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FORUM: We need to do our part (Mar. 2020)

March 24th, 2020 · No Comments

Listen to public health officials, cancel play-dates, work from home

By Jessica Bell

We are in a new normal. The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting our country, our city, and our community. While our healthcare workers, public health staff, and others – including pharmacists, grocery store workers, and TTC staff – are working around the clock to keep us safe, we also need to do our part. 

The most important thing we can do right now is to continue to listen to our public health experts. That means practising social distancing: working from home if you can, cancelling playdates and social gatherings, avoiding retirement and long-term care homes, and maintaining a 6-foot distance from others in all public spaces. It’s also important that we frequently wash our hands for 20 seconds, especially when leaving the house and coming home.

Public health officials have also been very clear that any person who has travelled abroad in the past two weeks must self-isolate at home immediately upon return. That means staying home and not going into any public spaces, including grocery stores, for 14 days, even if you don’t have symptoms. 

I know that these are not easy adjustments to make. This is a significant shift in the way we live our lives. But for the time being, it’s a necessary one. Many groceries stores and local restaurants provide delivery services that can be accessed from the safety of our own homes. While libraries and recreation centres are closed, the Toronto Public Library’s online tool Hoopla has a host of movies, audiobooks, ebooks, and TV shows you can stream directly, and many local fitness centres are offering free online classes and exercise tutorials. 

This is also a time when communities are banding together to help one another. Across University-Rosedale, there are Facebook groups and community networks of folks who are picking up groceries and medicine for those who are vulnerable, setting up online playdates, and finding ways to connect while staying safe. City-wide, Volunteer Toronto is organizing volunteers who are able to respond to local opportunities and ensuring that safety and infection-prevention measures are in place. Interested residents can register with Volunteer Toronto at volunteertoronto.ca or at 416-961-6888.

Over the past week, my office has also heard from many community members who have lost their jobs or income because of this pandemic. If you are worried about how to buy groceries, pay rent, or pay your bills in the coming weeks, please reach out to my office at 416-535-7206 or by email at jbell-co@ndp.on.ca 

I also want to let you know that last week, the Ontario Government approved a bill protecting sick leave for workers who are unwell, are caring for someone who is unwell, are under orders to self-isolate, or cannot work due to childcare responsibilities. 

Also last week, the federal government announced two financial benefits for workers who don’t qualify for Employment Insurance: one for workers who are sick or caring for someone who is, and one for workers who have lost their job due to the pandemic. More information about these and other federal supports will be available in coming weeks.

While these are welcome announcements, I know that much more needs to be done. 

I strongly support the province’s move to halt all evictions during this time, but I also want to see a bill tabled at once that would guarantee that no one can be punished in any way for missing a rent payment, such as being charged interest or late payment penalties, and that renters’ rights are protected during this time. 

The Ontario government must also step up and do its part by providing direct funding to protect families from missing meals or rent and mortgage payments, and prevent small businesses from going under.

I will continue to advocate for all leave from work to be paid, not unpaid, and expanded protections for workers. I will continue to fight for supports for vulnerable people, including seniors and those receiving OW and ODSP support, so they can access the groceries and medications they need. 

Right now, we need to thank our amazing healthcare and frontline workers. We need to stay informed through accurate sources of information, like the City of Toronto’s website. And we need to take care of each other – by staying home, but also staying connected. 

We’re all in this together. 

Jessica Bell is the MPP for University—Rosedale.

READ MORE BY JESSICA BELL

Tags: Annex · Opinion