Toronto's medical officer urges residents to abide by public health rules on long weekend

·4 min read
Toronto residents enjoy warm weather while sitting in freshly-painted physical distancing circles at Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto on May 13, 2021. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
Toronto residents enjoy warm weather while sitting in freshly-painted physical distancing circles at Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto on May 13, 2021. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

Toronto's medical officer of health made a plea on Wednesday for residents to abide by public health measures this upcoming long weekend in the hopes that they will be able to enjoy fewer COVID-19 restrictions this summer.

"If I'm to be completely candid, our track record after holiday weekends could use some improvement. At the Board of Health meeting earlier this month, I noted that after every holiday weekend over the last year or so, we've seen an increase in infections," Dr. Eileen de Villa told reporters at a city hall news briefing.

"That is the last thing we want, considering variants that are afoot in Toronto and that there's a significant number of people with no vaccine protection at all," she said.

"So, please, this weekend do get outside, enjoy the weather, be safe and remember, there's more at stake this holiday weekend than perhaps there has been for a very long time."

De Villa said residents have a chance to enjoy a good summer.

"But it really does depend on all of us," she added. "We are and continue to be under a stay-at-home order."

A health-care worker administers the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine to a Toronto resident at the Downsview Arena in northeast Toronto on Apr. 21, 2021.
A health-care worker administers the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine to a Toronto resident at the Downsview Arena in northeast Toronto on Apr. 21, 2021.(Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Toronto, meanwhile, is adding seven more postal code areas for priority pop-up and mobile vaccination clinics to increase immunization rates, the city said on Wednesday.

Under its "Team Toronto Sprint Strategy," mobile and pop-up clinics expand vaccine access in priority communities. With the addition of the new postal code areas, the city now has 29 postal code areas prioritized in its strategy.

The new postal codes are:

  • East: M1H, M3A.

  • Downtown (Kensington Market, Chinatown, Alexandra Park): M5T.

  • Northwest Toronto: M6A, M6E, M6N, M9R.

City to open over 19,000 vaccine appointments on weekend

City officials also announced the opening up of more than 19,000 new COVID-19 vaccine appointments over the Victoria Day long weekend at city-run clinics.

The city is adding 4,750 new appointments each day on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The city said the new appointments will be spread across six of its clinics and are in addition to appointments already scheduled. The new appointments will be added to the provincial booking system as of 4 p.m. on Wednesday.

Mayor John Tory, who also spoke at the city briefing, said 10,000 new vaccine appointments will be added to city-run clinics next week.

As of Tuesday, residents age 18 and older are eligible to book a vaccination appointment at a city-run clinic. More than 20,000 people booked appointments for city-run clinics on the first day of the expanded eligibility.

According to de Villa, youth vaccination in Toronto is expanding. People aged 12 to 17 can be immunized at certain pop-up and mobile clinics that began as pilot projects this week.

Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto's medical officer of health, reported 751 new cases of COVID-19 in the city on Wednesday.
Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto's medical officer of health, reported 751 new cases of COVID-19 in the city on Wednesday.(Evan Mitsui/CBC)

She said youth vaccination planning is underway between Toronto Public Health, the Hospital for Sick Children and other health-care partners.

As of May 31, 12 to 17 year-olds can book appointments through the provincial booking system and access vaccine through city-run immunization clinics and clinics based in a number of hospitals. For the weeks of June 14 and 21, there will be appointments dedicated to youth vaccination.

"In time, the widening of eligibility will make a tremendous difference in the number of people with their first vaccination," de Villa said.

She said there are 751 new cases of COVID-19 in Toronto as of Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. But due to technical issues with provincial lab data, the case count may be over-reported on Wednesday, the city said.

There are 1,018 people in hospital. A total of 263 people are in intensive care units, with 160 patients on ventilators. The number of people with COVID-19 who have died now stands at 3,285, with nine new deaths reported on Wednesday.

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