The provincewide impact of recent COVID flood work is much lower than previously forecast by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, it said in response to a request for a climate impact assessment on Monday.
For all stages of the COVID phases, there are fewer near fatalities, mainly due to rainy conditions, and mortality and morbidity have not changed significantly through the first three COVID phases or when including other climate change impacts such as future flooding, the ministry said.
The ministry found that floods in this four-phase process do increase the risk of near fatalities, disease, and property damage when tornadoes are occurring in the same area, or if they are affecting a densely populated area.
The final COVID two phases takes place entirely within the urban and suburban areas of the Greater Toronto Area, while the third phase affects only within the low-lying areas of Toronto.
The three phases covered under this final COVID (communities including those that are in the Greater Toronto Area,) with COVID one, as it is characterized by cities and their surrounding areas; communities outside of cities and their surrounding areas; and communities within Toronto, or surrounding Toronto.
The specific COVID work taking place in or near the GTA area includes work on water testing, planning, flood monitoring, waterway stabilization, remediation, cordon, levee, and evacuation while still incorporating services focused on relocating people in the event of flooding, which also includes evacuation planning.
During the first COVID phases, there is a chance of damage to property and injury in addition to damage to safety equipment or human infrastructure.
At the completion of COVID three, at least 500 people have been displaced by flooding, about 30-per-cent of whom had to be evacuated. The cost of this work ranges from $20-million-plus to $40-million-plus.
Staff have been sent to GTA communities to continue in-depth community assessments of the damages, to promote water management and other initiatives, and to ensure coordination with long-term work underway to address COVID work and to make sure that communications and messages from government and agencies are effective and clear, the ministry said.
“Provincial, national and municipal action on adaptation to climate change offers a significant benefit to health by adapting to the often significant social and economic consequences,” the ministry said.
“Climate change is a complex issue and no single action will fully resolve all risks, but we must all commit to remain vigilant and to address these risks proactively.
“For instance, the four COVID phases include initiatives like the plan to build temporary dams to temporarily reduce flood impacts where people need help evacuating. This plan also provides long-term planning about flood mitigation and management in this area.”
“Along with the scientific assessments we have done, a lot of very careful and responsible work has gone into making sure we understand exactly how all of these changes are impacting people and their health,” said Marilyn Diab, Ontario’s minister of health and long-term care.
“I want to thank staff who have invested significant time and resources in making sure we can communicate the impact of these floods so Ontarians understand exactly how their lives are being impacted by the rising COVID. We cannot predict the impacts of future COVID changes, but we will continue to work with our communities and protect public health and safety.”