Ontario confirms 24 new COVID-19 cases, bringing provincial total to 103

Saturday marks Toronto's first day without several major city services—including public libraries, city-run daycares and community centres—as officials try to slow the rate of COVID-19 infection.

9 Toronto Out of the Cold sites closing, city services stop to curb outbreak

Shoppers at MVR Wholesale in Toronto stock up in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

As Toronto began its first day without major city services, Ontario confirmed 24 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, bringing the provincial total to 103.

Nine of the new patients are in Toronto and one is in Peel. All are self-isolating, the Ministry of Health says.

Toronto has now closed public libraries, city-run daycares and community centres, as officials try to slow the rate of COVID-19 infection. Major attractions are shutting down and various events have been cancelled — including Mirvish theatre performances and TIFF Bell Lightbox showings.

Of the 103 confirmed COVID-19 cases, the Ontario health ministry says five patients are no longer infectious.

Several Out of the Cold sites closing

Meanwhile, nine Out of the Cold sites are set to close, saying Saturday it was in the best interests of their guests' health.

"Our guests are eating and sleeping in such close proximity they are coughing and sneezing on each other," said an open letter signed by nine sites, noting they do not operate with shelter standards.

Out of the Cold is a program offered by faith-based organizations  in Toronto as an emergency response to prevent homeless people from freezing to death in the winter. The 16 organizations open their doors one night per week to the city's homeless.

They called on Mayor John Tory to immediately authorize a replacement Red Cross shelter for 100 people, which would have sufficient space between beds and adequate hygiene facilities. Their guests are "extremely vulnerable," the letter said, with many guests elderly and having pre-existing health conditions.

A spokesperson for the city told CBC News that alternate locations would be available at St. Luke's United Church— 353 Sherbourne St — which will offer 40 beds, for one night on March 15; and at 188 Carlton St, offering 45 beds for the rest of the Out of the Cold season, from March 18.

Province says there's 'plenty of food'

To curb the spread, more than 50,000 employees of the Ontario Public Service are being asked to work remotely until April 3 "where operationally feasible."

Meanwhile, provincial ministers assured people Ontario has "plenty of food" after shoppers stormed grocery stores this week.

"Please practice normal grocery buying habits," said a statement from Health Minister Christine Elliott and Agriculture Minister Ernie Hardeman. "Rest assured that our grocery production and supply chain will continue to provide Ontarians with the food we enjoy each and every day."

Mirvish cancels shows, TIFF Bell Lightbox closes

It will be a much quieter weekend in the city, with several major events and attractions shuttered including the CN Tower, Royal Ontario Museum and Sugar Shack TO festival.

On Saturday, Mirvish theatres announced Saturday they were suspending performances until April 12, including hit shows like Hamilton and Come from Away. The TIFF Bell Lightbox also announced Saturday it was closing until April 14.

Meanwhile, Ontario students are starting three weeks off school during a dearth of March Break camp and childcare options. Several universities are also halting in-person classes.

Hamilton is among the Mirvish shows that will not perform until at least April 12. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

The city cancelled programs and closed several facilities as of 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, on advice from Toronto's medical officer of health. The closures will last until at least April 5.

The cities of Markham, Mississauga and Brampton have also closed major facilities and cancelled all programs, including March Break camps.

The TTC will continue to operate, as will shelters and long-term care homes—although with stricter visitor restrictions. Emergency services will not be affected.

No more personal visits for inmates

Ontario also announced late Friday it will no longer allow personal visits for inmates, although they can still have visits from legal counsel. People who only serve time on weekends will be allowed to stay home.

The federal government is also suspending citizenship tests and ceremonies.

Mayor self-isolating, returning travellers encouraged to do the same

City Manager Chris Murray announced the Toronto shutdowns Friday, saying they were necessary to help slow the rate of COVID-19 infections and protect vulnerable populations.

Meanwhile, Mayor John Tory is in self-isolation after returning from Britain on Wednesday. 

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa is strongly encouraging everyone to self-isolate for 14 days upon arriving in Toronto from any country, including the United States.

Toronto's medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa recommended the shutdowns of city services, saying it is necessary to help slow the rate of COVID-19 infection and protect vulnerable populations. (CBC)

The Ontario government says it's launched a $10 million public awareness campaign to help stop the spread.

The province says it will run ads on multiple platforms to "inform the public about the latest advice from our Medical Officer of Health."


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