Many neighbourhoods in the city’s northwest continue to see higher levels of COVID-19 transmission and lower volumes of testing, with some reporting positivity rates as high as 14 per cent.

Toronto Public Health has released new neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood data, which for the first time includes information on positivity rates and not just overall case counts.

The latest available data for the week beginning Oct. 4 shows that several neighbourhoods in the northwest had positive rates approaching or surpassing 10 per cent, including Black Creek (10.8 per cent), Humbermede (9.6 per cent), Glenfiled-Jane Heights (8.8 per cent) and Brookhaven-Amesbury (12 per cent).

In fact, four of the five neighbourhoods with the highest positive percentage in the city on the week of October 4-11 were located in the northwest with the only exception being Scarborough’s Eglinton East (9.7 per cent).

Meanwhile, if you look back to the previous week the northwest Toronto neighbourhood of Rustic - bound by Jane Street, Keele Street, Highway 401 and Lawrence Avenue – recorded a positivity rate of 14.3 per cent.

That neighbourhood, it should be noted, also had among the lowest testing rates in Toronto that week with just 13.7 tests conducted for every 1,000 people.

The testing rate in Rustic then dipped to 9.9 tests for every 1,000 people for the week beginning Oct. 4 but information on the positivity rate was withheld because there were five or fewer new cases. Whenever there are five or fewer new cases in a given neighbourhood, Toronto Public Health will withhold the specific data due to privacy concerns.

Speaking with reporters during her regular briefing at Toronto City Hall on Monday, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said that the neighbourhood data provides another means to examine the spread of COVID-19 in the city but she said that it should be looked at “in totality” with other indicators, such as testing rates and overall case counts to give it the necessary context.

For example, she said that the high positivity rate in Rustic could just be a consequence of lower testing volumes.

“What we concluded was that more testing is probably needed in that neighbourhood to fully understand what is happening so you may have a falsely inflated per cent positive rate if in fact a relatively low number of tests that have been done that gave rise to that per cent positivity rate,” she warned. “I would strongly encourage people to look at our data in totality.”

The city-wide positivity rate is 3.1 per cent but the neighbourhood data released on Monday reinforces the fact that where you live has a significant influence on your risk level when it comes to contracting the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

In affluent areas like the Bridle Path-Sunnybrook-York Mills neighbourhood, Casa Loma and The Beaches the per cent positivity rate for the week beginning on Oct. 4 was zero, meaning that nobody tested positive for COVID-19.

Wealthier, more centrally located neighbourhoods also had higher levels of testing to go with often lower case volumes.

In Lawrence Park North there were more than 21 tests conducted for every 1,000 residents over a one-week period, which is more than double the rate of many neighbourhoods in more hard-hit areas of northwest Toronto.

“I think there are multiple factors involved in the concerning trend that we are seeing with low socioeconomic status, racialized communities having lower testing rates but higher positivity rates and higher incidents of COVID,” Ontario’s Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barabara Yaffe said during a subsequent briefing on Monday afternoon. “I think that working with Ontario Health and the local health units on pop up clinics that increase access for testing is important and we continue to do that as well as look at other factors that are involved such as the ability of the person to take time off work if they feel ill and the ability for them to isolate appropriately.”

The province has previously said that its “high-alert” threshold for regions is 2.5 per cent. Last week, it moved York Region into a modified Stage 2 after the positivity rate there reached 2.77 per cent.

Here are the top 10 positivity rates in Toronto for the week starting Oct. 4:

  • Brookhaven Amesbury – 12 per cent
  • Black Creek – 10.8 per cent
  • Eglinton East – 9.7 per cent
  • Humbermede – 9.6 per cent
  • Elms-Old Rexdale – 8.6 per cent
  • Mount Olive-Silverstone-Jamestown – 7.7 per cent
  • Kingsview Village – The Westway – 7.4 per cent.
  • West Humber-Clairville – 7.2 per cent
  • Highland Creek – 7.1 per cent
  • Dorset Park – 6.9 per cent