Cell phone and traffic data reveal people in Toronto are going out more
While Toronto still has nearly two more weeks to go under the current lockdown and stay-at-home order restrictions, new data show that residents are already starting to go out and move around the city more and more.
Speaking during the city's COVID-19 press briefing Monday afternoon, Mayor John Tory said he received a report from Transportation Services earlier that morning which showed that city-wide traffic volumes during the morning peak increased significantly last week.
"Probably as a result of the return to school," he noted. "This was a similar change to what was observed at the start of the school year last September."
Toronto, we need to be diligent during this extended stay-at-home order.— John Tory (@JohnTory) February 22, 2021
Please, stay home with the exception of essential trips. pic.twitter.com/Wny7Gtg6NE
The mayor said the report showed that average travel times were also higher last week, though city staff believe this may have been driven by the heavy snowfall.
Still, as a result of the data, Tory encouraged everyone to stay the course — reminding the public that now is simply not the time to stop following the rules.
"People are in fact starting to move around more, perhaps thinking, incorrectly, that improving case counts mean that is okay," he said. "Unfortunately, it is not okay."
Tory added that while he does hope to see the city transition into the province's colour-coded framework in two weeks' time, he believes a plan to help people go on responsible, safe outings is needed.
I'm cautious about the road ahead because I don't believe you can gamble with public health or our healthcare system. But I'm also an optimist - about our battle against the virus and the vaccines.— John Tory (@JohnTory) February 22, 2021
We need to focus on these next two weeks, to make sure this lockdown is our last. pic.twitter.com/cvRvi9RTLb
Among the recommendations, he said, should be the directive to avoid region-hopping at all costs.
In December, before the province-wide shutdown came into effect, data showed that tens of thousands of Toronto residents left the city to travel to other regions to access services that were already closed here.
Tory meanwhile noted Monday that while there is no official region-hopping ban, residents are discouraged from leaving their home region and should instead reduce their mobility as much as possible.
"The lockdown has been working to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases in our community," he said, "but please, don't get complacent or give up on this work."
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