Toronto cancels festivals until Sept. 30 as city sees 40 new COVID-19 cases daily

Toronto has cancelled all city-led outdoor special events until the end of September as the city continues to see about 40 new cases of COVID-19 daily, officials said Monday.

Nuit Blanche moving online, Toronto Waterfront Marathon cancelled, organizers to hold virtual race

People in Toronto stand on a bridge overlooking a Nuit Blanche installation in Nathan Phillips Square in October 2019. (Michael Aitkens/CBC)

Toronto has cancelled all city-led outdoor special events until the end of September as the city continues to see about 40 new cases of COVID-19 daily, officials said Monday.

Events that have been cancelled include festivals and other large gatherings that are either organized by, or receive permits from, the city, Mayor John Tory told reporters at a city hall news briefing.

The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, scheduled for Sunday Oct.18, has also been cancelled but a virtual race will be held instead from Oct. 1 to Oct. 31.

And Nuit Blanche, a free all-night contemporary art event, will move online on Oct. 3.

"To continue the progress made in reducing the spread of COVID-19, the city is extending the cancellation of city-led and city-permitted outdoor special events through September 30," the city said in a news release on Monday. 

"All outdoor special event permits through to September 30 are cancelled, as well as the permit for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on October 18."

The Toronto International Film Festival, meanwhile, will announce what it plans to do this year, Tory said.

The mayor said the city has to make decisions based on the advice of public health officials. 

"I know, like many other things I have had to inform you of, that this is a decision that is very disappointing for many. It is a difficult decision for us to make, but we believe that it is the right thing for us to do based on public health advice," Tory said.

Tory said the ban includes events held at outdoor sites managed by the city, but it does not include outdoor sport facility permits and activities permitted by the city's parks, forestry and recreation division that are allowed in Stage 2 of the province's reopening plan.

It also doesn't apply to professional sporting events.

Runners at the starting line of the 2019 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on Sunday, Oct., 20, 2019. The event is cancelled this year but organizers will hold a virtual race instead. (Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press)

As for Nuit Blanche this year, it will not hold "large scale in-person events" to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the city said. The event attracts 1.2 million annually.

"Instead, Nuit Blanche will engage its wide audience through an improved digital experience, including a new public archive of works presented at Nuit Blanche Toronto in the past, an expanded series of Nuit Talks, podcasts and live streamed dialogues, and special online events on October 3," the city said.

Previously, to slow the spread of COVID-19, the city had cancelled all city-led and city-permitted festivals and events with attendance of more than 250 people through July 31 and those with attendance of 25,000 or more through August 31. 

City launches DriveInTO entertainment

To help to make up for the loss of large scale cultural events in Toronto, the city has launched DriveInTO, programming that will provide "temporary drive-in entertainment experiences" across the city this summer.

Tory said the programming will include films, concerts and sports broadcasts, saying it's a "terrific opportunity" for residents to watch entertainment that brings them joy.

A view of Starlite Drive-in Stoney Creek, Ont. To help to make up for the loss of large scale cultural events in Toronto, the city is launching DriveInTO, programming that will provide 'temporary drive-in entertainment experiences' this summer. (Starlite/Facebook)

Residents will be able to take part at the following locations:

  • Ontario Place, which will feature screenings. Free DriveInTO nights will include programming by Hot Docs, imagineNATIVE and TIFF.
  • CityView Drive-In at 20 Polson Pier, which will feature concerts, screenings and broadcasts. Free DriveInTO nights will include programming by Inside Out LGBTQ Film Festival, Reel Asian Film Festival, Reelworld Film Festival and Regent Park Film Festival.
  • Friday Night Lights at Downsview Park, presented by Canada Land Corporation and MADE, which will feature free made-in-Canada films.
  • CF Movie Night at CF Sherway Gardens.

The mayor said the city has joined forces with local film festivals to provide free programming to the public at Ontario Place and CityView Drive-In at 20 Polson Pier.

To help event organizers design and produce these events, Toronto Public Health has created a COVID-19 guidance document for drive-in and drive-thru entertainment.

Each DriveInTO location will be independently produced, programmed and ticketed, Tory said.

Tory added that Riverdale Farm, High Park Zoo, Allan Gardens Conservatory and Centennial Park Conservatory will open on Tuesday.

City seeing fewer people hospitalized due to COVID-19 

Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city's medical officer of health, reported 120 new COVID-19 infections in Toronto over the past three days. That means the city now has a cumulative total of 14,897 cases.

A total of 1,120 people have died of COVID-19 in Toronto, while 13,148 have recovered, an increase of 120 since Friday.

There are 151 people in hospital, with 31 in intensive care units and 26 intubated.

A nurse tends to a patient in the intensive care unit at North York General Hospital in Toronto in late May. The patient is suspected of having COVID-19. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

"Overall, we are continuing to see fewer people diagnosed with and hospitalized from COVID-19 in our city," de Villa told reporters.

"At this point in our outbreak, we are seeing approximately 40 new confirmed cases and less than two people hospitalized each day from this virus. As well, the number of new active outbreaks continues to go down."

De Villa said there were 108 active COVID19 outbreaks at the city's peak in May, but today, there are only 13 active outbreaks.

Be 'vigilant,' medical officer urges residents

Toronto Public Health is preparing guidance documents to help residents and businesses when the city moves to Stage 3 of the province's reopening plan, but de Villa said the city must continue to be vigilant.

She said TPH is keeping a close eye on other Canadian and U.S. cities, that have reopened and is noting that some are now reporting spikes or "sudden and alarming" surges in the number of infections.

"I am concerned that we will see more COVID-19 transmission in our city if we are not careful," de Villa said. 

"This virus continues to spread in our community and as more people mix, unless we are vigilant, we will see more COVID-19 activity as we ease our public health measures."