The Toronto Board of Health unanimously approved a recommendation from the City’s top doctor to create alternative accommodations, like free hotel rooms, for COVID-19 patients who can’t isolate at home.
On Thursday, the board held a virtual meeting and approved Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa’s recommendations, which calls on all three levels of government to work together to create these voluntary accommodation options.
The recommendation highlighted the reality that many Torontonians do not have the access to extra bedrooms or bathrooms in which they can self-isolate in at home and pose a risk if they test positive for the virus — as it can spread quickly to those they live with.
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Other cities, like New York and Chicago, have implemented programs where people who test positive are provided with free hotels to safely self-isolate.
This is a similar approach to the isolation and recovery facilities that the City established for people experiencing homelessness earlier in the pandemic.
“The risk of COVID-19 shouldn’t depend on where you live, how much you make, or how many bathrooms you have in your home. We need to do everything we can to mitigate vulnerabilities to this virus, and to make sure everyone has an equal opportunity to reduce transmission and protect their loved ones,” Board of Health Chair and Councillor Joe Cressy said in a statement.
“In this case, that means working with our government partners to make sure people have somewhere to go if they can’t safely self-isolate at home. As we continue to learn more about this virus and who it impacts, we can develop more responses that are directly targeted to stopping transmission and protecting marginalized people and communities in our city.”
According to Cressy, the proposal was included along with other recommendations from the Medical Officer of Health to directly address the connections between the coronavirus and the social determinants of health – income, race and ethnicity, and occupation.
The board approved a move to emphasize access to the outdoors and space for physical activity for vulnerable communities as part of the ActiveTO program, and to have Dr. de Villa work with the City’s Office of Recovery and Rebuild to prioritize approaches to addressing the social determinants of health for communities most impacted by the virus.
During the virtual meeting, de Villa provided an update on the City’s interactive maps of COVID-19 cases by neighbourhood.
Recent data from the past three weeks has shown that new cases and hospitalizations are higher in areas with a high proportion of low-income residents, newcomers to Canada, and people with core housing needs.
At the same time, certain racialized groups are over-represented in areas with a higher coronavirus case-rate, including people who are Black, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Latin American.
“Public health data also shows that the most common occupations associated with case investigations include factory workers, retail/customer service representatives, and select health care-related occupations,” Cressy said.
The communities most impacted by COVID-19 in recent weeks continue to be concentrated in the North West of the city.