of you and your actions to make a difference and to save lives."
De Villa said when residents ignore instructions from public health officials, there are consequences.
"Essential workers are getting sick and others are dying in our community. This is simply not acceptable."
Practising physical distancing means only going outside to get groceries, access health services, buy medication at the pharmacies, walk pets, get exercise and support vulnerable community members, she said. Ideally, she said residents should get groceries once a week.
Everyone is expected to walk two metres apart, except members of the same household, who can walk side-by-side but only in groups of no more than five and not with members of households who are sick or in isolation, she added.
"Each time we leave our homes, we increase the risk of virus spread," De Villa said.
De Villa added she is concerned that the current reality of New York City could be that of Toronto unless stronger measures are taken.
City to deploy 60 more bylaw officers on Wednesday
Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg, general manager of the city's office of emergency management, reminded Toronto residents that they risk being fined for using parks amenities that have been closed.
Pegg said the city will deploy 60 additional bylaw enforcement officers on Wednesday to focus on hot spots. Parks ambassadors are also continuing to patrol and to replace signs, locks and caution tape that have been removed.
The city has received 597 complaints about the use of park amenities now closed and Toronto police have issued nine $750 tickets for failure to comply with the closure of park amenities and for gatherings of more than five. Police have also laid four charges under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.
Since March 24, the city has received 496 complaints about bars and restaurants not following orders to stick to takeout and delivery only and issued 23 notices for failure to comply and 10 warning letters.
In a news release on Tuesday, the city said other events to be cancelled include Doors Open Toronto, Indigenous Arts Festival and NXNE Music and Gaming festival.
"The city's decision provides clear direction to event organizers to enable them to make sound decisions in support of public health efforts and their business needs, access insurance, support impacted employees and manage sponsors," the city said.
The city added that the end date for the cancellation period of June 30 may be extended and will be reviewed every two weeks. And it will not be in a position to issue new permits until it receives further direction on mass gatherings from public health officials.
"The city is committed to working with event organizers to mitigate the impacts of these cancellations and to determine potential future dates once the public health crisis is contained and economic recovery efforts are underway," the city added.
Toronto's ban on city-led events through June 30 does not prohibit professional sporting events.
With files from Ramna Shahzad, Derick Deonarain, Lauren Pelley