Dear Friends and Neighbours, I'm writing today to give you a further update on the City's ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic. City staff in the Emergency Operations Centre and all essential and critical services are working around the clock to respond to this crisis to keep us safe. I am continuing to receive multiple updates each day on the City's response and I am working to share that information with you through my social media channels and in email updates like this. I have included the latest important information from the City below. I would also like to hear from residents about what kinds of additional supports you think would be useful from the City during this challenging time. Apart from those measures that have already been announced such as the deferral of all city tax and utility payments, I encourage you to share your suggestions with me. I know these are stressful times but I am heartened by the efforts of everyone, especially our healthcare workers, to fight this pandemic and save lives. I am confident we will get through this thanks to their hard work and everyone wholeheartedly following the advice from our public health professionals. Sincerely, Frances
Here's the key information you need to know today:
The City of Toronto has received authorization from the Province of Ontario to open licensed child care centres specifically to provide care for children of essential and critical service workers. Child care service will be available, at no cost, funded by the Province of Ontario, for children from infant to age 12, and will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week in order to begin to address the unique demands of people who work shifts to keep the city safe and healthy. The centres will be spread across Toronto in existing City-run child care facilities and be operated and staffed by City of Toronto licenced child care workers. This is the first time a service of this type has ever been offered by the City of Toronto. The City is working to quickly establish an online registration system.
For the many Torontonians who are returning from travel outside Canada, including the United States, following March Break, 14-day self-isolation is critical to stopping the spread of COVID-19, even if symptoms of illness are not present.
For the health and safety of our communities, please remember the importance of social distancing and minimizing contact between people. The best way for Torontonians to help stop the spread of COVID-19 is to stay home except to get essential supplies, practise social distancing when outside the home, and self-isolating following travel or illness. Where possible, order items online and have them delivered.
The City is erecting signage in parks and near playgrounds reminding the public of the importance of social distancing, hand hygiene, and that playgrounds are not sanitized. Parks remain open, but people should avoid interactions with others through social distancing and follow Toronto Public Health recommendations to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Questions and Answers Some answers to some of the questions you have asked recently. I’m an essential worker and I’m also a parent without childcare now that schools and daycares were ordered to close, and March Break comes to an end. I cannot report for work unless I have access to care for my children. The City of Toronto has received authorization from the Province of Ontario to open licensed child care centres specifically to provide care for children of essential and critical service workers. The centres will be spread across Toronto in existing City-run child care facilities and be operated and staffed by City of Toronto licenced child care workers. To support essential and critical workers, licensed child care service will be available, at no cost, funded by the Province of Ontario, for children from infant to age 12, and will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week in order to begin to address the unique demands of people who work shifts to keep the city safe and healthy. This is the first time a service of this type has ever been offered by the City of Toronto. The City is establishing an online registration system that will be communicated widely once available. The centres will then open as quickly as possible, following registration. Essential and critical service workers have been defined by the Province and a list of those services will be made available shortly. In the interim, check www.toronto.ca/covid19 for updates and other important information. Given social distancing is not feasible when caring for young children, additional measures will be taken, in consultation with Toronto Public Health and the City's Occupational Health and Safety program, to maintain a healthy and safe environment. Precautions will include daily screening of children and families prior to admission, increased cleaning, and reduced group sizes. Will Toronto Hydro or other energy providers adjust time-of-use rates? With all of us home during the day, our power consumption is going to increase despite our best efforts to conserve energy. My workplace is closed because of COVID-19 and I’m not bringing in an income, I cannot afford an increase in my hydro bill. Below is some information from Toronto Hydro and the Ontario Energy Board on Time-of-Use rates as well as information about payment due date extensions for City utilities (Water/Sewer Service and Solid Waste Management charges where applicable). Time-of-Use rates are set by the Ontario Energy Board and administered by local energy providers including Toronto Hydro. Information about benefits and supports for individuals is available on the Government of Canada’s website at: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/corporate/notices/coronavirus.html. From Toronto Hydro: We know the COVID-19 pandemic is putting economic stress on families and businesses, and we’re committed to helping our customers manage their electricity bills during this challenging time. Our Customer Care team is here to help with billing concerns and payment options. To discuss your bill and payment options in more detail, please call us directly at 416-542-8000 or visit https://www.torontohydro.com/covid-19. We've received a significant number of questions regarding Time-of-Use (TOU) rates. Please note that TOU rates are set by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB). The OEB is currently looking at programs and policies to best support electricity customers during this difficult time. Any updates regarding TOU rates will be announced by the OEB directly. From the Ontario Energy Board: We’ve received many requests about lowering electricity prices during this unprecedented time. The Ontario Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines is looking at programs and policies to support electricity customers during the COVID-19 pandemic. We expect that information will be made available in the coming days. More information: https://www.oeb.ca/newsroom/2020/oeb-covid-19-update. City utility rates Utility bills (Water/Sewer Service and Solid Waste Management charges where applicable) are usually due approximately 21 days after the billing date. The City is extending the due date for all utility bills issued to all residents by an additional 60 days, to give utility customers an additional 60 days to make payment, and still take advantage of the early payment discount. More information: https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/economic-support-recovery/. Can you clarify public health recommendations on playgrounds and parks? I still see my neighbours gathering in parks and their kids playing on playgrounds. The City should close its playgrounds, signs are not enough! The City, at this time, is not closing parks and playgrounds. Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, has said that people must practise appropriate social distancing when out in the community, including in City parks and playgrounds. Watch and listen to Dr. de Villa’s recommendations for parks and playgrounds here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqaRn2_h5Tk. Play structures are not sanitized and caregivers should take care to help children with good hand hygiene, including washing before and after play, and ensure children remain at least 2 metres (6 feet) away from others. Signage will be erected in parks and near playgrounds reminding the public of the importance of social distancing, hand hygiene, and that playgrounds are not sanitized. For the health and safety of our communities, please remember the importance of social distancing and minimizing contact between people, including in parks and while using amenities in parks. Again, the best thing people can do to help stop the spread of COVID-19 is to stay home and go out only when necessary. Exercise and time outdoors is important, but should not take place where groups of people gather.