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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Toronto designers just launched a new grocery delivery service

Grocery delivery services have been in high demand since the COVID-19 pandemic began in Toronto, with many residents doing everything they can to avoid going out and contracting the virus. 

But the increased demand means many services have struggled to keep up, and that's precisely why two Toronto designers decided to start their own grocery delivery business. 

And they're not the only one.

Easypeasy Grocery Delivery was started by Jamie and Felicia Somerton, a brother-sister duo. Together they run a small design studio in Etobicoke called somerton creative. But now that their studio is on hiatus, they've decided to use their time and resources to be part of the solution. 

"The current health crisis has put a pause on our workflow, so we got to thinking how we could put our time and resources to good use!" co-founder Jamie Somerton said in an email.

"All of the existing platforms like Grocery Gateway are at full capacity and can’t accommodate deliveries for a few weeks out. We recently finished a design project for Gambles (a produce distributor in Etobicoke) and we just had the lightbulb go off in our heads: 'Why don’t we contact them and see if they could supply our orders.' They thought the idea was wonderful and helped us secure supply at lightning speed."

The new delivery business is in soft launch as of today, and they're currently testing out delivery zones and demand. 

"We’ve been securing orders this afternoon since launch, so that’s a great sign!" Somerton said.

Those who choose to order from the new service will receive the Fresh Essentials Kit, which is a $68 grocery box filled with fresh produce, pasta, eggs, bread, rice and more. 

They source fresh produce from Gambles, and many of the products are home grown from Ontario farmers. 

The new company is promising delivery within 24 to 48 hours without any delivery fee, but they're currently only delivering to those who live in South Oakville, Central/South Mississauga, South Etobicoke and West Toronto. 

But Somerton said that could still change as they've already received several inquiries about delivering in the east.

He added that they've also reserved a certain amount of boxes for families who can't afford to pay for the box, to be provided at no cost.

"We realize that everybody is in a different situation right now and we are also reserving a number of kits for families and individuals in need at no cost," he said. "Those who need the service and can pay for the kit help us be able to give back in this way. "

When asked if he thinks there's any chance he and his sister will continue this business after the pandemic is over, Somerton said there's no way to know what the future holds. 

"I think a lot of us small business owners are wondering what will happen to our existing businesses once we are on the other side of this pandemic," he said.

"We don’t know how long this is going to last and what the state of the economy is going to be like. There’s just a lot of uncertainty in general right now. However, we are so happy to be able to provide this service right now. It feels good to be part of something that is really helping the lives of people in the GTA."

by Mira Miller via blogTO

Toronto just cancelled all events until June 30 including the Pride Parade

We can now add 2020's edition of the beloved Toronto Pride parade to the list of fun things that have fallen casualty to the COVID-19 pandemic — along with literally every other major event scheduled between now and July.

Yes, it's going to be a quiet spring in the city of Toronto.

Mayor John Tory just announced that all city-led major events, festivals, conference and cultural programs have been cancelled through to June 30 in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Permits for all third-party events have also been cancelled for the same period of time, suggesting that this "physical distancing" thing may last longer than many of us had hoped.

"This is going to be a very long battle," said Tory during the city's daily COVID-19 media briefing this afternoon. 

"We know this pandemic is changing how we go about our daily lives in our city, and that will also mean many of the events we treasure in our city ever year will not be able to go ahead as scheduled this year."

Tory said his decision was made in consultation with Toronto's medical officer of health, the city's emergency operations centre and Toronto Police. The mass cancellations also fall in line with the province of Ontario's state of emergency order, which prohibits gatherings of more than five people.

"This is not an easy decision to make, but it is necessary to protect the public and save lives," he explained. "It is doubtful the health environment will be where it needs to be on the originally scheduled spring dates if these events are to happen in a healthy, safe and stress-free way."

As one of the city's largest (if not the largest) annual events, Pride Festival Weekend has thus been cancelled — at least as we've come to know it.

Tory stated during today's media conference that, while the heavily-attended parade will not go forward this year, Pride month will still proceed in June, "so stay tuned."

Pride Toronto has been supportive of the move and thanked the city in a statement published Tuesday for prioritizing the community's health.

"The decision by public health authorities to cancel permits through the month of June is a necessary one," reads the statement. "Any future programming will be in alignment with the recommendations of the public health authorities and the communities we serve. At this time, we must all do our part to ensure the health and safety of our community."

"Pride is essential for our communities, and it is much more than simply a series of events," the statement continues. 

"Pride was born out of protest and continues as a political movement to this day."

by Lauren O'Neil via blogTO

Someone is projecting their video games on to this apartment building in Toronto

Being confined during COVID-19 is probably resulting in a lot of listless staring out the window right now —but if you live on High Park Ave., that could mean a pretty sweet view of someone's Mario Kart race. 

Residents of a condo by High Park have been taking to Reddit to share their balcony POV from the last few days, which has gotten a lot more interesting thanks to someone's DIY video game projection. 

The neighbors playing video games with a projector using the condo next to us as a back drop haha from r/toronto

Using the side of a neighbouring apartment building at 100 High Park Ave. and a "crappy old Dell", u/CutieGremlin, a.k.a. Dax Martin, has been entertaining their neighbours with a massive projection of some retro games like Mario Kart, Bubble Bobble, and Aladdin

People have been receiving the stunt really well, especially during the era of social distancing where fun spots like arcade bars are totally out of the question right now. 

They're at it again, into it. from r/toronto

According to CutieGremlin, the residents of 100 High Park Ave. haven't really noticed that the side of their building is being used as a projector screen.  

Those with a view of the games appear to be enjoying the entertainment, and have ever received an offer from the original player on Reddit to play wirelessly. 

Now folks are flooding the comment sections with game suggestions. Tetris would be a pretty perfect game for the building, as would some Jackbox party games via Twitch. 

by Tanya Mok via blogTO

More Toronto Airbnbs are turning into normal apartment rentals thanks to COVID-19

With people across the world being advised not to leave their houses more than is necessary amid the COVID-19 pandemic — let alone get on an airplane for a trip — companies like Airbnb and its hosts are finding themselves extremely hard up for business right now.

Hotels and other types of accommodation in Ontario have been considered essential and thus are still able to remain open under the current state of emergency, but with health and safety risks at an all-time high and occupancy rates at an all-time low, some have chosen to shutter anyway.

Even if Airbnbs can still operate by choice, condo corporations such as those behind ICE Condos and the Residences of Maple Leaf Square have recently stepped up to outright ban short-term rentals due to the health risk of having many strangers in and out of their buildings.

Unfortunately for those Airbnb owners who are now bemoaning a dramatic drop in revenue, people are not feeling very sympathetic given that virtually everyone is experiencing the financial pressures that the novel coronavirus situation has brought.

There is also the fact that the prevalence of short-term rentals through companies such as Airbnb has helped cause rents in Toronto to skyrocket and the number of apartments available for local renters to drop, which has left tenants in the city with a distaste for what many have deemed ghost hotels and the people that run them.

(Though new short-term rental regulations in the city were meant to curb this, some have still operated illegally.)

Now, as Airbnb owners find themselves strapped for customers and money, more and more seemingly former short-term rentals are starting to pop up on long-term rental sites, with more and more former Airbnb hosts considering becoming actual landlords.

Residents of Toronto are noticing that furnished units complete with Airbnb-esque photos showing towels folded atop fully made beds have been on the rise on sites like and, while the prices for actual Airbnb listings continue to drop in an attempt to solicit guests.

"To me it's clear that it's Airbnb owners trying to secure some income with long term tenants," one Redditor noticed in what became a popular thread on the topic earlier this month.

With so many rentals vacant worldwide, Airbnb made the kindhearted gesture of offering 100,000 front-line healthcare workers free or subsidized housing given current circumstances. Hosts have a choice to opt in to the new initiative to make their property available for the cause, though they need to be okay with doing so for free.

The company has also done its part on behalf of its hosts, vowing to offer $250 million to support those impacted by a flood of recent cancellations — but it will only cover bookings that were made and then cancelled since March 14, and not a simple lack of bookings in the first place.

Perhaps all of this will culminate into some much-needed good news for the notoriously pricey Toronto rental market when this is all over.

by Becky Robertson via blogTO

Lineups at some supermarkets in Toronto are incredibly long

Toronto residents have been repeatedly advised to stay home as much as possible and only leave the house for the necessities — which includes going to the supermarket and shopping for groceries. 

Grocery stores all over the city have therefore implemented various social distancing measures — such as limiting the number of shoppers in the store at one time and requiring a 2 m distance between customers in line — in order to ensure residents can shop safely.

But it's resulting in some massive lineups outside Toronto stores. 

One photo of a particularly long lineup outside Gerrard Square, which houses a Food Basics and several other stores, was posted to the I am a Leslievillian! Facebook group earlier today. 

"Hey everyone if you're headed to Gerrard Square plz be aware of the lineup to get in," wrote Scott Williams along with the photo.

Several other residents thanked Williams for the heads up, while one commenter explained why lineups outside Toronto grocery stores may be extra long today.

"Those on assistance received their checks today," the Facebook user wrote. "Let Them shop today! You can go another day."

The idea of allowing those receiving financial assistance today to have priority in stores across Toronto has been circulating on social media over the past few days, and it even has its own hashtag: #GiveWayTuesday.

Many have been sharing a graphic with the hashtag that also shows a grocery cart with a red "X" on it to spread the message. 

"On Tuesday, March 31 people supported by OW & ODSP will receive their first cheque since the COVID-19 pandemic began," the graphic states.

"Give Way to them by avoiding grocery stores & pharmacies. Help them finally buy supplies. It's their turn."

The sentiment has been shared widely across Ontario, with many people emphasizing the need to provide stocked shelves and ample space to those who need it most in these trying times.

So if you hate waiting in long lines and care about the more vulnerable residents of Toronto, today might not be the best day to head out for your weekly grocery outing.

by Mira Miller via blogTO

Toronto nurse makes desperate plea for face masks and medical supplies

Work is getting scarier and scarier by the day for Toronto's frontline healthcare workers as the global COVID-19 pandemic intensifies locally and protective supplies run out.

Anyone who's ever known one can tell you that nurses have it harder than most. Their jobs are vital, complicated, fast-paced, gruelling and sometimes dangerous, even in times of relative epidemiological peace.

With the highly-contagious 2019 novel coronavirus spreading rapidly in Ontario, many nurses and doctors are now willingly putting their own lives at risk every day to help treat the infected — while wearing old, soiled or even no personal protective equipment.

One nurse who leads a team on the COVID-19 unit at St. Joseph's Health Centre in west Toronto decided to document parts of her shift overnight on Monday in an effort to secure some much-needed gear.

"Whatever you can donate, we're in dire need of supplies at St. Joe's," she said in the first of seven video clips shared on Tuesday with the Liberty Village Residents Association Facebook group.

"We've just been informed we’re going to be out of hand sanitizer soon so I'll be bringing my own in of that also," the nurse continued. "We're running out of masks. It's very discouraging."

"Whatever you can spare, we need it. Our hospital is the underdog and we have so many sick people."

Another video shows the nurse running through the hospital as she prepares to send a suspected COVID-19 patient to the ICU. In a different video, after transferring the patient, she is seen without her cap on.

"It's been a very eventful night," she said to the camera. "I had to throw out my cap because it got contaminated as we were transferring [the patient] over."

It's a scary, but accurate look into the lives of a hospital where stores of personal protective equipment are dwindling, says the nurse, whose name is being withheld at request for privacy.

"We don't want to die keeping others alive. It's like sending soldiers to war without weapons," she said in an interview on Tuesday, noting her emotional distress. "No armour and no weapons."

"I am just trying to do the job I always wanted to do. I shouldn't have to re-use an N95 and reuse a home made face shield," she continued. "I am so mad the we are so disposable to the Ford Government."

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said on Monday during a press conference that his government is in the process of "securing massive, massive amounts of new inventory" for hospitals to protect their staff and treat patients.

Canada's federal government likewise pledged $2 billion toward medical supplies for frontline healthcare workers across the country on Tuesday and many community groups have taken up the cause locally with fundraisers, PPE drives and mass donations of supplies.

Some Toronto manufacturers have switched their operations over to produce only masks or hand sanitizer in an effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19, while institutions like Ryerson University and the Toronto Public Library are using their 3D equipment to produce face shields.

Still, with nearly 2,000 cases of COVID-19 now confirmed in Ontario (591 of them in Toronto), nobody knows how long it will take to get the pandemic under control, or how many pieces of personal protective equipment our healthcare workers will need.

In addition to supplies, healthcare workers need people to take social distancing measures seriously.

"We've had deaths... it is in the community," said the St. Joseph's nurse on Tuesday.

"People aren’t taking this home isolation seriously... it's very discouraging since I am literally giving my life right now to keep others safe."

Those with personal protective equipment or medical supplies to donate to St. Joseph's Health Centre at 30 The Queensway can do so by dropping them off at the COVID-19 assessment centre in the Sunnyside Building.

Hospitals all over the city are currently accepting donations of N95 masks, surgical masks, face shields, surgical gowns, gloves and protective medical goggles to keep the heroes fighting this pandemic on the front lines safe from the deadly coronavirus.

by Lauren O'Neil via blogTO

Toronto restaurant is washing all their cash to ensure it's disinfected for customers

Canadians across the country are more grateful than ever to have washable, polymer money amid the COVID-19 outbreak, and one Toronto restaurant is taking the extra precaution of washing every bill they receive.

Pizza Gigi has been a Toronto pizza staple for more than 30 years now, and they're providing delivery and takeout options for customers throughout the pandemic.

In order to ensure that the cash they give back to customers is as clean and safe as possible throughout this time, they're putting every bill they receive directly into a bucket to be disinfected.

"Went to get a slice of take out at Pizza GiGi (Harbord and Bathurst) and when I paid cash the lady behind the counter pulled out a plastic bucket with soapy water and a little bleach and asked me to put the $5 in the bucket!!" customer Chris Meraw said in an email.

"I asked her why and she said they are washing and drying all cash so when they put the [money] back in the till it's clean when they make change for the next customer."

Money is certainly known to be one of the dirtiest, germ-infested objects out there, and some businesses have decided to no longer accept cash throughout the pandemic in order to reduce the spread of germs. 

But experts have argued that this practice unfairly disadvantages those experiencing homelessness or anyone without access to a credit or debit card, so perhaps thoroughly washing and disinfecting cash is the perfect compromise.

by Mira Miller via blogTO

Toronto's beloved 24-hour diner Vesta Lunch is re-opening just to give away free food

For the first time in more than 50 years, the 24-hour diner Vesta Lunch has shuttered its doors — but the restaurant says it's re-opening this weekend for a good cause. 

Like most restaurants across Toronto shuttering in light of COVID-19, Vesta has been temporarily closed for the last two weeks as part of citywide efforts to curb the global pandemic. 

But according to Anna Canzona, the daughter-in-law of Vesta's owners, who are currently "stuck overseas", the Dupont diner will be opening its doors once more this Saturday and Sunday to give away baskets of eggs and bread. 

"Since Vesta has been closed we would like to give back to the community and offer eggs and toast to the community for them to make [their] own breakfast at home in honour of Vesta since we can’t flip [their] eggs for them," said Canzona.

"We couldn’t think of a better time to do this."

They're still figuring out details, but Canzona, who also runs La Novela food truck, says Vesta will be giving away six eggs and a loaf of bread from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. this weekend. 

Baskets will be ready for pick-up on a table in front of the store, with the proper pre-cautions set up to encourage social distancing

by Tanya Mok via blogTO

This is what Yorkville looks like in Toronto right now

Yorkville is one of Toronto's swankiest and most pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods, but it's fallen quiet now that everyone is inside social distancing.

A maze of pedestrian-only walkways connects rows of some of Toronto's most high-end restaurants and designer shops, but you're not likely to hear the clip-clopping of stilettos much around here these days.

yorkville toronto emptySassafraz, one of the area's most well-known upscale restaurants and frequent hangout for the stars when they're in town for events like TIFF, closed last week following the request of Ontario and Public Health authorities for restaurants to stop dine-in service.yorkville toronto emptyStores like designer menswear boutique and custom suit shop Nicolas are also closed until further notice.yorkville toronto emptyYorkville's pedestrian walkways often feel like hushed enclaves where you can escape from the busier sidewalks, but nowadays they're downright silent.

yorkville toronto emptyEven the Hazelton, one of Toronto's leading hotels, has suspended operations for safety despite hotels being deemed an essential service.

yorkville toronto emptyCoffee truck Jacked Up Coffee had been open for safe java pickup until recently, but also made the decision to close this week.yorkville toronto emptyFlorist and event designer Teatro Verde that's been in business for over 20 years started out limiting their services to pickup and delivery, but also decided to close temporarily about a week ago.
yorkville toronto emptyCibo Wine Bar has closed for dine-in service, but is still doing delivery and should also be able to pair that with wine.yorkville toronto emptyThose who can't bear to see the pub close down completely during social distancing are in luck in this neighbourhood: The Oxley is still open for contactless pickup of classic fare including ready-to-heat meals.yorkville toronto emptyINK Entertainment has closed all of their venues for the time being, which includes artsy Yorkville Italian restaurant Sofia.

yorkville toronto emptyPerhaps one of the most surreal sights in this particular neighbourhood is storefront windows that have been emptied of all the valuable merchandise that usually on display to be salivated over.yorkville toronto emptyHarry Rosen, a family-run business with a history of over 65 years, has closed all locations and associated retail stores, but they're also offering free expedited shipping and returns on all orders.

yorkville toronto emptyIt's equally eerie seeing all the fine jewels removed from the windows of Yorkville's Cartier store.

yorkville toronto emptyDolce & Gabbana posted a notice saying they'd temporarily closed the store from March 18 to March 31 (although of course it seems like that will be extended now) leaving behind their colourful storefront window backdrop.
yorkville toronto emptyFire & Flower, like a lot of dispensaries, has kept locations open but with reduced hours, though they have also closed some locations in Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge and St. Albert. They're also operating with "Fastlane only" click and collect service.yorkville toronto emptyYorkville's Hermes location has been on full lockdown since March 17, though you can shop online if you find yourself desperately needing a silk scarf or Birkin bag for some reason.yorkville toronto emptyThere are more signs of life as you venture out towards more main streets like Bay and Bloor where the TTC and other essential services are still in operation.

by Amy Carlberg via blogTO