Toronto's COVID-19 deaths surpass 400 but rate of infection slowing, city says
City hasn't passed infection peak, public health measures can't be lifted yet, city says
A total of 449 people have died of COVID-19 in Toronto but the city's rate of infection is slowing, Toronto's medical officer of health reported on Monday.
Dr. Eileen de Villa told reporters at a daily news briefing at city hall that 387 people are in hospital in Toronto, with 105 in intensive care units.
Toronto has a cumulative total of 6,278 COVID-19 cases, of which 5,641 are confirmed and 637 are probable, as of 5 p.m. on Sunday. A total of 4,022 people have recovered from COVID-19.
The number of deaths, meanwhile, is an increase of 51 from Saturday's total. No new data about the pandemic was reported by the city on Sunday.
"Our data is telling us that we are making positive progress in our city," De Villa said. "It is also telling us that we continue to see new people becoming infected with this virus. This means we are, unfortunately, still not in a place to ease our public health measures yet."
De Villa said the rate of infection is slowing and officials believe that the local curve is flattening, but the city has not yet passed what she called its "infection peak."
In the early days of the outbreak, the number of new cases doubled every four days, but now, it is doubling every seven days, she said. Also, before public health measures were implemented, each person with COVID-19 infected on average 3.5 people, but now, each person with the disease infects one other person.
City not seeing daily drop in number of new cases
"This suggests the rate of infection in our city is slowing down and that physical distancing and self-isolation are having a positive impact. However, while we believe our local curve is flattening, we are not yet seeing a steady decrease in the number of new cases or new hospitalizations each day," she said.
"This means we have likely not completely passed the infection peak. As is the case with any outbreak, we will only know when we have reached this point after it has occurred and our local cases begin to decrease."
De Villa said the data tells the story of how COVID-19 is affecting Toronto, helps the city understand how many people are infected, explains how the virus continues to spread and describes the burden the disease is placing on the health-care system and its resources.
"It is important note that, in a pandemic, it is not the data from any one given day that make a difference in our understanding of what is happening, but the data patterns and trends we see occurring over time," she said.
She added that people most at risk of getting ill with the novel coronavirus are those who belong to households where another person has COVID-19.
According to the city's website, the city didn't report data on Sunday because it is "reconciling our reporting cycle to align with the provincial approach."
City to open community, allotment gardens in phases
Mayor John Tory, who also spoke at the news conference, said the city is taking a "phased, responsible approach" in opening its 81 community gardens and 12 allotment gardens for the 2020 growing season to ensure public safety.
The opening follows an announcement by the province on April 25 that it would amend its emergency orders to allow the use of allotment gardens and community gardens.
Tory said community gardens will begin to open this week on a location-by-location basis and allotment gardens will begin to open next week. Signs at the gardens will outline the city's expectations about physical distancing, he said.
"We have worked to get this right. Like everything we've done, it's about protecting the health of people, saving lives and doing so in a sensible and balanced way," Tory said.
The Ontario government asked medical officers of health to give advice and instructions that the gardens must meet to operate safely. The guidelines include details on infection prevention and control measures, how to maintain physical distancing at each garden and information on cleaning and disinfecting of equipment.
Since the provincial order was amended on April 25, the city has been getting the gardens ready to open by organizing water service and doing spring cleanup work. Handwashing stations will be installed, the city said in a news release on Monday.
City staff have reached out to permit holders and community groups to let them know that when their gardens will open, the city added.
Tory noted the city's community gardens and volunteers support more than 25 community agencies and provide them with 1,133 to 2,267 kilograms of fresh, Toronto-grown produce.
Annually, more than 1,300 people use the city's allotment gardens to grow their own food and plants.
Only 4 tickets for non-compliance issued Sunday
As for enforcement, Tory noted that the city's bylaw officers issued only four tickets to people for not complying with the city's COVID-19 directives on Sunday when the weather got warmer. Three were issued for use of parks amenities that have been closed and one was issued for a violation of the city's physical distancing bylaw.
The mayor thanked Toronto residents for continuing to heed the call by public health to stay home and to practise physical distancing as the pandemic continues.
"People are getting it and that is helping us to save lives and to stop the spread of COVID-19 and bringing us closer to that promised land of reopening as long as we keep up the good work," Tory said.
Tory said thousands of people also stayed away on the weekend from High Park, which is now closed to prevent people from congregating there in large numbers to view the cherry blossoms now in bloom.
Crews not clearing parks of tents if housing not yet in place
Mary-Anne Bedard, general manager of the city's shelter, support and housing administration, told reporters that the city is not clearing any sites, including parks, where people experiencing homelessness and living in tents have not yet received a notice of placement for housing.
The issue arose on Sunday night when homeless advocates expressed concern about notices placed on 11 tents in George Hislop Park, near Bloor and Yonge streets. The notices, placed on the tents last Thursday, asked for possessions to be removed by Monday at 8 a.m.
"I will confirm that we are not clearing any sites where there are people who remain who have not received an offer of some sort of indoor placement. It is important and we do post sites where we know we are moving people because we have to post in order to remove debris," Bedard said.
"Knowing that we were moving large numbers of people last week, we did post to the sites that we moved people from so that we were able to go in and clean the sites of the debris that those people left behind."
Since last week, 68 people who were living outside have been moved into interim housing that the city has in mid-town Toronto and the city will move 60 more people over the next few days, she added.