Where are we going with all this?

It’s really hard to report on local news when there isn’t much of it happening. Instead, here’s some further idle speculation on our current situation.

Social Distancing:
Apparently it works. Even the most intellectually challenged are learning this important lesson.

Social (or physical) distancing keeps infections to a low level so that hospitals aren’t overwhelmed. When hospitals are swamped with patients, deaths increase considerably. We seem to be distancing quite well in our community (Lions Park soccer field excepted)

Most parts of the country also seem to be following the new rules. How effective are they? It depends on the degree of cooperation. According to the University of Sydney (Australia), 80% compliance seems to be the threshold at which new infections fall.

From Sydney Morning Herald (click to enlarge).

The shaded area represents a 91-day period of social distancing. According to the chart, infections will soar once the restrictions are lifted. Is there a better way to get through COVID-19 than by simply closing the country down?  Yes. Unlike Western countries, Taiwan leaned from the 2003 SARS epidemic and acted quickly once COVID-19 arrived. They started containment efforts in December 2019.

In this video, Taiwan’s approach is compared to that of Italy. Our own approach to the virus is more like Italy’s than Taiwan’s although our population may be younger and less family oriented.


Detecting, tracking and testing are important parts of Taiwan’s strategy.

Here in Toronto we’re still playing catch-up. On March 13th, as part of ongoing treatment I went to a large Toronto hospital. Visitors were allowed and there were no symptom checks or hand sanitizer at the entrance. When I returned on March 26th, visitors were banned and staff were stationed at the now limited entrances to ask patients about symptoms. They didn’t take my temperature. Masks were optional (I wore one).

It seems clear that containment measures are being introduced or tightened too slowly.

Another factor: we’re still in the early stages with stricter measures likely to come. We may end up with lockdown fatigue.  Compliance could then deteriorate until we go below the 80% threshold.

Then what?

If we adopt parts of the Taiwanese and South Korean approaches (it’s not too late), we can slow the spread indefinitely. It will require a level of enforcement and cooperation not seen here in a long time but the prize will be the saving of many more lives and the revival of our economy.

Here’s how South Korea flattened their curve.


Let’s hope our leaders can learn from other countries’ recent experience. Sadly we didn’t learn from our own back in 2003.

“The experience with SARS in Toronto indicates that this disease is entirely driven by exposure to infected individuals. Transmission occurred primarily within health care settings or in circumstances where close contacts occurred. The was spread by respiratory droplets in the great majority of cases, and some patients were more infectious than others. Ultimately, the strict adherence to precautions—and practice implementing them—was critical to the containment of SARS in Toronto and the restoration of safe conditions for hospital staff and patients.”

SARS: Lessons from Toronto Dr Donald E. Low. 2004

Parks: leash free, play and exercise areas closed.

As the COVID-19 pandemic tightens its grip, Mayor Tory has acted to discourage groups of people hanging out together in Toronto’s parks.

From the city’s site:

“All City-owned playgrounds, sports fields, basketball and tennis courts, off-leash dog parks, skateboard and BMX parks, picnic areas, outdoor exercise equipment and other parks amenities, as well as parking lots attached to its parks system, are closed.”

This may be in response to reports of people not maintaining a sufficient distance.

Read more about affected city services here.

In New York, they are considering similar measures but to compensate, will close some streets to (already greatly reduced) traffic so that people will have more places to get some fresh air.

Some thoughts on COVID-19

Spanish Flu: Did you know that the Spanish Flu of 1918-19 was so named because at the tail end of World War 1, neutral Spain was the first country to report on the outbreak? The Spanish king was one of the casualties of the first wave of the flu. Censors in combatant countries kept the pandemic secret for morale purposes. It could have been called the American Flu because the virus may have originated on a Kansas farm possibly in March 1918 and was brought to Europe by American troops. After it spread world-wide and died down, the virus mutated to a more deadly version (possibly in a Boston area army camp) and a second pandemic broke out killing millions of people.

Here in Weston / Mount Dennis, life has changed for most of us. Now we are meant to practise ‘Social Distancing’ and keep at least 2m apart. Dr. Isaac Bogoch has pointed out that the term should be ‘Physical Distancing’ – we can and should be as social as we want electronically.

Local Business: If life was tough for local food and retail businesses before, now it’s a heroic struggle. We should be supporting local restaurants, coffee shops and other permitted business using their take-out services. Many will deliver.

The second-biggest employer in the GTA is Pearson Airport and its associated airlines and businesses. They will be reducing staff levels sharply. In spite of the  outbreak, passengers are still arriving at Pearson with tales of minimal temperature and symptom checks which is absolutely bizarre.

Real Estate: Sales are down and listings are up. This may result in a buyers’ market as time goes on. Interest rates have dropped and there may be opportunities to re-mortgage. People who bought homes as rentals or Airbnb investments may need to sell if the pandemic continues and money becomes tight. Tenants will be struggling to pay their rent on time, if at all. Selling homes will be made more difficult as owners and sitting tenants may not wish to have visitors. The Toronto Real Estate Board is recommending that its members stop all open houses and this will further hamper sales. Former MP for York South-Weston Mike Sullivan is selling up and has picked up some helpful publicity in the Star.

Are we handling COVID-19 properly?: Probably not. A friend recently spent several months in Taiwan and returned this week. Taiwan is near China and while the virus arrived there earlier than here, it is under control. Just about everything is functioning normally, schools (after a two-week closure), stores, restaurants, theatres etc. Before being admitted to a business, customers must answer questions about their health, whether they’ve been outside the country recently and their temperature is taken. Parents must check and report their child’s temperature before sending them to school. Face masks and sanitizing gel are in abundant supply and as a result, the country has been minimally affected with much lower levels of medical and financial upheaval. Taiwan learned a lot during the SARS outbreak in 2002-3 but apparently in Canada we learned little from our own experience. Our politicians are reluctant to order people to stay home and back it up with civil and criminal penalties. As a result, we are getting mere suggestions about what to do to contain the virus but the lack of enforcement measures at airports, businesses and public areas will ensure that the virus will continue to spread and as a result many more people will die. Every legal resident of Ontario possesses a health card. If a crackdown is needed, people may be asked to carry theirs at all times and produce it on demand if they break distancing or other health-related requirements.

The public face of COVID-19: Justin Trudeau, Doug Ford, Christine Elliott and Dr. Eileen DeVilla do not inspire confidence with their tepid responses to the pandemic. Trudeau finally realized that his fancy socks were never appropriate after wearing them to his first self-isolation presser. Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen DeVilla apparently wants people to notice her scarf collection while talking to us as if we are in kindergarten. The only straight talker is Dr. Teresa Tam, Canada’s Public Health Officer but she’s hamstrung by the feds’ cautious and dangerous hands-off approach. Doug Ford should stop modelling Donald Trump’s daily self-aggrandizing lectures and use fewer superlatives and clichés. His ‘deer in the headlights’ look indicates that Ontario faces many more lives lost if things aren’t tightened up soon. Let’s not forget that Ford cut funding to public health departments by 30% last year.

Lastly, John Tory has declared a state of emergency in the City of Toronto. This will allow him to act on his own without a council vote.  Look for something dynamic and decisive like lowering fines on overdue library books.

UPDATE: It has been pointed out that the science is not certain on the Kansas origin of Spanish Flu. I have amended the article to reflect this.

COVID-19 contact info:

Toronto Public Health COVID-19 website: toronto.ca/covid-19

Government COVID-19 sites:

City of Toronto

Province of Ontario

Government of Canada

Telehealth Ontario
Call if you develop symptoms.
Telephone: 1-866-797-0000

Toronto Public Health Hotline
8:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Call for info on COVID-19.
Phone: 416-338-7600
Email: [email protected]

Links showing world-wide cases of COVID-19:

Johns Hopkins – sometimes a bit delayed but shows each Canadian province individually along with the rest of the world.

Roylab – a Korean site with eerie apocalyptic music with a ‘gong of doom’ whenever new results come in.

Judicial review to go ahead.

A piece of good news has emerged from the life that was going on before COVID 19 hit.

As a reminder, in 2018, St Helen’s Meat Packers somehow managed to buy an 8-acre parcel of contaminated flood-plain land from the city after the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, normally fiercely protective of flood plain land, gave permission for its sale and use as a meat packing plant.

TRCA says that the land doesn’t help protect adjacent locations from flooding. Community consultation meetings became raucous affairs with St Helen’s employees ‘packing’ the meeting in matching t-shirts.

The cost for 8 acres of land in our fair city? $3.19 million.

Incidentally, Robert Bielak, president of St Helens is a Ford family friend and his wife donated (legally) to Ward 5 Councillor Frances Nunziata’s 2018 election campaign.

The site borders Rockcliffe Boulevard, a street where homes are flooded in severe rain events. The last hope for residents to stop the plant’s construction is a judicial review in which a judge will check to see if all protocols have been followed. Reviews are expensive but the $25,000 cost has been raised through a combination of public fundraising and private donors. Landscape architect Devin Tepleski organized the successful fundraiser. Incidentally, and in keeping with the councillor’s style of appearing to support both sides; one of  the donors to the fundraiser was none other than Frances Nunziata.

Frances Nunziata protesting in an Acorn march in October 2018. From CTV.

Read more here, here and here.

Eglinton Crosstown Extension update.

The route of the proposed Crosstown extension from Mount Dennis to the airport.From Metrolinx.

It seems as if the Ford government is determined to push through a couple of transit projects; one is the Scarborough Subway and the other is the westward expansion of the Crosstown line from Mount Dennis to Renforth Drive and from there link to Pearson Airport. True to their promises, Ford and Etobicoke Centre MPP Kinga Surma want much of the line along Eglinton to be underground and so a Request for Qualifications was issued on March 10 for companies to express their interest (and show their credentials) in the tunnelling. Six kilometres of the line between Scarlett Road and Renforth Drive will be underground.

An RFQ seeks interested parties who, if they qualify, will then be invited to bid on actual contracts.

Read more here.

For a detailed view of the various options for the extension read this.

COVID-19 How are you dealing with it?

The Coronavirus pandemic has certainly captured the attention of the world and its effects are just beginning to unfold. Here in Weston / Mount Dennis, there are no known local cases – Toronto Storeys has published a map that shows the location of every coronavirus case diagnosed in the city. None appear to be close to our neighbourhood and few if any appear to be locally transmitted.

The protocol for those diagnosed seems to be to self-isolate (assuming symptoms are mild enough) to keep the virus from spreading. This requires a bit of planning and perhaps stockpiling supplies to hold out for that long. In our household we are prepared for a two-week isolation should it be necessary plus some consolation junk food.

Readers are invited to share their preparations and thoughts on the current crisis.

There are a couple of sites for a more global picture of the pandemic; the Johns Hopkins tracker is here (it seems to  be having trouble keeping up with demand) and the worldometers one is here.

In Ontario, over 4000 people have been tested and 54 of them were found to be positive for the virus.

Here is the link to Telehealth Ontario if you have symptoms.

Lastly, here is a link to an article published in Medium which every politician in this country should read. It basically says that early and draconian measures are vital in order to save lives.

Live YouTube feed here.