Toronto: The City of Toronto is continuing to implement proactive measures to protect the health and safety of residents, businesses and staff and ensure that essential and critical City services, as well as vaccination efforts, continue to be delivered in the face of the threat posed by the Covid-19 variants.
The City delivers many essential and critical services including emergency response by Toronto Police, Fire and Paramedics; drinking water and wastewater services; shelter operations; long-term care; winter operations; and the ongoing response to COVID-19, including vaccination efforts.
As the Omicron variant has spread, the City – like cities around the world – is planning for a possible high number of unplanned staff absences due to illness and COVID-19 isolation requirements for both critical and essential services, as well as non-critical and non-essential services. The City will communicate broadly should any programs be affected by a high number of unplanned absences.
The City’s COVID-19 Strategic Command Team monitors all aspects of COVID-19 response, vaccine clinic operations and both critical and essential City service monitoring on a daily basis. The Strategic Command Team is supported by the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), including dedicated teams focused on business continuity, personal protective equipment (PPE) management and staff redeployment.
The following measures will be in place until further notice:
Redeployment of City staff
Throughout the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, that City has deployed staff to meet the highest priority needs as they arise. The City will continue to allocate staff as needed to ensure key services continue. Preparations are in place to redeploy hundreds of staff – many of whom were previously redeployed and are ready to undertake similar roles – in support of critical and essential services. Their knowledge and experience from the first round of redeployment in 2020 will help to ensure a seamless transition as they step in to ensure service continuity.
Depending on how the ongoing COVID-19 situation evolves, additional staff can also be redeployed in order to assist the City where help is needed most, both immediately and in the near future.
Suspension of non-essential in-person counter services
As of January 4, several in-person, non-essential counter services at City Hall and civic centres will temporarily shift their operational service delivery to remote channels (i.e. online, phone, email, etc.) only. This will further help to protect the public and City staff who can perform this work remotely or be made available to support critical and essential redeployment efforts.
Essential services and those mandated by legislation will continue to operate in person, including marriage licenses, court services, and distribution of COVID-19 rapid screening kits to small and medium-sized businesses. All services, except for Legal Services, require booking an appointment in advance.
Restrictions and capacity limits, in accordance with provincial and public health guidelines will be in place, including mandatory masks, physical distancing, protective barriers and increased sanitization and cleaning protocols. More details are available on the COVID-19: Changes to City Services page at https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/affected-city-services/
Redeployment of Toronto Public Health (TPH) Dental Services Program staff
Over the month of January, the Toronto Public Health (TPH) Dental Services Program will redeploy staff to support the COVID-19 vaccination efforts. The program will operate emergency services only during this time.
Rapid antigen tests (RATs)
The use of rapid antigen tests by City staff is being expanded, to support the delivery of critical and essential services. RATs will be used for screening purposes as part of the City’s COVID-19 workplace safety plan that also includes mandatory vaccination, daily symptom screening, physical distancing, increased masking protocols, regular cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch surfaces and hand hygiene. This usage is being expanded from services with legislated testing requirements such as long-term care and children’s services, to also include some priority essential and critical services such as police, fire, paramedics, water and public health as an enhanced safety measure in the City’s existing screening process to prevent workplace transmission.
Protecting high-priority Toronto Paramedic calls
The City has been working with hospital CEOs to alleviate the amount of time paramedics are waiting in Emergency Departments, as hospitals across the province are facing staffing challenges due to absences related to COVID-19. As such, during busier periods, paramedic responses to low priority calls may be delayed to respond to higher priority calls. Toronto Paramedic Services and Toronto Fire Services, therefore, are temporarily implementing changes to their response model that will see Toronto Fire Services respond to additional calls where there is no clear indication of a patient or injury identified during the call taking process. If a patient is subsequently identified, TFS will call Paramedics.
Mayor John Tory said: “As we face the threat of the Omicron variant, the City of Toronto is taking proactive steps to ensure essential and critical City services that residents rely on continue, with the high service levels Torontonians expect. We remain steadfast in our resolve to respond to the Omicron variant and protect the health of Toronto residents. Throughout the pandemic, employees across the Toronto Public Service have worked to respond to the virus and its variants. My continued and sincere thanks goes to them all and I commend their dedication to support essential and critical City services during the holiday season and beyond.”