Toronto Mayor John Tory admits city’s response to COVID-19 is still a long way behind other cities

Toronto Public Health vice-chair questions city’s COVID-19 policy and leadership

TORONTO — A week before Mayor John Tory declared the city has been placed “on a war footing” and urged residents to prepare to “go to war” against the coronavirus pandemic, he was forced to admit Toronto’s outbreak response still lags behind major cities like New York and San Francisco.

At a time of unprecedented crisis for Toronto, health authorities are scrambling to coordinate city-wide testing, contact tracing, isolation, ventilator building, personal protective equipment and other measures that officials say would “completely change the way we manage the COVID-19 pandemic here in Toronto.”

Last week, Tory was asked by a reporter in a city hall press conference if the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 had exceeded the city’s capacity to respond.

This week, Tory faced questions during a public hearing over the city’s response, which was prompted by the federal government’s move to expand the country’s COVID-19 response to include support for first responders and health care workers, rather than just the elderly and most vulnerable.

On Tuesday morning, Tory called on city workers and residents to remain at home, as many have since the city declared a public health emergency on March 13. Earlier that day, the mayor was scheduled to meet with the heads of all the city’s health care agencies – from the ministry of health to Toronto Public Health to Toronto Public Health and the city’s 311 call center – to discuss the need to prepare for a possible surge in hospital patients.

As the daily count of the number of COVID-19 cases in the city and worldwide climbed by the day, it became clear the situation in Toronto is much more complicated and varied than the mayor had initially acknowledged.

“We don’t know yet, obviously, what the best way is to prepare for a possible surge. What we do know right now is that there is a clear need for increased health care capacity,” said Tory. “A surge in hospital capacity might need to be taken into account.

“I’m not sure that we fully understand the potential of a surge but, obviously, we do recognize that there could be a big spike in hospital admissions and that might make us respond

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