'We are on the right track:' Toronto formally ends municipal state of emergency after 777 days

Mayor John Tory has formally terminated a municipal state of emergency which had been in effect for a total of 777 days, calling it “just one more sign that the city is returning to a more normal state of existence.”

Tory made the announcement during a press conference outside Toronto City Hall on Monday morning.

He said that while COVID-19 is far from over, the removal of the emergency declaration does represent an “important juncture” in the more than two-year fight against the virus.

“We are on the right track but I think we have to remind ourselves every single day that this is not over. So we continue to do the work,” he said.

“But I think the sort of stress level and the acute nature of the pandemic has receded a bit and it allows us to have days like today where we can remove the state of emergency while still continuing with just as much effort on things like vaccination.”

Tory said that the formal declaration of an emergency back on March 23, 2020 gave the city added flexibility with regards to staffing, ultimately allowing more than 1,700 of its workers to be temporarily reassigned to help support vaccination efforts and maintain critical services.

However, all but 40 of those people have returned to their original jobs as the city transitions away from an emergency-oriented response to COVID-19.

As part of that transition, Toronto’s Board of Health will meet on May 16 to vote on a motion which would make its hyper-local vaccination campaign a permanent program, contingent on additional funding being provided by the province.

“The declaration signalled our intent to fight COVID-19 with everything we had and now two years, one month and 17 days later and more than seven doses of vaccine later there is no doubt that our collective efforts have been successful in getting us to a better place,” Tory said.

“I do want people to understand that by taking away our state of emergency in the city we are not ending our fight against COVID. We know that COVID-19 is still active in the city and the work that we have been undertaking will not stop.”

PUBLIC HEALTH INDICATORS IMPROVING

The municipal emergency declaration was first issued on March 23, 2020.

Back then there were only 304 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the city and most were associated with recent travel.

Since then, Toronto has reported more than 312,000 confirmed cases and that number is considered a significant undercount due to limited eligibility for PCR testing.

There have also been more than 4,200 residents who have died after contracting COVID-19.

Speaking with reporters on Monday, De Villa called COVID-19 a “once in a lifetime public health crisis” and said that she is “truly in awe at the resilience of Toronto residents” over the last two years.

She said that while all public health indicators are all now either “decreasing or holding stable,” residents should socialize outdoors as much as possible in the coming months and ensure that they are up to date with their vaccination.

She also warned that there is emerging research which points to an increase in reinfection rates due to the new Omicron subvariant.

“This isn’t a signal that we can let down our guard when it comes to COVID-19,” she said of the decision to terminate the municipal emergency. “Nor is it time to let go of efforts to get Torontonians their next dose of vaccine.”