Toronto to open centre for those with COVID-19 who can't self-isolate at home

Toronto will soon open a centre for those with COVID-19 who cannot self-isolate at home, a service the federal government said is open to other cities across the country.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Friday the federal government is providing $13.9 million to Toronto Public Health — enough to operate the 140-room isolation centre that opens this weekend for the next 12 months.

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"We've heard heartbreaking stories of people knowing that they are ill and knowing that they don't have the capacity to stop the spread within their own home," Hajdu said at a news conference in Toronto.

"This space will be available for people who live in housing that lacks the necessary space to allow for that proper distancing."

Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto's medical officer of health, said the isolation centre is "a critical part" of the city's plan to deal with the likely resurgence of the novel coronavirus.

"What this all comes down to is simply this: many people living under one roof and not enough space increases the risk that COVID-19 will spread in that household, which means it can spread in the community too," de Villa said.

"This voluntary isolation site helps to reduce those risks."

The city reported 71 new cases to the province on Friday — Toronto's highest single-day count since mid-June, according to the city's website.

De Villa said public health investigators will determine on a case-by-case basis if someone with the disease could benefit from isolating at the new centre, rather than stay home.

Mayor John Tory said there are many in Toronto who cannot self-isolate at home.

"Data has shown us that lower-income neighbourhoods were disproportionately affected in the early stages and today by COVID-19, in part because individuals living in these communities once they tested positive may then have experienced difficulty to properly isolate themselves," he said.

Tory said he and health officials have been discussing the idea for several months with the federal government.

Hajdu said there are currently no plans for another facility elsewhere, but that she has been talking to many big-city mayors since late June and those talks continue.

"If the city requires that service, yes we'll work with them to make sure that we can provide a similar support," she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 11, 2020.

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