Toronto's chief medical officer pleaded with Torontonians Monday to maintain their vigilance in following public health guidelines as the city recorded 175 new cases of COVID-19.
"Life has changed and all of us have to act like it, but I fear that on some level, too many of us are unwilling to make the changes we need to make to keep everyone safe and limit the spread of COVID-19," said Dr. Eileen de Villa at a news conference alongside Mayor John Tory.
"Of all the things that I worry about at three in the morning, that's what worries me most."
She called the recent rise in cases "steady" and "concerning." Since Friday, the city has reported 453 cases of the novel coronavirus. Many of Toronto's newest cases are concentrated in the under-40 age group. Data collected shows that many of Toronto's cases involve individuals who live in the Waterfront Communities-The Island neighbourhood.
"Please keep your distance from people who don't live with you," she said. "Keep washing your hands, a lot."
Christmas market cancelled
Tory echoed a similar sentiment.
"We have to tighten up our own behaviour that may have loosened up over the summer as case counts went down," he said.
The mayor said the annual Christmas Market hosted at the Distillery District, which begins in November, will be cancelled this year.
"It is one of a number of events at that time of the year that is unfortunately not going to be held," said Tory.
"It's regrettable extremely because these are things that bring people joy, get them outside even in cold weather, but lots of things have changed this year."
He said he hopes to get back to "something more normal next year" if everyone puts the effort required to curb the spread of COVID-19.
In a statement, the Distillery District said this is the first time in 11 years the Toronto Christmas Market will be cancelled.
"As we continue to work together through these challenging and unprecedented times, the health and well-being of our patrons is of the upmost importance," the statement reads.
"Every year, we typically welcome over 700,000 people to The Toronto Christmas Market, over a six-week period...The crowds are just too large for safe physical distancing."
The district will remain open for holiday shopping and says guests can expect a "Winter Village" experience with starry light canopies, a grand Christmas Tree in Trinity Square and festive music. The Winter Village will run from early November until the end of March.
At the city's board of health meeting, de Villa said Toronto Public Health (TPH) has been seeing the increasing trend in cases since the city entered Stage 3 of Ontario's economic recovery plan on July 31.
"It is more challenging now to maintain these goals given that we are trying to strike this balance of reopening and managing to resurgence we are seeing in the recent weeks," de Villa said.
De Villa makes recommendations
She outlined a few recommendations including the implementation of strategies that "mitigate health inequities," asking the province's ministry of long-term care to invest in on-site infection control and asking the federal government to improve their quarantine data sharing system.
"There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has absolutely laid bare the inequities that exist in our community," she said.
The Board of Health has requested de Villa meet with social development and social service officials to address the vulnerable populations. De Villa said TPH has adjusted its responses in the midst of the pandemic and "will continue to do so on an ongoing basis so that we can address the needs of those who are disproportionately affected by COVID-19."
De Villa also called on the Ministry of Long-Term Care to fund on-site infection control expertise. The money would be used to hire individuals who specialize in infection control as well as train existing practitioners who work in the long-term care system, all in an effort to mitigate any further COVID-19 transmission and spread.
The chief medical officer's third recommendation was to call on the federal government to improve their data sharing system which indicates who is required to quarantine.
"Unfortunately, at this point, there is a significant delay with respect of the sharing of appropriate information in order to effect timely enforcement of isolation orders should that be necessary."
De Villa said she hopes the federal government will use a data system that allows for "timely and effective transmittal of information" about arriving international travelers so that local authorities and enforcement can assist in quarantine compliance.
"We can outlast it by protecting ourselves but we can't ignore it," de Villa said.
"We have to choose to live differently, at least for now."