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Confirmed COVID-19 cases jump in Toronto as March break travellers return

Confirmed COVID-19 cases jump in Toronto as March break travellers return
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The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Toronto jumped by 118 on Friday, reflecting an increase in cases brought home by March break travellers and spread throughout the city.

“We are seeing a significant increase and I expect we will continue to see similar patterns in the coming days ahead,” said Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, speaking at Friday’s press conference at city hall.

The increase on Friday was more than triple the daily increase for most preceding days this past week, and the most dramatic increase since the pandemic began.

Until Friday the number of daily reported case increases had been averaging between roughly 30 and 40.

It takes about five or six days for most people to show symptoms of the virus, for others it can take up to 14 days, de Villa said.

“We also know that March break recently ended and there’s been an increased number of travellers returning back to our city, many of whom are returning from destinations where COVID-19 is actively circulating.”

She said the positive tests reported on Friday were the result of infections acquired several days ago.

Only 25 per cent of the cases are attributable to community spread, she added. Of the 457 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Toronto as of Friday, 29 people were hospitalized and 15 people were in intensive care units, receiving the highest level of medical care.

De Villa and Toronto Mayor John Tory urged residents to stay at home, especially travellers who have recently returned to Toronto. They urged people not to go shopping unless they have to, and when they have to, not to congregate in groups and to stay two metres apart from one another.

“If we continue to see people selfishly ignore the recommendations that have been out in place to keep us safe, we should prepare to continue to see dramatic increases in local cases,” said de Villa.

She has previously warned that if residents do not abide by the rules of social distancing, they could see some of their civil liberties taken away, pointing to jurisdictions where people are facing heavy fines for venturing outside after travel or when ill.

“Please stay home,” said Tory, who emerged from 14 days of isolation on Thursday morning, after having travelled to London.

“It goes contrary to everything we want to do in the early days of spring…the kids have been cooped up and they want to be outside, but please stay home in order to help us stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.”

Also at Friday’s press conference, city asked landlords and condo boards to adopt rigorous new cleaning routines to protect residents.

Building operators and staff are being asked to install alcohol-based hand sanitizer or a hand washing station with soap and water at building entrances; close non-essential common areas including bathrooms, gyms and playgrounds, and routinely clean door handles, elevator buttons and hand rails.

De Villa said the new measures weren’t made mandatory because Toronto Public Health prefers to start bringing people to voluntary action through education and only resort to enforcement-type measures when required.

Tory, who lives in a condo, said his building management and, and he believes, many others, have already taken steps to encourage social distancing and better hygiene in common areas.

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Geordie Dent, executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations said that while he welcomed the recommendations, they wouldn’t be necessary if the RentSafeTO program, endorsed by council in 2016, had been properly implemented.

The Rent Safe program called on all landlords to develop dedicated cleaning plans for their buildings that listed all common areas and how often they would be cleaned, including walls, floors, laundry rooms and garbage storage areas.
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