Toronto Mayor John Tory is urging companies to continue to let their employees work remotely until at least September to ensure a safe restart during the city's recovery period.
Tory said working from home, phasing in employees return to work and staggering start times where possible will help businesses and organizations reopen safely amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Such an approach will help take the pressure off our subway system downtown and help ensure that we have a slower, steady and safe restart," Tory said during the city's COVID-19 briefing on Friday
"We do not want the sacrifices that all of you have made out there to be in vain. We do not want to have to go back to a more stringent lockdown. We want to do whatever we can to minimize any second or third waves of this virus."
The mayor said several downtown employers, including the City of Toronto and post-secondary institutions, have already agreed to continue to allow remote work for their employees
Tory said many workers have been successfully working remotely since COVID-19 restrictions began.
Among the major employers who will continue to prioritize working from home include Bank of Montreal, Canada Life, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Centennial College, Deloitte Canada, EY Canada, George Brown College, Humber College, KPMG Canada, Manulife. National Bank, OCAD University, PwC Canada, Rogers Communications, Royal Bank of Canada, Ryerson University, Scotiabank, Seneca College, Sun Life Financial, TD Bank, University of Toronto, Yamana Gold Inc., York University, and Zura Canada.
"I want to thank these businesses and institutions who have signed up already to work with the city on this effort. And I look forward to continuing to work together on future efforts that will help all of Toronto to recover and reopen safely and as quickly as possible, but always placing public health first," Tory said.
The mayor hopes that more corporations and organizations will make the same commitment, saying that the city needs "all hands on deck" to work through the recovery period.
Meanwhile, the mayor said the TTC has seen its ridership begin to increase again, and the ability to practice physical distancing in transit vehicles will become harder.
According to the city, finance and insurance employees account for 12 per cent of transit commuters in the city, and over half of the students in universities and colleges take the transit every day.
Allowing some employees to continue to work at home and some to work staggered hours will ensure that public health measures will continue to be observed on TTC vehicles, Tory said.
He said the transit agency is currently operating at approximately 20 per cent, and physical distancing could still be maintained on transit vehicles with up to 30 per cent capacity.
"This will be one of our biggest challenges of the restart and post-COVID Toronto," Tory said.
That's why the mayor is also encouraging transit users to wear face coverings when using the TTC, especially when physical distancing is impossible to practice.
Tory said the city is looking into the possibility of making the use of masks on transit vehicles mandatory.
"We've really been focused more on who has the authority to issue such an order and how you would carry it out. And we're watching obviously with interest what is being done in other cities around the world, including Ottawa. But no decision has been reached on that at the moment," Tory said.
As part of its recovery plan, the city also announced Friday that it has begun an outreach and consultation initiative, launching an online survey to ask residents and businesses for input to shape the city's future actions to recover and rebuild.
"The information gathered will be used to help inform the city's decision making around how Toronto can move forward and come out even stronger," Saad Rafi, who leads the Toronto Office of Recovery and Rebuild, said.