Toronto shutting down major city services, Mayor Tory self-isolating as COVID-19 cases climb

Toronto is shutting down major city services effective 12:01 a.m. on Saturday amid a growing number of COVID-19 cases, officials announced Friday.

Shutdown does not include TTC, but all public libraries and city-run daycare centres will close from Saturday

City Manager Chris Murray announced Friday evening that major city services will be shut down effective 12:01 a.m. on Saturday amid a growing number of COVID-19 cases. (CBC)

Toronto is shutting down major city services effective 12:01 a.m. on Saturday amid a growing number of COVID-19 cases, officials announced Friday.

Mayor John Tory — who returned to Toronto from a trade mission in Britain on Wednesday — has also announced that he is now in self-isolation.

City Manager Chris Murray said the shutdown of services — recommended by Toronto's medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa — is necessary to help slow the rate of COVID-19 infection in Toronto and protect vulnerable populations, including seniors, people with compromised immune systems and individuals experiencing homelessness. 

The shutdown does not include the TTC, but all public libraries and city-run daycare centres will be closed as of Saturday.

Affected programmes and facilities also include:

  • City-operated March break camps.
  • Community and recreation centres.
  • Greenhouses and conservatories.
  • Pools.
  • Fitness centres.
  • Ski hills.
  • City-operated galleries and museums.

Murray said council and committee meetings for the current meeting cycle are also suspended.

The tentative date for services to resume is April 5, and "reimbursements for cancellations will be processed as soon as possible," Murray said.

The following emergency and critical services will continue unaffected:

  • Emergency response by Toronto police, Fire Services, and Paramedic Services.
  • Toronto Water operations, including drinking water, wastewater collection and treatment, and stormwater management.
  • Garbage, recycling and organics collection.
  • Shelters, respites, and drop-in centres.
  • Long-term care homes continue to operate with strict visitor restrictions in place.
  • Road, sidewalk, and bikeway operations and maintenance, including snow removal.
  • City Hall, Metro Hall, and civic centres remain open.

The city manager also addressed the ongoing negotiations between the city and CUPE Local 79, the union representing its inside workers.

"Both sides are at the table. I've talked to our leadership, I understand that things seem to be going very well," Murray said.

"Our goal, clearly, and I believe it to be the union's goal as well, is to try and resolve this and get a deal so that this is one matter that we don't have to concern ourselves too much about."

Meanwhile, Dr. de Villa is also strongly encouraging all residents and visitors 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 says her recommendations were 'based on the available science and evidence and in consideration of her local circumstance.' (CBC)

Toronto's medical officer of health said her recommendations were made with the protection of Toronto residents, workers and visitors in mind. 

"I am making these recommendations based on the available science and evidence and in consideration of our local circumstances," de Villa said.

"We know that for COVID-19, children have little or no signs or symptoms. We have seen an escalation in the number of travel-related cases of COVID-19 here in our city. We need to reduce the risk of undetected spread of COVID-19 in people's households."

Tory goes into self-isolation for the next 12 days

Mayor Tory said the measures announced Friday are focused on doing everything to protect the city, and that includes heeding the medical advice of de Villa.

"Since the first case of COVID-19 appeared in Toronto, I have always stressed the importance of following the advice of our medical experts," Tory said in a news release.

"Having returned from a business mission in London, England, on Wednesday, this advice would also apply to me. As a result, I will be going into self-isolation for the next 12 days as per Dr. de Villa's advice. Right now, I have no symptoms whatsoever and feel great."

Tory said he will be doing his job and continuing to represent Toronto residents as the city focuses on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Friday's announcement comes as Ontario contends with 19 new COVID-19 cases, the province's single biggest daily increase since the outbreak began, bringing the provincial total to 79.

It also comes one day after Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced that all publicly funded schools will remain closed for an extra two weeks after March break.


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