The City of Toronto has cancelled all city-led and city-permitted outdoor events up to and including Canada Day amid news that COVID-19 cases could again be on the rise in the city.

Mayor John Tory made the announcement during a briefing at city hall on Wednesday, telling reporters that the “disappointing news” is “no more pleasant to deliver than it is to receive.”

The decision comes as Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa reveals that Toronto’s reproductive number has risen to 1.1 after having stood at 0.81 as recently as last week, a development she said is “disheartening.”

“This means that right now in Toronto each new case of COVID 19 is giving rise to more than one new case of COVID 19. It means that our epidemic is in a position where it is again growing,” de Villa said during the briefing. “This is not where we want to be.”

The head of Ontario’s COVID-19 science table has previously said that the province will have to get its reproductive number down to 0.7 to account for the presence of the more infectious B.1.1.7 variant, which is likely to become dominant by March.

De Villa said that right now the number of COVID-19 cases that have screened positive for a variant in Toronto stands at 710, up from 511 as recently as Monday.

She said that there are also 72 confirmed cases of COVID-19 variants in Toronto, all but one of which involving the B.1.1.7 variant.

“The only trend I am prepared to cite at this point is that the screened positive total marches upwards daily and that should be a matter of concern to all of us,” she said. “The variants are something to worry about. Easily transmitted and in all likelihood capable of causing more severe illness but they can be countered if we take the steps for self-protection we all know.”

Pride parade, Toronto Marathon among impacted events

The city’s decision to cancel permits through Canada Day amid a worsening COVID-19 situation will wipe out a number of major events, including the annual the North by Northeast music festival, the Pride Parade, the Juno Awards and the Toronto Marathon.

For a full list of impacted events follow this link

Tory said that while there is some “optimism” with more and more people receiving COVID-19 vaccines, it ultimately became clear “that even if public health measures start to loosen they won’t loosen to the point where we can once again have the major events in the city” in the coming months.

He said that cancelling permits now will also allow organizers to access insurance to support impacted employees and to begin planning alternative events that can be held virtually.

“If you look at something like Canada Day the fun is in the crowd scenes that exist at places like Thompson Park and Nathan Philips Square and the notion that we will be having crowd scenes like that, shoulder to shoulder, regardless of what stage we are at doesn’t seem to be consistent with reality,” he said.

It should be noted that Toronto has yet to make a decision about major city-led and permitted events scheduled for this summer and organizers of both the CNE and the Royal Winter Fair have said that they are planning for the possibility of hosting in-person events this year.

Speaking with CP24 on Wednesday afternoon, the Executive Director of Corporate Support and Legal Services for the Canadian National Exhibition Association said that officials are currently looking at “a number of different scenarios” for the end of summer event, including one that might seem forgo all indoor activities and move everything outdoors.

“At this point we have a full slate of entertainers and the vendors and exhibitors are submitting their applications and remitting their payments expecting to be able to go forward,” Darrell Brown said.

Brown said that the organizers of the CNE are planning to have a “full fair,” however he did acknowledge that it will be contingent on public health restrictions at the time.

Meanwhile, Tory said that it just too soon “to predict the future” past July 1 at this point, even though he like many Torontonians is hopeful that some events can be held.

“I know that these major events will be back. I look forward to once again taking part myself with millions of you and celebrating our city in person and together,” he said.