Summary of City of Hamilton COVID-19 Media Conference for May 8, 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 broadcast live to the public.

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


Mayor Fred Eisenberger Remarks

  • Updates on federal and provincial programs
  • Notes new unemployment numbers, concerning, notes the Federal government will continue it wage subsidy program and is hoping
  • Lake Ontario waterfront trail reopening
  • All parking lots at City of Hamilton parks are reopening
  • The Cootes to Bayfront waterfront trail will be open during evenings and weekends. During weekdays it is closed for ongoing work to improve the trail and mitigate future flooding damage when Lake Ontario levels are high.
  • Waterfalls and Escarpment Stairs are closed.
  • Asks people to “be smart” and maintain physical distancing from others.
  • COVID remains out in the broader community and we all need to be careful.
  • Speaks about Hamilton Police special enforcement of speeding on roads.

Director of Emergency Operations Paul Johnson Update

  • Thanks Public Works staff for work today removing barriers to reopen parking lots at parks and reopen trails.
  • Thanks child care staff who are providing care to the children of front line workers.
  • There are 120 home child care across the city, with up to three children at each home care site.
  • The business of the City of Hamilton continues:
    • The City website now has a FAQ for Development Applications and Approvals
    • City approved a higher construction value of permits in April 2020 than they did in April 2019
    • Praises City staff for continuing the work of the City using online tools and processes

Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Bart Harvey Updates

  • The curve is flattening, Hamilton now at 488 cases, 483 confirmed positive, 5 probable, as of 12 noon today. (More info on City website)
  • Testing in Long Term Care facilities and of child care workers continues.
  • Ends his portion of briefing.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger Shout Outs

  • Lists a series of community groups and businesses which are working together to support those in need across Hamilton.

Media Questions

Dale Manucdoc, CHCH

What considerations went into not opening Albion Falls and the Escarpment Stairs

Mayor Eisenberger:

  • Medical Officer of Health “guided the decision”
  • Too many people attending the waterfalls, clustering
  • Stairs are very difficult to maintain physical separation, will become crowded in a hurry, and this is a risk for virus spread

Paul Johnson:

  • Medical Officer told EOC they want more time to think about the stairs
  • EOC is keeping Albion Falls closed due to crowds, and the number of rescues in the past.
  • More on stairs: what precautions would be needed to clean the railings and other things, more time needed. “There will come a time when stairs are open again, we didn’t want to hold up” other openings because of the stairs”

Follow-up

How does getting back outdoors help mental health?

Dr. Harvey:

  • Being couped up inside is not a natural thing, physical activity and getting outside is good for mental health. Keep distance from others so “we can minimize the transmission of this virus”

Lisa Polewski CHML

Can you update on the number of tickets issued.

Paul Johnson:

  • Cites stats which are on the City website here: https://www.hamilton.ca/coronavirus/faq-about-enforcement
  • Talks about how people cannot use park amenities

Follow-up

To Dr. Harvey, Toronto is tracking socioeconomic and demographic data, groups calling for Hamilton to do this, are you considering do this as well

Dr. Harvey:

  • Medical Officer of Health Dr. Elizabeth Richardson talking with Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion on this.
  • Hoping that Hamilton will be able to include this info shortly in the near future.

Matthew Van Dongen, Hamilton Spectator

Will the City will monitoring trails this weekend to ensure people are respecting the rules this weekend?

Mayor Eisenberger:

  • Yes, they will continue to monitor
  • Many people are calling in when they see violations of rules
  • City continues to have bylaw monitoring businesses etc
  • They don’t expect to have bylaw standing out on trails, confident people are well educated about the need for distancing, says he believes people do not want to loss the progress we’ve made in flattening the curve
  • If people don’t follow rules, City will review if things remain open.

Paul Johnson:

  • as more things reopen in the community in the coming weeks, Bylaw’s ability “to be everywhere all the time is diminished” and they will step in if needed.
  • ‘Less about us enforcing it, more about us remembering the rules’
  • “If you are sick, don’t go anywhere!”

Mayor Eisenberger asks Dr. Harvey to give advice to vulnerable populations

Dr Harvey:

  • Certainly anyone at risk (older, immune compromised) need to be careful, take precautions, and when they go out they need to maintain distancing. It is good for mental health to get outside within their limits.
  • Reminds that nobody is immune to the possibility of severe complications, including young people

Follow-up

Are driveway meet-ups, with distance, lawn chairs set up with distance, similar setups, appropriate? What are you thoughts on this?

Dr. Harvey:

  • Important to keep two metres apart, because you could have the virus and be able to spread it without knowing
  • This is not the time to get into close contact with people you have not been in contact with
    • people need to maintain that distance with people outside of their household, that includes mothers who live in a different household
    • It is important to prevent the virus from having any opportunity to transmit

Bobby Hristova, CBC

What is the plan if people are not physical distancing and they get reckless?

Mayor Eisenberger:

  • Clearly, if it gets out of hand and there is a spike in the virus, that is a problem and we will have to respond.
  • I can’t imagine there will be widespread problems, there may be a few problems, but the community as a whole knows the importance of being responsible.

Paul Johnson:

  • Hamilton has lots of open spaces, park spaces remain open, have been open all the time.
  • People are being responsible
  • If you drive somewhere, and you find it is really crowded, plus go another time.
  • If a place is crowded, don’t add to the crowding
  • EOC thinks things are going to work out fine

Follow-up

Is there a timeline for reopening Albion Falls and Escarpment Stairs?

Paul Johnson:

  • EOC is monitoring, notes provincial orders which remain in effect until May 19 at least
  • Staff are working on a reopening plan, and will release in the coming weeks
  • EOC can’t give a timeframe
  • Announcements will come when situation and evidence is ready for more reopenings

Joanna Frketich, Hamilton Spectator

Media receiving numerous reports of an outbreak at Macassa Lodge, can you confirm?

Dr. Harvey:

  • Some tests were coming back positive, the tests were redone, and double checked.
  • All ten positives were false positives
  • At this point, there are no positive test results from Macassa Lodge
  • Thank you for asking the question and giving me the opportunity to respond

Follow-up

Can you tell us how this [false positives] happen?

Dr. Harvey:

  • Testing is complicated
  • When they ran the batch [in the lab] when they get the results, they were surprised by the number of positives in the batch, they were all weak positives, and it appears there may have been some contamination in the reagent
  • Precautions were taken immediately
  • When further tests, in different labs with different processes, they all came back negative. They are false positives
  • Hundreds of tests at Macassa, all have come back negative thus far

Katrina Clarke, Hamilton Spectator:

Would Hamilton consider mass testing, random community testing to find asymptomatic carries of the virus?

Dr. Harvey:

  • Provincial mass testing is presently focused on LTC, child care, health care; they are finding asymptomatic carriers.
  • Testing more vulnerable and people living in communal style housing will be more effective at preventing spread and outbreaks

Follow-up:

Asks for more detail on how the Macassa false positives happened

Dr. Harvey:

  • Repeats previous answers.

Mayor Eisenberger Closing Remarks

  • Shoutouts to Cable 14, sign language interpreters, front line service staff, emergency responders, health care staff.
  • Council remains working
  • Congratulations his nephew for birth of their new baby boy
  • Congratulations all mothers out there as we mark Mothers’ Day this weekend
  • Next media conference is Monday, Town Hall on Wednesday.
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First published: May 8, 2020
Last edited: May 11, 2020
Author: Joey Coleman

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