It’s not a sprint, but a marathon, when it comes to community efforts to battle COVID-19. Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie held her third Virtual Town Hall Wednesday to update residents on the city’s response to the pandemic – with a call for residents to stay the course despite a flattening viral curve. “Hang in there for a little longer,” said Crombie, who was joined by city officials, community representatives and fellow councillors.
With the weather starting to get nicer and Mother’s Day taking place this weekend, it would be easy to assume the worst is over, but residents must stay vigilant. “Take in the nicer weather for brief exercise, but maintain distance and isolation restrictions,” said Crombie. “Most importantly – please respect the amenity closures in parks and playgrounds.
“With a state of emergency in effect, fines from $385 to $1,000 are still in effect to enforce physical distance of two meters, restrict gatherings to no more than five unrelated persons, and punish littering of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs). While new infection rates are “now approaching single digits,” Peel Region’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Lawrence Loh, also cautioned against “sneaky backyard barbecues.
” As of May 5, Mississauga saw its lowest day-over-day increase of only 11 cases, a hopeful sign that community spread is nearing the peak of the infection curve. Total cases that day were 1,441. In the last week of April, the 87 deaths in Mississauga weighted heavily towards vulnerable populations, especially seniors. As at May 5, of 370 total deaths in Peel Region, 59 of the cases were linked to longterm care outbreaks.
May 4-9 also marked Mental Health Week., and Dr. Loh acknowledged how the past eight weeks of isolation, coupled with economic uncertainty and fear of disease and death, punctuated its theme – encouraging virtual social connections. “I too miss out on my Trivial Pursuit and karaoke nights,” he said. Residents participating in the tele town hall got answers to their questions fielded by Crombie, City Councillors and senior city staff who were joined by an expert group of panelists from Peel Region Public Health, Trillium Health Partners, Peel Regional Police and Peel Regional Paramedic Services.
Last week, Premier Doug Ford announced the government’s committee to prepare for reopening the economy, with a strategy to phase in recovery of business sectors and activity. Currently, emergency restrictions define “essential” economic activities so that health and front line personnel and resources focus on identifying COVID-19 cases, containing spread, treating infection, and securing procurement and supply chain for necessary equipment and processes. Mississauga council adapted its by-laws to provide for virtual meetings, with a schedule modified to prioritize response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Key standing committees such as Budget and Planning & Development continued, while advisory committees, such as the Environmental Action Committee and Accessibility Advisory Committee meetings, were deferred in April, but are anticipated to resume their meeting schedule on a virtual platform in the near future. In response to a question on Mississauga’s plans, Chief Administrative Officer Janice Baker said the city is “very much turning our minds to the recovery phase.” Operations will be guided by Peel Public Health, to determine when and how employees currently working at home will be supported by safe workplace practices.
Dr. Loh said that such decisions will be informed by testing, tracing and tracking. Global demand and disrupted supply chains have frustrated the ability to meet Ontario’s targets for widespread testing, which lag behind other provinces. As of May 5, Ontario conducted 352,714 tests. The 16,000 daily target will soon be achieved as recent localized production of reagents essential for the test kick in. Ontario’s priority is to stem outbreaks in seniors’ long-term care and retirement centres, through surveillance screening and swabbing of residents and attending personnel. Peel Region has 28 such seniors’ centres.
Of these, as of May 5, COVID-19 outbreaks have been detected in eight long term care and five retirement residences. Trillium Health Partners (TPH) President Michelle DiEmanuelle said that TPH tested 16,000 people since mid- April. This number comprised community cases, as well as 300-500 patients and emergency cases. Of these, 1,158 tests were positive. Currently, there are 116 COVID patients in Trillium’s system.
While Trillium has been able to meet the response of the pandemic, DiEmannuelle acknowledged the literal pain of others needing care. “We know that in shutting down acute care that some nonemergency services still waiting are now potentially becoming urgent,” she said. “We also need to get back in place our patients’ daily preventative care, such as physiotherapy and dentists.” DiEmanuelle said the province is developing a program for a process aimed to control COVID-19 spread while meeting the needs of all other patients who are notconfirmed cases.
With the deferral to collect residential real estate taxes, financial impacts “have been significant.” Only 10 per cent of the routine Mar. 2020 tax revenues were remitted. At the same time, dedicated expenses for policing and emergency services were increased to meet the emergency response, and unforeseen costs were incurred to meet health and safety concerns. For example, with the closing city-run facilities and parks and increasing need for by-law enforcement on physical distancing, the 157-member by-law officers saw their numbers increase to 180 by deputizing security officers.
In the past eight weeks, there have been 25,000 interactions with residents, and 23,000 people turned away from city-run parks and facilities. Last weekend, of 61 COVID-related tickets issued, 41 were for littering of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), 10 were for park trespassing, and a further 10 ranged from unessential construction to house parties and picnics. The city monthly cash outflow is $43 million, said Crombie. Revenues cannot be collected, such as the $7 million in lost transit fares through the MiWay system. At the next Mississauga Council meeting on May 12, staff will report on a framework for the City ‘s recovery. “We’ll be looking to business and residents to play their part,” said Baker.