Toronto’s top doctor calls for ‘immediate’ action to curb spread of COVID-19 as city sees 323 new cases

Toronto Mayor Tory will provide an update on the city’s response to COVID-19 alongside the city’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, starting at 3 p.m. ET.

CBC News is carrying the news conference live above.


Toronto’s top doctor called for “immediate action” by the province to stop the spread of COVID-19, including asking that people only leave home for essential trips, but the measures announced by Ontario officials Friday fell far short of those recommendations.

The recommendations come as the city faces the risk of “exponential growth” of novel coronavirus infections, the city said in a news release Friday. 

From Sept. 1 to Sept. 29, the city’s seven-day moving average of new cases has risen from 40 to 84 to 239 — an almost six-fold increase. 

“We have seen in other places what happens when COVID-19 gains the upper hand.  Without quick action to implement further public health measures, there is an acute risk the virus will continue to spread widely, causing serious illness, stressing the health care system and further straining Toronto’s economy,” de Villa said in the release.

The recommendations include calling on the public to leave their homes only for essential trips including work, education, healthcare appointments and exercise, with up to two people from outside a household allowed to provide social support for those living alone.

They also include prohibiting indoor dining and indoor sports and recreation, and requiring large venues to submit plans showing how they will comply with public health measures, such as through physically distanced seating and methods to collect information from patrons. 

“Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health has limited authority under Section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act (HPPA) to act alone with such broad restrictions as recommended here,” the city said in the release.

“As such, Dr. de Villa has requested that Dr. Williams, as Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, use his legislative powers under the HPPA and the Provincial Emergency Order to enact these changes or consider making the necessary legislative and/or regulatory changes to provide her with the authority to take these actions as quickly as possible.”

At a news conference Friday, provincial officials announced a set of “targeted” measures for Toronto, Ottawa and Peel Region — areas it called “hot zones” for the virus.

Those measures include limiting indoor occupancy at restaurants and bars to a maximum of 100 patrons (Toronto has already moved to limit capacity to 75 patrons) and restricting group exercise in gyms and fitness settings to 10 people.

De Villa is set to join Mayor John Tory for a news conference later today. The update comes as Ontario reports a record-high number of new cases of the virus, with 323 out of the total 732 in the City of Toronto. 

The city has seen a sharp rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, a situation that prompted city council to vote unanimously this week to change protocols at restaurants and bars across the city, reduce the number of patrons from 100 to 75 and reduce the number of people at a table from 10 to six, among other changes.

Toronto is currently facing 169 active outbreaks in the community and congregate settings such as childcare, work places and long-term care homes.

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