Summary of City of Hamilton COVID-19 Media Conference for May 1, 2020

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Image of the City of Hamilton Zoom Media Conference

Mayor Eisenberger speaking during a public media conference held via the Zoom platform on May 1, 2020

The City of Hamilton held its media call today. This call is run by the City Manager’s Office, and thus The Public Record is invited to participate.

The following is the summary of the press conference. Full video, as live-streamed by the City of Hamilton, is available on YouTube.


Note: this will be updated with hyperlinks and further details, please consult the production details at the end of the article for edit history


The press conference began at 3:30pm with Mayor Eisenberger opens noting May 1st is Doctor’s Day and thanking them for their “tireless work … we are forever grateful”

Here is a summary of Mayor Eisenberger’s remarks:

  • The Mayor spoke about the updated Provincial regulations allowing for the reopening of some seasonal garden and landscaping services, expansion of allowed construction projects, and some other businesses. Full list on the Ontario website.
  • Awaiting more details on the $4/hr wage top-up for front-line workers, and the provincial $250 monthly top-up for those working more than 100 hour per work.
  • Provincial funding for non-profits and charities to support response to COVID-19 is starting to flow thought the City of Hamilton which is managing local applications.
  • Eight community agencies in Hamilton are receiving funding in the coming week, applications remain open, and the City is reviewing more applications for funding in the coming weeks.
  • Council approved a Task Force on economic recovery
  • All municipal event permits and bookings are cancelling until July 2nd, and the City will review at a later time the status of permits beyond this date.
  • The Mayor is planning a virtual Canada Day celebration.
  • There will be a fireworks ban until July 4th in Hamilton, by-law will be brought to Council on May 13th. (Council is taking the first week of May off)
  • Community gardens can reopen, following local guidelines from Hamilton’s Medical Officer of Health.
  • By-law officers will be out over the weekend to enforce the Mayor’s Physical Distancing Bylaw.
    Mayor Eisenberger stating” “Don’t relax now, let’s not have a spike” referring to the risk of large gatherings at places such as waterfalls which are closed.
  • “Stay home as much as you can … if you need to have the dog out for a run, please do that in the backyard”
  • All waterfalls are closed.
  • Public Works is on the golf courses preparing for eventual opening. They are closed and not to be used for a walk or for running a dog. “
  • Battlefield Park is closed”, Mayor says people were having picnics in the park.
  • “Dogs are to be on a leash at all times” “Unfortunately all the leash free dog parks are closed” It is a $100 fine for having a dog off leash.
  • Reminds people that gatherings of more than five people are prohibited and the fine remains $880, “you can rest assured that there any many neighbours keeping their eyes out not maintaining the rules that are in place for our own protection and the protection of others in terms of the spread of the virus”
  • Paramedics say they have a nine percent drop in calls, Mayor calls it concerning because people are not calling for critical care services. If you are having a critical care issue, call paramedics. Hospitals are safe, do not put off your health needs.

The Mayor then turned things over to Paul Johnson, Director of the City of Hamilton Emergency Operations Centre.

Summary of Paul Johnson’s remarks:

  • While there is a lot of talk of reopening, much of the restrictions are still in place. We are asking you to stay at home, only go out for essential activities.
  • This will not be changing for a bit longer.
  • City services remain closed, only preparing to reopen, and doing essential maintenance. Emphasises work is underway to be able to reopen golf courses.
  • “We need everybody across the board” helping, adding “it is great to see all these organizations helping out” with the response to COVID..
  • The City is working to get “funding out the door” to organizations

Hamilton Medical Officer of Health Dr. Elizabeth Richardson:

  • As of noon today:
    Number of total cases – 439
    Number of confirmed positive cases – 432
    Number of probable cases – 7
    Number of cases resolved – 261
    Number of deaths – 20
  • 10 institutional outbreaks, 3 in the community
  • Epidemiologist staff says the resolution is beginning to outpace new cases.
  • We are still in the situation were all precautions need to be taken.
  • It is good for mental health to get outside on a sunny day, but please stay near home. “Certainly getting out on sunny days like this afternoon is something that is really good for us and our mental and physical health. But, please do stay close to home.”

QUESTIONS FROM MEDIA

Samantha Craggs, CBC:

  • Are you worried that with the lovely weather, are you worried this weekend people are going to think “This is all better and stop following your advice?”

Mayor Eisenberger:

  • Not terribly worried, people understand why they need to be careful, and they understand the virus can be harmful to anyone. People can see elsewhere where “it got out of hand” where the “community at large” did not follow the advice. We will be viligant with police and bylaw “this is not a fundraising opportunity, this is about making sure people do what they need to do” Mayor says of issuing fines.

Craggs, follow-up:

  • What is the most pressing issue the Emergency Operations Centre?

Paul Johnson:

  • How will we deal with congregate settings in the city such as health care sector and homeless population. How do we provide the right supports to the homeless population, RCF, and long-term care homes. The challenges of these settings can be addressed by good infection control.
  • The other piece is turning our minds to what service delivery as things begin to reopen, it will not be the same way of delivering of services, the ones that reopen will be very different. The City is going to need to figure out how to delivery services differently, this planning is underway, and will be a focus of the next couple of weeks.

Joanna Frketich, Hamilton Spectator:

  • About the businesses that will reopen, is there resources and people at the City to help them with following the new rules, will there be people checking to make sure things are safe, and is the City expecting this to be a new cost to the City?

Mayor:

  • talks about the Task Force on economic reopening

Johnson:

  • The Province released a series of guidance documents, hiring more inspectors, the businesses reopening are not unique in Hamilton and the Province is working to assist sectors across Ontario. We are working to determine what the “Provincial pieces will look like locally”, Hamilton Public Health will be available to help businesses with questions and best practices. There are good partnerships between the City’s economic development department and local business.

Dr. Richardson:

  • Public Health is looking to support business, and are available to take questions. They are already helping businesses which remained open as essential. We are going to continue to support.

Frketich follow-up:

  • What does the new provincial flexibility for health care services, what does it mean for Hamilton. [Reference to today’s Ontario government announcement]

Dr. Richardson:

  • It is something the City is reviewing, as it just came out, and the City is working to understand it to see how it might work.

Matthew Van Dongen, Hamilton Spectator:

  • The City is trying to house homeless residents, some of them are not taking the City up on the offers. I talked to some homeless residents today who say they were forced to leave the Sir John A MacDonald High School site. They moved to a local City park, “and now they are being told they have to move again. I was wondering why it is necessary to actually have that threat of eviction when they are setup on City owned land?”

Johnson:

  • “There is no eviction rules which exist for camping on public property or private property, I think we have to be careful in language a little bit”
    City is not “at this stage” investigation allowing tent cities, there is no staffing model to support this. City has shelter and hotel space available, and are getting people housed. The City will continue this approach. Cites the death of a homeless person in a Toronto encampment fire as an example of why the City cannot allow encampments. [https://www.cp24.com/news/one-dead-following-fire-at-homeless-encampment-in-rosedale-1.4920534] City is looking to add more resources to mental health and street outreach teams.
    City is working with social service providers to get more people into permanent housing.

Van Dongen, follow-up:

  • Local outreach groups were under the impression that homeless people were encouraged to go to City owned property in the interim because the City can more flexible. Did they misunderstand?

Johnson:

  • On private property, people can immediately call people to get enforcement and remove an encampment. When people camp on City property, the City works to connect them to services, does not immediately call police. “Never was it that you go onto public property, and that’s where you can stay for the duration of this pandemic”. Focus is getting people into safe housing, it is complex, it is not easy. He noted that private property owners would have liabilities with encampments.

Joey Coleman, The Public Record:

  • “On Excess Deaths, are your epidemiologists tracking year-over-year the number of death certificates issued, and are you noticing any changes in trends?”

Dr. Richardson:

  • “Death certificate data is actually really difficult data to work with because it actually comes very late in the process. We use other data to track things, overall morbidity and mortality information. For example with COVID-19, we are getting information directly from patients that we are managing as we go. I’m not sure exactly how the coroner will handle it going forward in terms of putting information together. They are very actively looking at how do they classify deaths in this situation. There are people who might die during this time-frame who happen to infected with COVID but they many not have died of COVID, there may have been other reasons why they passed away. In Ontario we are very lucky to have that system, others don’t have that degree of detail in it and that helps us to understand the bigger picture. The data itself does tend to lag behind. So we are using the data sources that we have do have, the ones that you see on our website, to look at what we are seeing overall, and we will continue to track that. We have a three stage data review process: the data that’s looking at COVID itself and looking at some expanded indicators of what is going on in our community, particularly around mental health and those sort of issues. We’re expanding on that with additional data from police and our paramedic colleagues to look at the broader picture of what is happening in the community. We’re going to really only be able to do in retrospect, after some time, in terms of what all of the impacts may have been, and so that’s going to come a little further down the line.

Coleman, follow-up:

NOTE: There is an error in my question. There is not a requirement for a Medical Certificate of Death to be filed in 48 hours, the Act states the a proscribed medical practitioner Certificate “shall, immediately after the death of a person, complete and sign a medical certificate of death”  It can take up to a year for a death to be registered with the registration division for a region. The City Clerks Office continues to register deaths at City Hall during business hours.

  • “To clarify, it is my understanding of the Vital Statistics Act that a death certificate must be applied for with the local records office within 48 hours of death, the case of death may not be known. Is the City tracking the number of death certificates that it is receiving application for to look year-over-year to see if there is a significant deviation from the normal averages?”

Dr. Richardson:

  • “That’s not a question I can answer in terms of what our vital statistics section is doing, I can only tell you how we utilize the data once that data is filed out from a more complete stand point.”

This was the end of the press conference.

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Last edited: May 1, 2020
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