Toronto creates task force to combat coronavirus spread

Mar 12 2020, 6:50 am

The City of Toronto is launching its next phase of response to coronavirus with a citywide COVID-19 task force.

Right now, the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) is at a Level One activation, which means the city is monitoring and containing the situation and patients.

The next phase of response will be Level Two, which means that all non-essential activities with the EOC have been suspended in order to prioritize the COVID-19 task force.

The task force is comprised of 50 managers from all city divisions and agencies who are now situated at the EOC and planning for various responses including: increased staff absenteeism due to illness and the ability for the city to deliver core services; face mask and surgical mask shortages for frontline workers and medical responders; actions to help vulnerable populations; continually updating critical information to residents; and forecasting and responding to economic impacts the pandemic may have on residents and businesses.

Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, will continue to lead the public health efforts to mitigate the virus’s impact on the city, while Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg will lead the Toronto’s operational planning and response to this global pandemic, in his role as General Manager of the Office of Emergency Management.

“The City of Toronto continually prepares for, and responds to, emergencies like natural disasters, fires, weather events, or pandemics. Together with my colleague, Dr. de Villa and the entire Toronto Public Service, Torontonians can have confidence that the City is coordinated and responding proactively to the ever-changing circumstances of COVID-19. It is what we do,” Pegg said in a statement.

Pegg will report to the City’s Senior Leadership Team, under City Manager Chris Murray, and work directly with the City’s Corporate Leadership Team, made up of division heads, as well as the heads of City agencies to ensure ongoing coordination.

The municipality has been responding to coronavirus since January, when the first case was identified, but the need for a larger taskforce is needed after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.

“We are making sure all City departments and services and all City agencies are working together to respond to this pandemic and to protect the health of Toronto residents,” Mayor John Tory said.

As of March 11, there are 18 active cases in Toronto and all cases are in self-isolation, de Villa said in a press conference on Wednesday.

“I will be working non-stop to make sure our municipal government continues working with the Government of Ontario and the Government of Canada to provide a coordinated response that protects residents and businesses and that we are united in addressing any economic implications,” Tory said.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government will provide a $1 billion response fund to all provinces and territories to help combat the outbreak, to everything from medical research to economic support.

With coronavirus on the rise, Toronto Public Health is reminding individuals who attend events and large gatherings to monitor their health for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. And if you’re not feeling well, they recommend staying home at this time. Also, due to unexpected cancellations, please check the event you plan to attend is still taking place. Keep up with COVID-19 news here.