"If people can stay home, then stay home": The state of emergency and Toronto's community transmission

Mar 17 2020, 8:44 am

Toronto Mayor John Tory is asking residents to stay home after Ontario declared a state of emergency on Tuesday morning.

Premier Doug Ford declared the state of emergency for Ontario due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, saying it was a decision that wasn’t made lightly.

“We are facing an unprecedented time in our history,” Ford said.

And Tory is asking Torontonians to face this time at home.

“I hope the seriousness of this declaration will make it clear to every resident how important their personal actions will be in the coming days,” said Tory in a statement.

“If people can stay home then stay home and limit your interactions with other people. We know from our medical professionals that engaging in social distancing will protect people’s health and the health of their family and their neighbours.”

Tuesday’s declaration legally requires all bars and restaurants, except to the extent that such facilities provide takeout food and delivery; all theatres; all facilities providing indoor recreational programs; all public libraries; all private schools; and all licensed child care centres to close immediately.

As well, all organized public events of over fifty people are also prohibited, including parades and events and communal services within places of worship.

“Our public health experts have been clear that every opportunity to avoid interactions with others helps to prevent the spread of this virus. Every interaction that people avoid helps to flatten the curve,” said Toronto’s mayor, who remains in self-isolation following a trip to London.

Tory also urged residents to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at home this year, promising to proclaim a “nice spring day after COVID-19 had been vanquished as St. Patrick’s Day 2 in Toronto and we will party!”

On Monday, the City of Toronto urged residents to take significant steps to stop the spread of the coronavirus now that there is evidence of “community transmission.”

There are currently 96 positive cases in Toronto.

Toronto’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Eileen de Villa, said that the city had seen a significant increase of coronavirus cases, some of which are “unlinked” indicating “community transmission.”

Toronto Public Health says they are continuing to pursue “rigorous investigations” of the cases and their contacts.

There are three reported cases with links that couldn’t be found in Toronto, meaning these individuals did not contract the disease from someone who travelled or from travel itself.

“I do know of three cases for which links could not be found,” de Villa said.

While social distancing has been a recommended method to slow down the progress of the disease spreading, now with cases of community transmission, this practice is being fully mandated in the city.

With the announcement of community transmission, de Villa urged residents to take “further action.”

“We do know that social distancing and effective social distancing is what makes a difference. We’ve seen this in other jurisdictions as well,” de Villa said.

Toronto Public Health strongly urged residents to avoid interaction with others, as every interaction avoided helps to flatten the curve of the pandemic. And if people stay home and commit to social distancing, then the virus can stop spreading rapidly.

These measures are seen as “unprecedented” steps used to protect the Toronto community.

The province will reassess its state of emergency on March 31.

Ontario confirmed eight new cases of coronavirus, with over 1,500 cases under investigation, on Tuesday morning. None of the new cases are in Toronto.

With files from Clarrie Feinstein