ICU health-care worker Jannikka Navaratnam suits up in PPE before entering a negative pressure room to care for a COVID-19 patient on a ventilator at the Humber River Hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, December 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Toronto has surpassed 2,000 deaths linked to COVID-19 after the city reported on Thursday 29 more people dying from the disease.

The grim milestone comes more than six months after the city recorded its 1,000th death.

Mayor John Tory said in a statement that it is a sobering reminder that residents must continue observing public health protocols to protect everyone from the deadly virus.

“We mourn all the innocent lives lost to COVID-19 with their families, friends, colleagues, and neighbours,” Tory said.

“The best way we can honour the memory of those lost and pay tribute to those continuing to work on the frontlines of healthcare to protect us is to keep staying home as much as possible right now, wearing a mask when we go out, and avoiding gathering with people we don’t live with.”

Toronto Public Health reported 941 new cases on Thursday with 37 more people in hospital.

The province posted a lower number of new infections for Toronto with 891 cases due to the different cut-off times for data collection.

“Today, we reached a tragic milestone with 2,017 lives lost to COVID-19 in Toronto. These losses in our community aren’t just numbers, they represent people who were cared for and loved. Each of these deaths represents a unique life, and someone’s family, friend or colleague,” Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city’s medical officer of health, said in a statement.

“Please keep staying home as much as possible, and do everything you can to protect your health, the health of those around you, and save lives at this critical time. On behalf of everyone at Toronto Public Health, we offer our sincerest condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one to COVID-19.”

On Wednesday, de Villa expressed her concerns after early data revealed people attending gatherings with individuals outside their households over the holidays despite pleas from public health officials to avoid such activities.

“The outcome of these decisions will emerge over the next days and weeks. If they manifest as COVID-19 cases, the implications are plain to see,” de Villa said.

On Thursday, Ontario also recorded a single-day high for the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

It was a year ago on Thursday that TPH released its first statement about the COVID-19.

On Jan. 7, 2020, the local public health unit said it was actively monitoring “cases of undiagnosed viral pneumonia” in Wuhan, China.

At the time, TPH noted that the overall risk to residents was “very low,” adding that the city had a well-developed plan should the situation change.

More than two weeks later, the first case of COVID-19 in Canada was reported in Toronto.

This is the full statement from Toronto Public Health dated Jan. 7 2020:

Toronto Public Health has recently been informed of cases of undiagnosed viral pneumonia being investigated by health authorities in the city of Wuhan in central China, associated with a local live seafood market. Chinese authorities have engaged the World Health Organization (WHO) to assist with the investigation of this cluster of illness.

Currently, Toronto Pubic Health is not aware of any reported cases of this illness in Canada, and the overall risk to residents is considered very low. Given that Toronto Pearson International Airport is an international travel hub, Toronto Public Health is actively monitoring this situation, along with provincial and national health agencies.

This cluster of unknown respiratory illness has been identified at the same time as local circulation of influenza is common in Toronto. As a reminder, influenza, also known as the flu, can spread to others before symptoms even appear. Typical flu symptoms include sudden onset of high fever, chills, sore throat, cough and muscle aches. Other common symptoms include headache, loss of appetite and feeling tired. Recovering from the flu usually takes a week to 10 days, but for some people it can worsen pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma or heart disease, or develop into more serious health problems such as pneumonia and, in rare circumstances, can be fatal.

Members of the public are advised to take the usual measures to reduce the risk of transmission of the flu and respiratory illness. These measures include:

  • get a yearly influenza vaccination, available from clinics and pharmacies
  • wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water or use an alcohol-hand sanitizer
  • cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
  • if you don’t have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your sleeve or arm
  • stay home if you are ill.

Residents who return from recent international travel and become ill with respiratory signs and symptoms such as cough and fever are reminded to report their travel history to any health professional, or an emergency room, when they visit.