Tory promises essential services will continue despite staff shortages, but 44 library branches set to close

Mayor John Tory promised Tuesday that the Toronto government would maintain emergency, immunization and other essential services in the days and weeks to come, even if staffing shortages related to COVID-19 force the closure of dozens of municipal libraries.

At a Tuesday press conference, Tory said the city is redeploying staff from non-critical departments to critical departments as it anticipates a high number of unplanned staff absences caused by the spread of the highly transmissible variant of Omicron.

He said the city is preparing for the worst-case scenario where up to 50-60% of city staff cannot work because they are sick, self-isolating due to symptoms or because they are a contact. family of a person infected with the virus. .

“Toronto emergency services will continue to respond to calls without interruption. Essential operations will continue so that safe drinking water comes out of your tap, snow is cleared and garbage is picked up, among other services,” said Tory, who was joined by Medical Officer of Health Dr Eileen from Villa and General Manager of Emergency Management Matthew Pegg.

“We are laser-focused to ensure that essential and critical city services that residents rely on continue to be provided.”

WATCH | Mayor Tory: “Now is the time for all of us to be as safe and careful as possible”

Mayor Tory: ‘Now is the time for all of us to be as safe and as careful as possible’

Toronto Mayor John Tory has urged residents to diligently continue to wear their masks and get vaccinated as COVID-19 cases rise due to the Omicron variant.

Toronto’s essential services also include operating homeless shelters, long-term care homes, some aspects of children’s services and public transit, officials said.

Tory said a full plan will be released later this week.

“We want people to know that these plans exist and to be aware of them, so they won’t be surprised when certain non-critical and non-essential services are adjusted or cancelled,” he said.

Closure of Toronto Library branches

Staffing shortages related to COVID-19 are already impacting municipal services. The Toronto Public Library (TPL) announced on Tuesday that it is temporarily closing 44 branches effective Monday, Jan. 10, while continuing to operate 52 of the largest and most heavily used branches.

“These operational changes will allow TPL branches, including those serving neighborhood improvement areas, to continue to provide consistent and equitable library services across the city,” TPL said in a statement. Press release.

While police, fire and paramedics will continue to respond to 911 calls, Pegg said firefighters are dispatched to low-priority calls first to ensure paramedics are free to respond to calls involving injuries. serious or requiring transport to hospital.

“Response times, especially for low priority calls, may increase from pre-pandemic levels,” Pegg said.

Matthew Pegg, Toronto Fire Chief and Emergency Management Officer, said first responders will continue to respond to 911 calls without interruption. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Meanwhile, Tory met on Tuesday afternoon with the leaders of the 11 largest city governments in the Greater Toronto Area, all of whom have pledged to maintain essential services and continue vaccinations as they respond to the Omicron wave. , according to a joint press release.

The meeting included mayors and presidents from Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Hamilton, Markham, Vaughan, Oshawa, Peel, York, Durham and Halton

Tuesday’s press conference comes a day after the provincial government announced the return of sweeping restrictions to tackle the record number of COVID-19 cases driven by the highly transmissible variant of Omicron that threatens to overwhelm the healthcare system. of Ontario.

The restrictions, which take effect Wednesday, January 5 at 12:01 a.m., bring Ontario back to a modified version of the second stage of the province’s roadmap to reopening, which was first implemented Last year. They include bringing schools online for at least two weeks, temporarily closing indoor restaurants, gyms and many other businesses for three weeks, and suspending non-emergency medical procedures.

2 hospitals in Greater Toronto under “code orange”

According to Public Health Ontario, Toronto recorded at least 3,006 cases on Jan. 2 and 2,480 on Jan. 3, the latest dates for which data is available. These figures are probably underestimated, OPS said in his daily epidemiological summariesdue to changes in the availability of PCR testing.

Toronto Public Health (TPH) has not reported new case counts since Dec. 31 and stopped reporting further data over the holidays. TPH says it will provide a more detailed update on Wednesday.

Ontario reported at least 11,352 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and another increase in hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions on Tuesday.

In a news release Tuesday morning, the city said holiday vaccination efforts have contributed to a total of 37% of Toronto residents having received a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of January 2. .

“The Toronto team is focused on scaling up vaccination efforts in response to the Omicron variant and delivering the first, second and third doses to the arms of all who are eligible,” the statement said.

“As we enter the early days of 2022, the vaccine push continues, with 32,599 appointments booked for adult doses at city-run immunization clinics this first week of January.”

The city continues to offer vaccinations through city-run clinics, hospital partner clinics, local pharmacies and doctor’s offices.

Michelle J. Kelley