Toronto breaks down geographic spread of COVID-19, showing local hot spots in detail for first time

Toronto has unveiled detailed, geographic information about the spread of the novel coronavirus, marking the first time such data has been made available in Ontario during the pandemic.

The data shows the city has recorded the highest concentration of COVID-19 cases in northwest and northeast Toronto, specifically northern Etobicoke and northern Scarborough, neighbourhoods with higher portions of multi-unit residences and low-income residents.

“Our data confirm that COVID-19 is present in every single neighbourhood in Toronto,” said Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city’s medical officer of health.

“I believe this information, and releasing it to the public, will do far more help than it will do harm,” Toronto Mayor John Tory said Wednesday.

This is a map of COVID-19 cases in the city of Toronto since May 1. Data shows the city has recorded the highest concentration of COVID-19 cases in the northwest and northeast, specifically northern Etobicoke and northern Scarborough, (City of Toronto)

These are Toronto’s hardest-hit neighbourhoods, with their total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases during the crisis:

  • Rouge: 400 cases
  • West Humber – Clairville: 357 cases
  • Mount Oliver Silverstone Jamestown: 384 cases
  • Milliken: 365 cases
  • Woburn: 325 cases
  • Glenfield Jane Heights: 305 cases
  • Agincourt South: 301 cases
  • Agincourt South-Malvern West: 301 cases
  • Downsview-Roding-CFB: 277 cases
  • York University Heights: 249 cases
  • Malvern: 247 cases
  • Morningside: 223 cases
  • Islington City Centre West: 211 cases

De Villa says income, access to housing and employment are key issues in areas with higher case numbers. 

But she added where a person lives is not an indication of where he or she picked up COVID-19 and people would be making a mistake if they were to think that there is a higher risk of infection by going to a particular neighbourhood of the city.

 “Areas with lower rates of COVID-19 cases are not inherently safer from a COVID-19 perspective.”

Tory said income disparity plays a part and the city has known there is a wide range of incomes that can affect health outcomes.

“We have people in different parts of the city living in very different circumstances.”

Data to help city develop prevention strategies

De Villa told reporters that the data will help Toronto Public Health develop strategies to prevent further community spread. These strategies could include more testing, education, services and supports, she said.

“For us in public health, by knowing where those impacted by COVID-19 live, and by assessing other important risk factors, we are better able to inform our preventive actions, we can better identify where proactive testing can be helpful, and we can take targeted action to reduce virus spread,” she said.

Actions could include making education available in specific areas, she added.

Toronto has a cumulative total of 10,525 cases, an increase of 152 cases since Tuesday. A total of 7,814 people have recovered, an increase of 187 since Tuesday.

 A total of 780 people have died of COVID-19. 

There are 356 people in hospital with 84 in intensive care units.

The city has had 142 outbreaks in long-term care homes, retirement homes and hospitals.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has previously said public health officials have started identifying “hot spots” where the virus is spreading more readily than in other areas.

Toronto, Peel Region and Windsor-Essex County were said to be the areas of greatest concern, though more detailed information was not made available to the public. 

Ford elaborated slightly Monday afternoon, saying “parts” of those regions were most affected. He also mentioned parts of Brampton, north Etobicoke and Scarborough.

Brampton mayor asks province to pinpoint hot spots

At his weekly news conference on Wednesday, Brampton mayor Patrick Brown called on the province to release hot-spot information as soon as possible “so residents know where there are areas of greater concern and areas where the virus seems to be circulating in the community.”

According to recent analysis by CBC News, the Greater Toronto Area has accounted for more than 76 per cent of Ontario’s confirmed cases since May 1.

The Ford government has faced increasing pressure this week to share more information about where the virus is spreading in Ontario.

Health Minister Christine Elliott has said the province intends to do so, though she did not say when that will happen.

City wants to reduce number infected by each case

De Villa also said Wednesday Toronto Public Health is trying to reduce the average number of people that each new case infects. This rate, known as the current reproduction number, is 1.1. The city is trying to get the number below 1 and that means continuing to follow public health directives.

“This means washing your hands frequently, practising physical distancing, staying within your household bubble, essentially following all of the advice we have provided over the past several weeks,” she said.

Meanwhile, the city has opened an eighth licensed child-care centre for children essential workers. It is in an existing city-run facility and staffed by city workers. 

The new location is at Blake Street Early Learning and Child Care Centre, 84 Blake St., in East York..

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