John’s Update (May 8)

Dear Neighbours,

Today, Ontario recorded 459 new COVID cases — the highest in a week. There were 44 deaths, more than the day before. In general, both Ontario and Toronto has seen a leveling off, but not a consistent decline, in new cases. Our capacity for testing and contact tracing, essential to halting the spread of the virus, is improving but still not where it needs to be.

So why did the Province decide it’s time to start opening things back up, contrary to its own guidelines released April 27?

Re-opening should be driven by data, not optimism. Otherwise we risk a setback that could spark a rebound in cases. That, in turn, would delay our financial recovery.

The re-opening taking place over the next few days is measured enough that maybe we’ll get away with it, but only if residents and businesses continue to strictly observe physical distancing and not interpret the Province’s move as a sign that we can all loosen up.

In the early days of the pandemic, each case was, on average, infecting three or four others. Thanks to a huge amount of co-operation by residents, we’ve reduced that number to around one. To get it low enough to see a steady decline in new cases and deaths, we need to continue physical distancing, combined with a higher level of testing, quick test results and effective contact tracing.

The sacrifices made thus far have allowed us to avoid the catastrophes that hit other large cities.

Please keep it up.

In a related issue, as warmer weather and cabin fever draws more residents outside, and as more businesses start to open for curbside pickup on Yonge Street, my office is working with the city’s Transportation department to deal with two distinct needs: provide more space for pedestrians who need to follow distancing rules on narrow sidewalks; support local business by providing zones where vehicles can make short stops for pick up and delivery.

This will likely involve using the curb lane differently to accommodate both uses. In preparation for our conversations with Transportation staff next week, my staff and I will be out over the next few days observing conditions. We’re also very interested in what you’re seeing, along with any thoughts you might have on how best to deal with this constantly evolving situation.

For Mother’s Day, I’ve chosen a selection of tributes to moms, starting with Canadian Jann Arden (click here). You might also like Kacey Musgraves (click here), Taylor Swift (click here), Blake Shelton (click here) and, for nostalgia, The Spice Girls (click here).

— John