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.

What’s open? What’s not?

Much of Weston—and the city—is shutting down to flatten the curve. Here’s a partial list. Please help if you can by leaving a comment below. I’ll update as possible.

Closed or cancelled

  • Weston, Mount Dennis (and all other) library branches
  • York Recreation Centre
  • Shakespeare in Action
  • Mount Dennis’ Climate Action Summit
  • UrbanArts
  • Licensed daycares and schools
  • All city-run March Break camps
  • Frontlines March Break camp, as of Tuesday
  • Goodlife
  • Our MP’s constituency office

Open

  • Weston King Neighbourhood Centre
  • Most small business, including Black Cat, P&M’s, and supercoffee, which are doing a bang-up job.

Black Cat, Weston’s finest café, has an offer for you if you’re having a hard time getting to the store. Justin says that if you can’t make it to the grocery, he can order in baked goods, eggs, and milk for you. Justin, you’re a hell of a guy.

P&M’s is offering to order meat, sauce, and seafood, if you’re in a tight spot.  I love you guys!

 

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.

Hassan hosting meeting on autism programs

Faisal Hassan, our MPP, will be hosting a community meeting on the cuts to autism services. The meeting will be this Saturday, at 2 pm, at the Jane Street Hub.

The Progressive Conservative government is reimagining the province’s autism plan, and replacing money given to health agencies with money given to parents. The goal is to reduce waiting lists, but a side-effect will be reduced funding for those already receiving services.

New Year Predictions

As the new year progresses, it’s probably a good time to make some local and not so local predictions for 2019 and beyond.

Where we are right now.

During the regimes of the late Rob Ford and current mayor John Tory, Toronto has suffered almost a decade of austerity. Now that we have a premier who operates on the same policies, it looks as if Toronto’s public realm will shrink at a more rapid pace. While John Tory looks and sounds like a moderate politician, he’s as radically right-wing as either of the Ford brothers.
Austerity at the provincial level will add to Toronto’s woes, particularly here in Weston / Mount Dennis, especially after Ford gerrymandered Toronto Council by halving the number of councillors and basing council seats on outdated demographics. The current council will have enough support for John Tory to continue the decline of our city. The only differences between Mayor Tory and Premier Ford involve jurisdiction and style rather than political leanings.

A feature of the Rob Ford and John Tory mayoralties has been ignoring the planners and making awful decisions based on dogma and pandering rather than actual need. (Scarborough Subway, Gardiner rebuilding, dangerous streets and the failure of Vision Zero, lousy transit planning, an ineffective and demoralized police force, uncontrolled development…). Added to that, the refusal to charge an appropriate level of property tax has resulted in a lack of funds for city initiatives along with a dilapidated and inadequate public housing inventory. The late British actor Peter Ustinov once called Toronto, “New York run by the Swiss.“. I wonder how he would have described the 2019 version of our city.

Prediction 1: Poverty is about to get real in Weston / Mount Dennis.

Ford has frozen the (already inadequate) minimum wage at $14.00 an hour. It was due to rise to $15 this January 1. This roughly translates to a $2000 annual loss for minimum wage earners, only slightly offset by a tax cut. Basically, general taxes subsidize the wages of minimum wage earners while companies keep the savings and remove them from the community. Other austerity measures include removal of funding for repairs to Toronto schools and public housing (the money would have come from Cap and Trade). Less money and fewer job opportunities will mean more poverty and crime.

What can we do to fight this? Patronize only those businesses that pay workers $15 or more hourly. Call out companies that don’t. Support organizations that fight poverty.

Prediction 2: Massive decisions based on hunches and rewarding friends.

Arbitrary decision making and cronyism has only just begun. When you have lots of friends and lots of jobs to fill, there’s no end to the possibilities. Ford is a big proponent of subways regardless of need, cost and location. He famously suggested building a casino at Exhibition Place and and a ferris wheel on the Port Lands. Now that he’s in charge, the sky will be the limit. The TTC’s subway system will soon be handed over to the hopelessly inept Metrolinx. These are the people who are bungling the Presto Card implementation  The subway takeover plan will involve selling building rights on top of subway stations. The TTC will become a bus service. Incidentally, Metrolinx seems to taking measures designed to suck up to Ford – things like removing electric vehicle charging outlets from GO stations.

Prediction 3: A fire sale of provincial assets.

In order to balance the books and pay for Ford’s re-shaping of Ontario, the private sector will be called on to provide financing. Obtaining private money will involve selling precious public assets such as the LCBO and Ontario Place.

Prediction 4: A two-tier health care system.

Our health care system eats up $53.3 billion or about 39% of the Ontario budget. Ford would dearly love to find ‘efficiencies’ here. He may want private companies and hospitals to set up shop in Ontario. He may also entertain the possibility of people jumping the queue for a fee. A big obstacle is the Canada Health Act and that is why Ford is openly campaigning against Justin Trudeau in the hopes that a Conservative federal government will repeal or amend the act to insert some private health care. The new system might look like the  U.K.’s National Health Service which runs alongside a private system. When the rich (and politicians) are able to jump the queue, you can guarantee that health care for regular folks will suffer.

Prediction 5: Less information and more secrecy.

Many decisions made by the Ford government are made to reward his cronies or appease his fringe supporters and don’t hold up well under scrutiny (1998 Health Curriculum, Ron Taverner…).  Look for Ford and his government to distance themselves even further from accountability and awkward questions from the press. They spread the word through Ontario’s taxpayer funded version of Pravda.

Prediction 6: Local lefty initiatives to end.

Now that Councillor Frances Nunziata has been re-elected, look for her pre-election moderate stance to be dropped. Lefty frivolities such as bike paths and pedestrian safety measures will be quietly shelved. Ms Nunziata will continue to be the councillor most likely to vote with Mayor Tory.

Glimmers of hope for Weston /Mount Dennis:

The Weston Hub will open in February along with many new residents in the 360+ rental units. A small colony of artists will occupy the live / work spaces. Construction on the site will end allowing the area to flourish.
The Weston Farmers Market will have an attractive new home in the centre of Weston that will attract people from outside the area. Two cultural organizations, Shakespeare in Action and UrbanArts hold anchor positions in the new Hub and will also attract visitors to our community.

More businesses are opening up as the UP Express provides a rapid and regular link to downtown.

On Weston Road, retail stores are being renovated and a payday loan company has closed.

A small number of affordable units at 22 John Street will be made available through a lottery held between eligible applicants. Use this link to apply (the link becomes live on Monday January 14; the application process will close January 28).

Interesting Possibilities:

Prime Minister Trudeau will perform a minor cabinet shuffle on Monday and unpopular York South-Weston MP, Ahmed Hussen may be moved laterally or demoted. A lateral move might be part of an effort to distance Mr. Hussen from the burdensome immigration file and boost his chances in October’s general election.

What’s up at Church Street Hospital?

Way back in 2018, I was asked what was up at the Church Street site of the  Humber River Hospital (and I never did find out). An answer has come to light thanks to some readers and Frances Nunziata’s circular: It’s a “Reactivation Care Centre”—an off-ramp for acute-care hospital patients, who “no longer need acute care services, but often find themselves waiting for an alternate care facility, such as convalescent and long-term care.”

Photo from Sunnybrook

Our RCC is the second in the province, preceded by the Finch Avenue site that was also part of the Humber River Regional Hospital group.

According to Nunziata’s circular, things are still getting started at our location, and at present, there are 94 beds. An additional 120 will be opened in March.

The Church Street site will alleviate pressure at local acute-care hospitals that are part of the Central Local Health Integration Network. Sunnybrook, for example,  typically has “an occupancy rate of over 100 per cent”; sending patients to the Church RCC will free up beds needed urgently, and give patients specialized restorative care.

So it’s a win-win.

It’s also great news for Weston.

When the Church Street site was closed, many residents were concerned that it would be sold to developers, and that a high-density development would be built in a low-density neighbourhood. There were also concerns we would be missing the chance to develop a public good, like a college, seniors’ home, childcare, or park.

Plans to sell the property were thwarted, at least at first, by an odd legal artifact: 70 years ago, the Trimbee family sold the land to the Town of Weston with the condition that it would be used only for a hospital. The city sought to vacate that condition.

Mental Health Awareness in Weston for Men’s Mental Health Month

Movember is a term that was coined in 2004, though the first events with this name did not begin until 2007. Movember is a movement designed to bring awareness to men’s health issues like prostate cancer and mental health issues. There is an advertisement for this organization on the north-east corner of Church and Jane, which you may have seen. With the focus of this month being on mental health in men, it is a good time to brush up on the services available to us in Weston.

Within Weston itself, there are no mental health services that pop-up on Google, but this does not mean that residents do not have a need for it. Mental health issues like depression and anxiety are on the rise, especially with adolescents. According to the CAMH website, 34% of high school students report feeling moderate to severe levels of psychological distress, which is a symptom of anxiety and depression, and by the age of 40, 50% of people will have had or have a mental illness.  Many people who experience these illnesses do not seek help as they either do not have access to it or are worried about what those around them may say, as there is a large stigma surrounding mental illness. This month is a good time to remind ourselves and those around us that mental illness is normal and that we are loved.

Looking online can provide those with mental illness with good coping techniques, but it is best to see your doctor if you feel you may be suffering. There are options. Some services in the area surrounding Weston include Etobicoke Psychological Services, The Etobicoke Children’s Centre and the Family Association for Mental Health Everywhere (FAME). Students can also turn to guidance counsellors within their school, as they can be given the accommodations they need. If you or someone you know is suffering from mental illness, there are options for you to get the help you need.