Toronto providing testing, food security to areas with most COVID-19 cases

Oct 28 2020, 8:12 pm

Toronto Mayor John Tory says his government is working to support residents in areas of the city that have seen the highest amount of COVID-19 cases.

At a press briefing on Wednesday, Tory outlined the measures the city is taking to stop the spread in neighbourhoods in Toronto’s northwest corner.

According to the City of Toronto,  three Northwest wards – Etobicoke North, York South-Weston and Humber River-Black Creek – have neighbourhoods that are currently experiencing higher rates of COVID-19 transmission, lower testing rates and higher positivity rates for the virus, compared to other neighbourhoods in Toronto.

A release states that each ward is home to approximately 4%t of the city’s population.

Etobicoke North accounted for 8.3 % of cases and Humber River-Black Creek accounted for 8.1% of Toronto cases of COVID-19 in the past three weeks, while York South-Weston accounted for 6.9%. Over the past three weeks, these wards, with 11.5% of the city’s population, have 23.3% of all Toronto COVID-19 cases, states the city.

“While we’re all feeling the affects of the pandemic in some way, we know there are neighbourhoods in our city where some of our most vulnerable residents are being hit harder by this virus,” Tory said. “Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen the number of positive COVID-19 cases drastically increase, especially in the northwest part of the city.”

Tory said he’s been working with city councillors in the area to ensure residents are aware of the public health measures they can take to slow the spread.

The city has taken additional steps to support communities, including in the northwest, that have seen an increase spread of the virus.

While Toronto does not administer tests or process the results, it has been supporting community health centres that are conducting provincial testing by providing spaces for pop-up testing sites.

The city will be collaborating with provincial colleagues at Ontario Health and community health organizations to provide space for community health clinic pop-up COVID-19 testing sites at its recreation facilities.

According to the city, “the temporary COVID-19 testing sites offer walk-in and low-barrier testing for residents, including those who are experiencing homelessness. Three testing clinics have taken place at Gord & Irene Risk Community Centre, Elmbank Community Centre and Falstaff Community Centre. Planning for additional locations is underway.”

Additionally, there is the opening of a self-isolation site provided assistance to residents in the northwest, Tory said, which provides them a safe place to self-isolate away from home should they be exposed to the virus. Tory said some residents in the area live in close quarters that make self-isolating at home challenging.

The city has invested $820,000 in local food security programs in the northwest section to support food banks, emergency food delivery, and food vouchers, with a focus on culturally-appropriate food staples and meals.

Through a partnership with the United Way, Tory said the city got information on proper public health measures, including masking protocols and physical distancing, to community members.

“It’s widely understood that COVID-19 hits hardest in places that are low income or economically disadvantaged,” said Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s Chief Medical Officer of Health. “We know that racialized Torontonians are especially vulnerable during this pandemic.”

According to de Villa, 30% of Torontonians are classified as being low income. However, they made up 50% of coronavirus cases in the city.

Her team determined that over the course of the pandemic, northwest Toronto stood out for higher virus rates, lower testing rates, and higher positivity rates in comparison to other parts of the city. de Villa noted, though, that where a person lives is not an indicator of where they got infected with the virus.

Zoe DemarcoZoe Demarco

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