Published Thursday, November 12, 2020 5:11PM EST
“My message with respect to COVID is very blunt and very simple. Please stay home,” Tory said at a news conference Thursday. “Please don’t socialize with people that you don’t live with, please don’t have people over. Please stay home except if you have to go to work or to school or to pick up some essentials or to exercise.”
The mayor said that while he knows that it can be confusing for people to keep up with the onslaught of public health advice and news, the simple takeaway for now should be to limit one’s interactions with others as much as possible.
His comments come as COVID-19 cases continue to spike in Toronto and in Ontario, with 1,575 new cases reported Thursday in the province, including 472 new cases in Toronto. The appeal to city residents also comes the same day alarming new modelling data from the province indicate that Ontario could see as many as 6,000 daily new cases by mid-December.
“The medical community generally agrees that what is officially identified and reported is just the tip of the iceberg,” de Villa said as she noted the city has reported 2,432 new COVID-19 cases over the past five days. “It's safe to assume then, that there are more cases of COVID-19 in the community than we identify through testing.”
She said people should now “assume COVID-19 is everywhere” and take appropriate measures to protect themselves.
“What every one of you can do is this: don’t become a case,” de Villa said. “The best way to do that is to follow the steps for self-protection, especially now.”
She advised people to limit their contact only to those they live with. As examples, she said people should grocery shop alone rather than taking family members with, and avoid dining out or exercising with anyone you don’t live with.
“In short, don’t spend time in social settings. Wherever possible, avoid in-person contact with people you don’t live with,” de Villa said. “It won’t be forever, but it should be for the foreseeable future. Infections are very high in Toronto and we need to get them down.”
Parties, crowded elevators not OK at condos
Responding to reports of recent parties at highrise buildings in the city and reports that people are packing into elevators rather than waiting in some buildings, Mayor Tory said people should call 311 if they notice a dangerous situation.
“If it's possible to take a picture or video of an overcrowded elevator and people going up and down to attend big parties, then it's also possible to use the very same phone to call 311,” Tory said.
He added “there'd be nothing like a bylaw officer or police officer to actually be right there on a hotspot where this is going on repeatedly to stop that behavior from occurring.”
Tory said that while he doesn’t want the whole city calling in to report one another, it’s important that enforcement officers know where rules are being flouted so that they can stop it and prevent further infections.
“We're not trying to turn the whole city into a place where people are turning each other in but that kind of dangerous behavior is something that is completely against everything that we're saying,” Tory said. “But we need to know where this kind of stuff is going on, especially if it's happening on a repeated basis so we can have somebody come out and look into it and do whatever is appropriate to deal with it.”
Fire Chief Mathew Pegg reiterated during the news conference that if people have concerns about public health guidelines not being followed, they should call 311, who will then refer the situation to enforcement if necessary.
De Villa said that she understands people may have a false sense of security while hanging out with close friends or relatives, but said that it is vital that city residents “deprive the virus of the opportunity to spread” by avoiding contact with others.
“You know, people think that they're with their friends or with their family members and that they couldn't possibly get COVID-19 from those individuals, but of course we know that they can, right, it's all about close contact,” de Villa said. “To my mind, that tells us that we need to redouble our efforts and make sure that we're getting out there in ways that resonate with as many people as possible in our city around what they can do individually and how important it is for them to limit social interactions and to take this advice as seriously as possible.”
For its part, Toronto Public Health is stepping up efforts to improve follow-up with those who may have been exposed by expanding the use of automated phone calls to alert people. De Villa said the city has already used the system to reach out to nearly 600 people who had low-risk contact with a case, with a 97 per cent success rate of reaching them.
TPH is also rolling out an online survey tool for confirmed cases to collect more detailed data about infection sources that will help health officials better understand how the virus is spreading.