Toronto closes library departments, zoo over COVID-19 cases

Toronto’s library system will close nearly half of its branches due to COVID-19-related staff shortages, while the broader city public service is preparing for the possibility of more than half of its staff being sick-listed during the virus’ Omicron wave.

The Toronto Public Library said Tuesday that 44 branches will be temporarily closed from next Monday and staff will be relocated to keep the 52 “largest and most used” branches in operation while COVID-19 infections and isolations continue to rise.

A list of the branches that close is online here.

The branches that remain open will offer complete services, TPL said in a press release, as will bogmobil and Home library services , digital collections, online programs and Answer line.

Toronto residents 13 years and older who do not have a library card can sign up for a digital access card online.

Also on Tuesday, the city of Toronto said in a statement that “like all cities around the world, it has planned a large number of unplanned staff absences due to illness or COVID-19 isolation requirements for both critical and essential services, as well as non-critical and non-critical essential services. “

Mayor John Tory told a pandemic briefing that the city is already feeling the effects of staff absenteeism in services, including vaccination clinics and relocation of staff to ensure emergency relief and essential services continue.

Tory said the city’s worst-case scenario represents between 50 percent and 60 percent of the roughly 32,000 active employees who are off work due to COVID-19.

The city’s management is “laser-focused” on redistributing staff from divisions, including parks, forestry and recreation, to ensure continued operation of homeless shelters, long-term care homes and vaccination clinics, Tory said.

Emergency services will continue uninterrupted, but firefighters – who are fully trained in lifesaving skills – will be sent to lower priority 911 calls to ensure paramedics are free to go to the most serious situations.

“Response times, especially for low-priority calls, may increase from pre-pandemic levels,” the city said in a statement. news release.

The Toronto Zoo announced Tuesday that while it could keep outdoor areas in operation under provincial pandemic restrictions, which were announced Monday, the entire facility will close from Wednesday to at least January 27th.

The full closure is necessary, the zoo said, “to maintain critical staff levels in significant areas related to the care and welfare of our animals and infrastructure.”

David Rider is the bureau chief of Star’s City Hall and a reporter covering town hall and municipal politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider

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