Toronto’s top public health official is recommending that the city establish a quarantine facility to “support members of the general population who need to self-isolate but are unable to do so safely.”

The recommendation is contained in a report by Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa that was considered during a virtual meeting of the city’s board of health on Thursday morning.

In the report, de Villa says that idea behind a centralized quarantine facility would be to provide a safe space where “specific groups of cases and contacts where home isolation or quarantine is likely to be suboptimal” could reside.

“An example of this would be people who live in large, crowded households where adequate space is not available to follow isolation or quarantine guidelines,” she said.

De Villa said that Toronto Public Health has already done “some analysis” of the potential benefits of a central quarantine facility, which has included an examination of efforts undertaken by several American cities.

She said that the City of Chicago has set up an isolation facility in a hotel where COVID-19 patients who “lack an appropriate setting to isolate” can recover, provided that their case is mild and that they do not require medical treatments. She said that officials in New York City, meanwhile, have made 1,200 hotel rooms available to COVID-19 patients who similarly lack the ability to isolate in their own homes with plans to increase that number to 3,000 by the end of the summer.

A motion, which was ultimately unanimously approved by the board, directs staff to engage with the provincial and federal governments in discussions regarding the establishment of a central quarantine facility as well as “other methods to achieve effective isolation for individuals who are unable to safely and effectively isolate at home.”

“The risk of COVID-19 shouldn't depend on where you live, how much you make, or how many bathrooms you have in your home,” Board of Health Chair Joe Cressy said in a press release following the meeting. “We need to do everything we can to mitigate vulnerabilities to this virus, and to make sure everyone has an equal opportunity to reduce transmission and protect their loved ones. In this case, that means working with our government partners to make sure people have somewhere to go if they can't safely self-isolate at home.”

De Villa and her team also presented findings of research into the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on poor and racialized Toronto residents.

Using data on all infections up to June 18, Toronto Public Health found the number of infections of those in the bottom 20 per cent of income was three and a half times higher than that of the highest 20 per cent of income.

Infected people were more than twice as likely to require hospitalization for COVID-19 if they were in the bottom 20 per cent of income vs. the top 20 per cent.

They also found neighbourhoods heavily impacted by COVID-19 had twice as many Black and Latin American residents as the city did as a whole.

The top occupations for those infected in the community were factory workers, retail workers and “select” health care occupations.