Social resources for Canadians impacted by COVID-19

COVID-19 Social Care Guidance has been developed in partnership with the Centre for Effective Practice and the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto.

COVID-19 Social Care Guidance

Lists of social resources covering food supports, housing, legal advice, social isolation and support around domestic violence (updated May 25, 2020) here:

For income supports, we recommend the Prosper Canada Financial Relief Navigator.


The Upstream Lab is also developing an online COVID Social Resource Connector. Our vision is that healthcare providers or members of the public can go to the tool, answer a few basic survey questions about location and their social need(s), and they will be given a tailored list of local resources.


Other Upstream Lab activities related to COVID-19

April 8, 2020: Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto hosted a webinar focused on COVID-19 and Health Equity for Marginalized Populations, moderated by Dr. Ross Upshur, and featuring Angela Mashford Pringle (Waakebiness-Bryce Institute for Indigenous Health), Kate Mulligan (AOHC), Roberta Timothy (DLPSH) and Andrew Pinto (Upstream Lab). Recording available here.

April 14, 2020: Andrew Pinto, Pinky Hapsari and Debra Slater write an op-ed in the Toronto Star on the impact of COVID-19 on Personal Support Workers (PSWs), and how their treatment (e.g. lack of PPE, forced to find work in multiple locations) is emblematic of their treatment by the health system. This op-ed emerged from the EMPOWER Study, a community-based participatory research project by the Upstream Lab focused on improving work conditions for PSWs.

April 15, 2020: We launched a brief report on the issue of collecting data on race during COVID. See blog post here. Media coverage of this work in the Star (April 8, 2020) in the Globe (May 12, 2020)

May 27, 2020: Social care guidance launched (see above).

June 8, 2020: We’ve created a separate page on our COVID-19 social determinants rapid review.


Examples of how social determinants are impacting COVID-19 infections & response

April 1, 2020: Early data analyzed by the NYTimes suggests that low-income neighbourhoods in New York City may have been hit harder than high-income neighbourhoods.

April 3, 2020: Location data on 15 million Americans analyzed by Cuebiq for the NYTimes indicates that people in wealthier areas were able to limit their movements (and their exposure) more quickly than people in poorer areas. Presumably, poorer individuals continued to travel to get to jobs they needed to pay for basic needs.

April 6, 2020: Early data from Louisiana and Chicago, Illinois and suggest that African-Americans make up a far larger proportion of people who die from COVID-19 than would be expected, based on the percentage of the population who identify as African-American. It is hypothesized this is due to social factors (e.g. forced to continue to work, lack of access to health services) and higher rates of comorbidities that make one more susceptible to COVID-19.

  • April 8, 2020: The relationship between race, racism and COVID was explored by this Toronto Star article by Shree Paradkar, included comments by Dr. Andrew Pinto and cited the Upstream Lab work on collecting data on race.
  • The Globe, CTV and other news agencies have also highlighted the lack of Canadian data to identify this association.

April 7, 2020: Data from Toronto suggests that the transit routes that remain crowded (despite public health advice on physical distancing during COVID) tend to run through the city’s poorer neighbourhoods and to sites of low-wage light industry. Advocates report it is likely that precarious, low-income workers cannot afford private vehicles, work from home or stop working.

April 13, 2020: A study by the Association for Canadian Studies has found that Black, Latin American and South Asian Canadians have been the most likely to lose income and struggle to make ends meet as a result of COVID-19. See Toronto Star article here.

April 17, 2020: Further data from the US analyzed by the CDC finds that Black or African-American individuals are over-represented in deaths related to COVID-19.

April 21, 2020: A working paper from Harvard by Jarvis T. Chen and Nancy Krieger reports on stark disparities in terms of COVID-19 infections and death. The authors note, “Looking across the US, people living in the most impoverished, crowded, and racially and economically polarized counties are experiencing substantially elevated rates of COVID-19 infection and death.”

April 24, 2020: The Economist reports on a study of mobile phone data, suggesting that poorer Americans were less likely to reduce travel than wealthier Americans, likely due to the need to continue to travel to work rather than stay at home.

May 6, 2020: An early analysis by the Ontario Health Coalition finds for-profit nursing homes appear to have much higher rates of deaths due to COVID-19 than non-profit and publicly-run homes. On May 8, 2020, a Toronto Star analysis finds for-profit nursing homes have four times the number of COVID-19 related deaths as those run by the city. See also the EMPOWER project.

May 7, 2020: The OpenSAFELY team in the UK releases a report on over 17 million UK adults, noting some striking findings: “People of Asian and Black ethnic backgrounds are at a higher risk of death and, contrary to prior speculation, this is only partially attributable to pre-existing clinical risk factors or deprivation.” and “A deprived background was also found to be a major risk factor: this was also only partially attributable to other clinical risk factors.”

May 12, 2020: ICES releases a first report on patterns emerging in Ontario, finding that those who tested positive for COVID “were more likely to live in marginalized neighbourhoods with greater residential instability, material deprivation and dependency, and lower income status.” News coverage in the Star and CBC. Of note, the use of neighbourhood as a proxy for individual-level characteristics suggests the disparities are probably much worse.

May 27, 2020: Toronto Public Health releases a map of COVID-19 cases and rates by neighbourhood, confirming what was known previously, that lower income areas have been hit hardest.



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