City services and staffing impacts due to unplanned absences
Throughout the holiday period, the City of Toronto continued its rollout of the Toronto Omicron Action Plan to stop the spread of this highly-transmissible COVID-19 variant, which includes:
- increased vaccination capacity
- continued outreach and support to residents who need help
- elevated emergency response
- ongoing cooperation with other governments and increased advocacy for support for residents and businesses.
In December, Team Toronto delivered more than 650,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to eligible adults, and more than 100,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to kids, aged five to 11. Thirty-seven per cent of eligible residents now have a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
Residents are reminded that the best way to protect themselves against COVID-19 is by getting vaccinated, limiting in-person contacts, maintaining physical distancing, wearing a mask and staying home when ill.
Yesterday, the Province of Ontario announced it is temporarily moving into Step Two of its Roadmap to Reopen, effective at 12:01 a.m. tomorrow, January 5, to limit the transmission of the Omicron variant and to prevent Ontario hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. These new provincial measures impact City services, including:
- Closing of all indoor galleries, museums and zoos
- Outdoor amenities are permitted to remain open
- Closing of all indoor meeting and event spaces
- Closing of all indoor entertainment venues, including theatres
- Cancellation of all winter indoor instructional programs
- Suspension of all drop-in recreation reservations, permits, programs and memberships including programs in fitness centres, indoor arenas and swimming pools
- Impacted client registrations and reservations will be cancelled and refunds will be processed automatically
- Outdoor amenities such as rinks and ski hills remain open for drop-in and instructional programs and permits, weather permitting
- Virtual programs remain operational
- Washrooms and showers in some recreation facilities will remain open.
- Delayed re-opening of After-School Recreation & Care Programs until in-person learning resumes
The City is updating its website to reflect these changes and residents are encouraged to visit Toronto.ca/COVID-19 for real-time updates on City services.
The City of Toronto, like all cities around the world, has been planning for a high number of unplanned staff absences due to illness or COVID-19 isolation requirements for both critical and essential services, as well as non-critical and non-essential services. Based on worst-case scenarios, the City has been planning for absentee rates of 50 per cent to 60 per cent, back-stopped through redeployment of staff to ensure critical and essential services can continue.
Staff from areas like Parks, Forestry and Recreation are being redeployed to assist in vaccination clinics, City-run shelters and the City’s 10 long-term care homes. The City has established a pool of approximately 1,000 employees, from across the organization, many of whom were redeployed at the onset of the pandemic in March of 2020, to call upon should they be required.
On December 16, the City fully reactivated its Emergency Operations Centre to plan for high unplanned absences and coordinate staff redeployment. It also re-established the business continuity task force and the PPE management task force, both of which were struck at the start of the pandemic two years ago.
Emergency services will continue to respond to emergency calls without interruption.
Higher risk and higher priority calls will always be responded to first before lower risk and lower priority calls. Response times, particularly for low priority calls, may increase from pre-pandemic levels, however each of the City’s emergency services are proactively deploying resources to deal with absences and ensure the City remains safe.
Throughout the pandemic, as well, the City has leveraged its strong relationship with trusted community partners to deliver public health information, improve access to testing and vaccine, and promote wrap-around services. The solutions have been evolving to meet the needs through the various phases of the pandemic, and include:
- a community coordination plan with 400 plus non-profit sector partners coordinating services for vulnerable residents and community members
- working with community partners to address space and funding needs for food security and supported community kitchens for prepared meals for delivery to individuals and agencies
- continuation of the City’s mental health support strategy with more than 13 key mental health service providers, including 211, that provides free counselling and mental health support to Toronto residents
- vaccine engagement teams that have been facilitating and promoting equitable vaccine uptake across Toronto’s 140 neighbourhoods with a focus on those most disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
Community ambassadors have engaged almost one million residents in the hardest hit areas of Toronto and worked through the holiday season to help residents who need extra supports to protect themselves and their families.
“We are continuing to do everything we can as a City government to help people get through this pandemic – that work never stopped, but we are ramping it up again to respond to the Omicron threat. I know people are frightened right now. This new variant has driven case counts higher here and around the world. And it comes at a time when we are all exhausted by this pandemic and just want it to be over. We can confront this variant and we can get through this – just as we have made it through the last 22 months. It’s that Team Toronto grit and determination, that commitment to helping your neighbours and those in need, that saw us face this virus head-on to break previous waves and to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible. Know that your city is continuing to work to help protect and support people as much as possible, to keep delivering essential and critical services, and to keep helping people get vaccinated – with a major focus on third doses right now and helping kids get fully vaccinated.”
– Mayor John Tory
“The past two years have been incredibly challenging, but we must remember that we have the tools to confront this wave. Throughout December and the holidays, our City government has worked non-stop to respond to Omicron and ensure that we are significantly increasing vaccination capacity, preparing redeployment plans for continuity of essential City services, and scaling up supports for vulnerable communities. By looking out for one another and rallying together once again, we will beat this wave.”
– Councillor Joe Cressy (Spadina-Fort York), Chair of the Board of Health
“We are facing a new challenge with Omicron as we enter 2022 – but we have the tools to face this challenge head on. This may be a new variant, and this may bring with it new challenges, but we have much better tools that we have in the past. We can confront this variant and better protect our most vulnerable. You should know that we, at Toronto Public Health and the City of Toronto, are doing everything we can to protect Toronto residents. As we have done before, I know we can get through this together, to persevere and to look after each other.”
– Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health
“Each and every day, our COVID-19 Strategic Command Team is hard at work ensuring that the emergency, essential and critical services that our residents rely upon, continue to be delivered without interruption. Supported by our Business Continuity Task Force, the City’s emergency operations centre team is working in collaboration with the City’s People & Equity and Senior Leadership Teams to redeploy City staff to where they are needed most. As the situation with COVID-19 continues to evolve, our response and mitigation plans will also. Thank you to everyone who is giving their all to meet these challenges.”
– Fire Chief Matthew Pegg, General Manager of the Office of Emergency Management
Toronto is home to more than 2.9 million people whose diversity and experiences make this great city Canada’s leading economic engine and one of the world’s most diverse and livable cities. As the fourth largest city in North America, Toronto is a global leader in technology, finance, film, music, culture and innovation, and consistently places at the top of international rankings due to investments championed by its government, residents and businesses. For more information visit the City’s website or follow us on Twitter , Instagram or Facebook .