Last night (Tuesday, April 14), we held our second City of Burlington Telephone Town Hall on COVID-19 Response and Supports.
Thank you to all those who called in for a second time and all those who were new to the platform that joined us. I also want to thank all those who joined the queue and asked their questions, those that listened to the live stream provided by YourTV Halton on Cogeco cable and followed along with the live tweets on social media.
We know there are questions out there and we want to educate and empower you with the answers you need to make the best decisions for you and your family — that is why we decided to hold another Tele-Town Hall and extending the time another hour.
Our No. 1 priority is the health and well-being of everyone in Burlington, including our healthcare teams and the front line workers who continue to deliver essential services to all of us.
I am grateful to each of our panelists who joined us (some for the second time) to help answer your questions. All levels of government and leaders in the community are working closely together every day to get us through this crisis and the Tele-Town Hall is an important part of making that happen.
Last night’s panelists included:
- me as your Mayor, and all of Burlington City Council;
- the Honourable Karina Gould, Burlington MP and Minister of International Development;
- Pam Damoff, Oakville North-Burlington MP and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services;
- Jane McKenna, Burlington MPP and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development;
- Representatives from Joseph Brant Hospital — President and CEO Eric Vandewall and Dr. Dale Kalina, Medical Director of Infection, Prevention and Control;
- Halton Regional Police Service Supt. Anthony Odoardi;
- Burlington Fire Chief Dave Lazenby;
- Carla Y. Nell, President and CEO of the Burlington Chamber of Commerce;
- Anita Cassidy, Executive Director of Burlington Economic Development; and
- Burlington City Manager Tim Commisso and members of City staff and the senior leadership team.
While we weren’t able to get to every question submitted to the queue in the two hours we were on the line, staff are working at answering some of those and publishing them for residents on the City of Burlington’s COVID-19 Telephone Town Hall webpage at burlington.ca/townhall.
Audio and a full transcript of the April 14 Town Hall will be added here and on the City’s webpage when it becomes available.
In the meantime, I encourage you to head further down this post for a brief summary of some of the questions that were asked and the response. Please also visit our Frequently Asked Questions pages on my website and the City of Burlington’s website.
Finally, at the very bottom of this post, there is a list of helpful links and resources for you.
I want to thank all of you who have been listening to expert medical advice and following provincial government orders and our municipal physical distancing bylaw by staying home, washing your hands frequently, and engaging in physical (social) distancing of at least 2 m/ 6 ft. The more of us that do this, the sooner we can “flatten the curve” and see ourselves on the other side of this. Please stay home, stay healthy, and continue being kind to one another.
— Mayor Marianne Meed Ward
Q-and-A’s FROM TELE-TOWN HALL:
Q: Why is the Pandemic Response Unit (PRU) being built by Joseph Brant Hospital? Are you expecting a pandemic?
Response from Eric: Joseph Brant Hospital has a surge plan in place. We were able to decant the hospital to 50% occupancy and we have surge capacity there. However, from the peak numbers of COVID-19 cases we’re expecting, we’ve built the PRU to ensure we have capacity.
Q: Is there a number we can call for those disobeying the provincial emergency orders? Are smaller retailers being monitored?
Response from Supt. Odoardi: We’ve received hundreds of calls and most are being directed to our local bylaw officers. Police are also supporting with education and warnings. Bylaw officers will attend areas and have conversations with businesses and customers. The hotline is 905-825-4722.
Response from Mayor: The other option is to also call the Ministry of Labour through the Province’s Stop the Spread for Businesses Hotline: 1-866-532-3161.
Q: What is being done about taxes? All parks and parking lots are closed to public, why aren’t they closed to vehicles?
Response from Mayor: On April 6, Burlington Council passed a tax deferral program at the City. We’ve also closed the major parking lots where we’ve seen crowding occur. To help clarify things – our municipal parks are open (unless there is signage), amenities and parking lots are closed, stick to your neighbourhood and walk or cycle through.
Response from City Manager: What we’re looking at with parking lots and parks are the more popular places where people are congregating too close. We’re encouraging them to use parks but not assemble there. We want to keep our neighbourhood parks accessible for residents who want activity and fresh air. But we’re monitoring this situation very closely if any future changes are warranted.
Q: How safe are we to use the hospital or visit the hospital for non-COVID-19 related issues?
Response from Dr. Kalina: That’s the type of problem we have been working to solve over the past couple of months. At Joseph Brant Hospital, with the expected surge of COVID-19 cases, elective surgeries have been cancelled. Out-patient visits are also being done virtually. Every person that comes into the hospital wears a face mask and when you come in as a staff, patient or visitor, you’re also being screened for signs and symptoms of the virus.
Response from Eric: If you require an emergency visit or need emergency surgery, there are established practices and protocols to ensure the safety of everyone — patients and staff.
Q: How are we doing compared to other communities? Are we safer?
Response from Mayor: The numbers of COVID-19 cases are tracked daily on Halton.ca/Coronavirus.
Response from Dr. Kalina: We don’t judge how well we’re doing by comparing to other communities. At Joseph Brant Hospital, we have 6 patients admitted for COVID-19 with 4 in the ICU. We’ve had 2 related fatalities. I think we’re doing well in treating patients reflective of their wishes.
Q: Do we have additional staff for the PRU additional beds?
Response form Eric: The PRU is equipped to deal with negative to moderate cases, but it can be adapted to care for higher levels. Intensive care will be done in the hospital. We’re confident we’re able to staff the PRU.
Q: If we’ve already had COVID-19, are we immune to it? If we thought we had, can we find out?
Response from Dr. Kalina: If you got sick 4 weeks ago, we didn’t see community spread then, and if you hadn’t travelled and come back home during that time, then the chance that you had is low. The test we have now is to see if you have the disease now and if you can spread it now. In a couple of months, I expect to have the tests to determine if a person has had it. We don’t have yet the answer to if you have had COVID-19 and recovered, are you now immune, but research in the medical community on that is being done.
Q: Can residents in condo units visit one another? If you were in self-quarantined, could you have gone out to toss out your garbage?
Response from Supt. Odoardi: Under The Quarantine Act, for anyone who has travelled, they are screened at the port of entry, and quarantined for 14 days — and that includes staying in the areas immediately adjacent to living space. That info will be filtered down to the police service of jurisdiction. We then conduct checks on those individuals and report back. If we find a breach of quarantine, we speak with Ministry and Provincial police service on how to proceed next. We have been lucky so far to see people are following directives.
Response from MP Gould: Quarantine means you need to stay within your own living space so that you don’t come into contact with others for 14 days after you’ve returned home. If deliveries need to be dropped off, that person making the delivery need to drop the package and then leave; then you can pick them up — there cannot be any hand-to-hand exchanges.
Response from Mayor: If you’re in quarantine, you cannot visit your condo unit neighbours. It’s the best way we can mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Q: We are facing the peak hydro rates while we’re staying home during the day – is anything being done for relief?
Response from Mayor: Hydro rates can only be changed by the Ontario Energy Board and they have announced a reduction.
Response from MPP McKenna: The rate reduction right now is a 50% decrease, the weekend rate, and that’s for 45 days for now.
Q: I’ve had to stay inside for quarantine and now getting a feeling of pins and needles. What should I do? Should I be seeking medical attention? Can I?
Response from Dr. Kalina: If you’re feeling new symptoms and medical conditions that you want to deal with or check on, you can reach out to your family physician, if you have one. As well Telehealth Ontario can redirect you to their digital resources to virtually help with the symptoms you’re experiencing — call Toll-free: 1-866-797-0000 or Toll-free TTY: 1-866-797-0007.
Q: I’m a student. When and how will we open up our city facilities again?
Response from Mayor: City Hall and facilities are closed until end of June and we’ll reassess for any potential extension closer to that time.
Response from City Manager: The province makes decisions that we at the city respond to. We’re closely watching the decisions being made at the federal and provincial levels, and we’re also anticipating them. The decision of when we reopen facilities is definitely top of mind for us at the City and is directly related to when our health professionals and upper levels of governments say it’s good to move forward.
Response from MPP McKenna: Today (April 14), MPPs voted to extend emergency orders until May 12. We’re waiting to see what will happen with schools, which won’t reopen on May 4. All levels of government are working collaboratively right now.
Response from Dr. Kalina: I wish I had a crystal ball to know when this will end. I’ve seen the modelling and it looks like we’re getting close to reaching our peak in close to 2-3 weeks. But realistically, what it will take for us to go back to reopening everything is when we determine the spread has stopped. With an incubation period of 2 weeks for COVID-19, it makes determining that difficult. We would need to see close to 0 new COVID-19 cases for a few weeks before we determine that the spread has stopped or significantly slowed down.
Q: How safe are backyard pools to use amid COVID-19?
Response from Dr. Kalina: Honestly, we haven’t looked into that too much. Chlorine sometimes is used to clean in the hospital, but we use hydrogen peroxide and other stronger chemical more. I don’t expect much of a spread in a pool setting as long as those enjoying it aren’t sick or at risk of spreading COVID-19.
Q: Has the City of Burlington given tickets yet with those who have broken the bylaw? Or are they just giving warnings? What about those holding parties or sleepovers?
Response from Supt. Odoardi: We have begun issuing offence notices in Halton. The first priority is to educate, then on repeat calls, we issue offence notices — bylaw officers are doing the same. We’re seeing few infractions, but we are prepared to scale up to ticketing. We will investigate calls, including those who shouldn’t be in your household or around your household.
Q: With respect to personal protective equipment (PPE) and N-95 masks, where can the public go to get these masks?
Response from Carla: At present, all local business organizations have been working to make sure the PPEs in the community are available for our healthcare and frontline workers — through our Team Burlington website. For sourcing for personal use, our advice currently is making sure those devices are available to those who are ill and in a healthcare setting.
Response from Dr. Kalina: N-95 masks are meant to help and protect healthcare workers to assist when they’re dealing with aerosols (tiny specks) in the air. Outside of a hospital, the public doesn’t need these masks. Regular surgical masks prevent those who are sick from spreading the virus to others. The main factor is to keep up with healthcare measures — wash hands, use hand-sanitizer, don’t touch your face, etc.
Response from MP Damoff: In terms of procurement, we are trying to make sure we have the supply we need in Canada that then gets distributed to provinces. Our Oakville MP has been working with industries around the world and mobilizing the country. We’ve had shipments reach Hamilton as early as this past week. It is a challenge as Canada is trying to procure these items with every other country in the world, but we’ve been doing a good job so far and all levels of government have been working towards this goal.
Response from MPP McKenna: Over the past five days, we’ve had shipments come in to Ontario and we’re all extending a hand to help out where the need is.
Response from Anita: We also have companies in Burlington who are retooling their business models to provide and produce some of the PPEs and hand-sanitizers the public needs.
Q: I’m concerned with seniors in our community who are living in a variety of facilities — we know staff are moving between facilities and I’m worried about cross-contamination. Is there any move by our governments to keep staff working in a single facility?
Response from MPP McKenna: There will be an announcement tomorrow (April 15) on that. Because the surge hasn’t affected some hospitals, those staff will be redeployed to the facilities that need assistance.
Response from MP Gould: The federal government has put out some best practices and guidelines in long-term care facilities. You can follow all of these guidelines and stats at canada.ca/CoVID19.
Q: Are you allowed to go for walks and bike rides outside?
Response from Mayor: We have encouraged people to go through our parks, not linger, not congregate. However, there have been some parks that have closed — Conservation Halton parks, the Bruce Trail, the Province has closed all of its parks (Bronte Creek). In the City, our parking lots have closed to encourage residents to visit parks within walking distance and not drive to a larger park — that contributes to crowding. If it’s not signed closed, you can walk, cycle, jog through it.
Q: If you are a family that has self-isolated for 2 weeks, would you be safe to see another family who has self-isolated for 2 weeks?
Response from Dr. Kalina: At the end of the day, the risk is not being able to confirm if someone has or has not been contact with someone else with the virus. I still think it’s safest if we are not visiting other people’s houses and maintaining safe distances for the time being.
Q: Is there a drop box at City Hall to drop off city taxes?
Response from City Manager: The due date for property taxes has been extended to June 30. There is a drop-off box, but it’s best if residents mail their tax forms in.
Q: Is there a group or assistance program to help seniors living on their own without access to computers to help them with groceries? My household is full of essential workers and my mother (a senior) lives on her own — should we be leaving her alone, can we get her any assistance?
Response from Counc. Nisan: If a senior or vulnerable person doesn’t have Internet they can call the Good Neighbour Project locally at 647-873-2230 to access supports available.
Response from Mayor: You can also call 311 and 211.
Response from Dr. Kalina: It’s a very difficult balance to strike with essential workers limiting their exposure to family members who are seniors. It is important to limit that exposure because, at the end of the day, there is an increased risk with that age group. With respect to mental health, if you can visit while respecting physical distancing or by calling on the phone or visiting virtually, that can help limit exposure and keep people feeling connected.
Response from Counc. Kearns: In the coming days, residents should be receiving in the mail from their councillor some messaging, information of how to protect yourself and how to access resources.
Response from Counc. Sharman: The food bank is really important in getting food delivered to their clients. The Hope Bible Church is also providing food, services and prayers for anyone who would like them.
Response from Counc. Galbraith: There is a cell operating out of St. Matthew’s Church where people can donate groceries, and anything extra, and that gets distributed to those in need. We also have the food bank in Ward 1 and other community organizations who are doing what they can.
Response from Counc. Bentivegna: We have a number of volunteers in Ward 6 through the food bank and Food for Life who are helping deliver care packages to homes in need. We’re trying to find locations to work with volunteers to put these programs together.
Q: Should we be concerned by second-hand smoke and can COVID-19 be transferred that way?
Response from Dr. Kalina: This particular virus can only be transferred through droplets and not through smells in the air. But any second-hand smoke is bad for you, so it’s important to avoid that as well. With respec to the risk of exposure to COVID-19, as long as you are 2 metres away from people (particularly those who happen to cough and sneeze, expelling droplets in the air, then you should be safe. It’s also important to note that when the virus is expelled as droplets into the air, it drops down from the air pretty quickly — it doesn’t linger in the air.
Q: How long can the virus survive on surfaces?
Response from Dr. Kalina: The main way the virus is spread is not directly from surfaces to skin, but rather from touching a surface and then touching your face. So, it’s important to keep washing your hands when handling objects and surfaces. Getting the virus from surfaces is very low.
Q: It seems Canada and Ontario has had a slow start in testing and continues to lag behind other countries. What is the reason we are not testing more? Is it a lack of supplies?
Also, are we looking at the impacts on those who have delayed cancer/medical treatments and the higher suicide rates we’re seeing?
Response from MP Gould: These are all very valid concerns. We have to recognize that our levels of governments are all trying our best to prevent the spread of infections. Canada is in the Top 5 of testing per capita — we are doing fairly extensive testing. Different provinces have different strategies. We’re right now in a global pandemic, COVID-19 is happening at the same time all around the world. We’re all learning and moving together pretty quickly in real-time on this. The reason we’re taking these extraordinary measures is to make sure we end up on the low-end of our modelling. We really want to avoid what other countries are experiencing, their medical systems being unable to cope. We need to try everything we can to not overwhelm the capacities of our medical system. We place an equal value on all human life. While the majority of patients and those not surviving COVID-19 are older, there is a large number of those under 40 who are being affected in the same way — that’s why we’re doing this, to protect the health and well-being of everyone in Canada. These are extraordinary times and that’s why we have to take these extraordinary measures.
Response from Dr. Kalina: I echo what Minister Gould has said. A consequence of our globalization is that this has spread so much faster than say the Spanish flu. We need to ensure our capacity to give people the level of care they need without having to ration. When you flatten the curve, you delay when the surge will hit. Because of the measures we have put in place and we’re delaying the peak, that’s the best news we can receive in the medical community. It’s giving us the opportunity to prepare and plan. We are expanding the ability in Ontario to test more and more people. With treatments that still need to be done, they are still being done and scheduled in a way that reduces the risk for these patients and limits the delays to necessary treatments and care as much as possible.
Q: What supports are there for mental health in the community?
Response from Dr. Kalina: Mental health care has expanded to include virtual and group activities. Isolation can exacerbate underlying mental health conditions. Staff at Joseph Brant Hospital is working hard to ensure those who need mental health care have access to it.
Response from MP Damoff: Our Reach Out Centre for Kids (ROCK) offers a variety of supports. MP Gould and I have pushed for federal investments for Kids Help Phone to ramp up their services for kids and young adults. They can text 686868 and call 1-800-668-6868.
Response from Counc. Kearns: I invite those to reach out to the Distress Centre Halton who provide telephone support everyday – text 647-557-6250 or call 905-681-1488.
PLEASE NOTE: To stay updated on what the City of Burlington is doing regarding COVID-19, please visit the dedicated pages burlington.ca/coronavirus (and subscribe) and bit.ly/mayormeedwardCOVID19updates, and our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page — bit.ly/COVID19BurlingtonFAQ that are updated as new information becomes available.
A Burlington COVID-19 Task Force has been created to help support our community through this unprecedented emergency — updates will be provided at burlington.ca/COVID19taskforce.
To report an incident of non-compliance with provincial emergency orders, please contact the Halton Regional Police Service COVID-19 Hotline: 905-825-4722.
HELPFUL RESOURCES & RELATED LINKS:
- Community questions and requests regarding City of Burlington services can be directed to Service Burlington by phone at 903-335-7777, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or online.
- For further COVID-19 information, including where to get tested, please visit Halton Region Public Health halton.ca/coronavirus
- Residents can stay informed at burlington.ca/coronavirus as well as on our social media channels: @cityburlington on Twitter and facebook.com/cityburlington
- Questions about the cancellation of Recreation programs can be directed to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or 905-335-7738
- City of Burlington: www.burlington.ca/coronavirus
- Halton Region: www.halton.ca/coronavirus
- Government of Ontario: www.ontario.ca/coronavirus
- Government of Canada: www.canada.ca/coronavirus
- World Health Organization: www.who.int
- Joseph Brant Hospital: josephbranthospital.ca/covid-19
- Chamber of Commerce Business Supports: burlingtonchamber.com/team-burl-supporting-burl-business-during-covid-19/
*Posted by John Bkila, Mayor’s Media and Digital Communications Specialist