Toronto mayor John Tory launched ShowLoveTO, a local initiative to help reacquaint Torontonians with their city, on Sept. 14.
The initiative aims to cultivate social and economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. It encourages residents to get out and show love for their community through a series of city-led events.
Scheduled to run throughout the fall, these events include art shows, self-guided tours, and culinary experiences.
“ShowLoveTO is our way of bringing Torontonians together and providing them new opportunities to experience our great city,” Tory said in a press release.
“This is our moment to show love to the places, spaces, businesses and people that make Toronto such a vibrant, dynamic and diverse city.”
However, as this initiative comes at a time when COVID-19 infection rates are again rising, the mayor reminded residents to continue heeding the advice of Toronto Public Health.
“I know these past six months have been challenging and we are not through it yet, but together, following Toronto Public Health’s direction, we can safely re-engage with our city and be a part of rebuilding it even better than before,” he said.
Some workers in Toronto’s healthcare sector share the mayor’s view on this initiative, and see benefits in safe reanimation of the city.
Laura Trantau, a registered nurse at Women’s College Hospital, said she supports the ShowLoveTO initiative.
“I think it’s a good thing,” Trantau said. “As long as people wear masks, it’s proven that that’s effective. Mask wearing is more effective than a vaccine right now. The mask acts like a vaccine so, there really shouldn’t be any issues with people getting out there or being in spaces. The problem is when you have people that aren’t wearing the mask.”
Trantau does however expect to see an influx of new coronavirus cases due to carelessness.
“Look at Western University,” she said. “Three days in they had seven cases. Now they’re at 28 — they’re going to pop up. Toronto’s been okay for a while, but really, the numbers are going up.”
“The concern is always hospitalization numbers,” she said. “University Health Network is a good example. Say, three weeks ago, they had no one hospitalized in Toronto. Now, UHN has seven people on ventilators, and I think there’s about 20 people in hospital.”
Kelly Kay, executive director at Seniors Care Network and Provincial Geriatrics Leadership Office, shares a similar view.
“I think some of the ideas are really creative,” she said. “I have to commend the city for trying to think through some of those ideas. Some of the activities, in my mind, don’t introduce any particular risk, and they might add some interest.”
“[But] I think the city of Toronto’s approach puts the obligation on the vendors involved in the ShowLoveTO campaign to be monitoring the participation,” she said. “I don’t think we’ll have enough enforcement to make sure that people don’t break the rules, and I can see some problems associated with that.”
However, some businesses showing the love have proven to be more problematic than others, despite having apparent safety measures in place.
Two Toronto strip clubs, the Brass Rail Tavern and Club Paradise, experienced COVID-19 outbreaks in recent months.
According to a press release from the City of Toronto, about 550 people may have been exposed to the coronavirus back in August.
More recently, according to a CTV News report, seven cases have been reported at Club Paradise since Sept. 4.
The Brass Rail Tavern was unable to ensure patrons provided valid information for contact-tracing, calling into question their ability to operate safely under pandemic protocol.
“How many John Smith’s are there,” Trantau said. “I totally think that’s a problem. They definitely need to step up because unfortunately these are people’s lives, and these people are bringing it home to their kids, or spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends. You just don’t know who. So I definitely think the government should look at shutting those places down — especially if they’re not complying with [regulations].”
“It’s quite clear they need people to show ID,” she said. “‘John Smith, you’re signing in — can I see some ID?’ Unfortunately the honour system there just wasn’t in place.”
Kay says if the effectiveness of the mechanisms to do contact-tracing cannot be guaranteed at a venue, the place shouldn’t be open.
“I think there are some businesses that we might need to sacrifice for the greater good,” she said. “I’m not sad to see a business that can’t guarantee its clientele is going to allow proper contact-tracing to continue to operate in these times.”