I hope everyone is managing well following the major storm this week and also the return to in-school learning for our kids after a further delay due to the storm.
This week's storm was among the largest and most intense we have seen in many years. At certain times we were seeing 5-10cm an hour falling across the City. I know that many commuters, those on public transit, walking and those driving, experienced very significant challenges which have persisted as the clean-up moves forward. At one time, the TTC reported that hundreds of their surface vehicles were stuck in the snow. While the storm itself was enormously impactful for all of us, the clean-up is also very challenging. To assist in this work, the Mayor has declared a "Major Snow Storm Condition" which activates a number of provisions to help with snow removal including ensuring vehicles are not parked in snow routes and also facilitating the removal of snow to storage areas across the City. I know this clean-up is a difficult and sometimes frustrating process but I ask that we all have patience as snow removal crews work as fast as they can over the next few days to finish their work. To keep track of where snow plows are working you can view in real time their locations at PlowTO. Additional details on winter maintenance is contained in this newsletter.
As you know on January 5th, due to the impact of the Omicron variant, Ontario moved to Step Two of the provincial re-opening plan. This morning the provincial government announced that beginning January 31st many of the establishments that were required to close will be permitted to re-open at 50% capacity limits. Vaccination requirements will remain in place. The re-opening applies to restaurants, gyms, cinemas and retail establishments, again at 50% capacity. Social gatherings indoors will be permitted to increase to 10 persons and 25 outdoors. The process of re-opening will continue with further easing of restrictions on February 21 and then again on March 14. Further details are included in this newsletter.
As noted, this week also saw the return to in-person learning for our kids. This is an important step for our kids as public health officials and others have stressed how important it is for our children to be in school in-person not only for learning but also for the benefits they experience from interacting with each other which is so important to their growth. The City's Board of Health has also at its January meeting called upon the provincial government to implement measures to keep schools safe including increased access to testing, the provision of Personal Protective Equipment, including high-quality masks to students, improved ventilation and efforts to encourage vaccine uptake by children and youth, their families and workers in the education and child care sectors. The full details can be found at this link. We all wish our kids the very best as they return to school in person.
As I have stated previously, it is very important that we all do our part in working to bring the Covid-19 pandemic to an end, especially the Omicron variant that is the primary variant at this time, and one of the best ways to achieve this is by getting vaccinated. The City has already administered 1.2 million third doses. We are continuing to ensure that everyone has access to vaccinations, including children over 5 years of age and third dose booster shots (18+ years). Over the next few weeks 42 school-based clinics will be operating and the City reports that there are 25,000 vaccination appointments available in February. The City is also working in cooperation with the province to distribute rapid antigen tests to licensed child care programs in the community for use where a staff member, child care provider or child in care is showing symptoms of COVID-19. There are details in this newsletter to help you arrange to get your vaccination and I encourage you to do so.
I am also pleased to report that at next week's Executive Committee meeting, of which I am a member, the City's Community Crisis Support Service pilot program will be advanced. The pilot will take place in four areas of the City, including the Downtown West Pilot which includes our community. This initiative is a new community-led approach to mental health crisis calls to 911 that includes calls involving persons in crisis and wellness checks. It is part of the SafeTO plan to reform the delivery of public safety services in our City. There are more details in this newsletter.
Finally, this past summer I moved a motion at City Council to direct City staff to report back on measures to protect and promote musician rehearsal space in our City. Recently the closure of a Rehearsal Factory location along Geary Avenue deeply affected the local music community I represent. Many of these area residents had been renting space at the Rehearsal Factory and practicing there for years. With the pandemic, and other pressures, rehearsal space for musicians have been increasingly challenged and we need to take action as a City to ensure that this space is available. Tomorrow, City staff are reporting back
on my motion. We have to move forward and work together to create stronger local music scenes and continuing to explore any new tools we as a City can contribute.
As always, if we can be of assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us by email at [email protected]
or by phone at 416.392.7012.