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Burlington Successfully Holds Tele-Town Hall on COVID-19 Response & Supports

COVID19_Telephone Town Hall

Thursday night (March 26), we held our first City of Burlington telephone Town Hall on COVID-19 Response and Supports and I want to thank everyone that called in and asked questions, those that listened to the live stream provided by Cogeco/YourTV Halton and followed along with the live tweets on social media.

I have received overwhelming positive feedback from the community on my social media channels and through email with many greatly appreciating our panel of community leaders.

I am grateful to each of our panelists who took time from their busy schedules to call in and be there for you to answer your questions.

Our panelists included:

  • me as your Mayor, and members of Burlington City Council;
  • the Honourable Karina Gould, Burlington MP and Minister of International Development;
  • 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;
  • Members of Halton Regional Police Service — Deputy Chief Roger Wilkie and Supt. Anthony Odoardi;
  • Burlington Fire Chief Dave Lazenby; and
  • Burlington City Manager Tim Commisso.
  • Members of City Council

We’ve asked our panelists if they have a key message to share – as we receive them, we’ll add them further down this post.

I’ve also been receiving requests to host another Town Hall and we’ll definitely be looking into that.

While we weren’t able to get to every question in the more than one hour we were on the line (there were 150 questions in the queue), but staff are working at answering some of those and publishing them for residents — March 26 2020 Burlington COVID-19 Town Hall Results.

You can also hear the audio for the Town Hall here, read a full transcript of the Town Hall here and visit our Frequently Asked Questions pages on my website and the City of Burlington’s website.

We have also provided a brief summary of the questions asked on air during the Town Hall and the responses further below.

As well, a list of helpful links and resources is available at the very bottom of this post.

I want to thank all of our residents who have been listening to expert medical advice and 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.

— Mayor Marianne Meed Ward

 

KEY MESSAGES FROM PANEL OF COMMUNITY LEADERS

Burlington MP Karina Gould:

Take care of yourselves and take care of each other. Stay home and practice physical distancing, but don’t let that prevent you from connecting with your friends and family by phone or virtually.

The measures we are taking are extremely important and do matter. We all have a role to play in fighting Covid-19. It is our civic duty to follow the advice of public health and keep our community safe. We will get through this together.

To remain up to date, please visit my website at karinagouldmp.ca or follow me on social media @karinagould.

Burlington MPP Jane McKenna:

We all have a responsibility to fight the spread of COVID-19. If you’re returning from international travel, you must self-isolate for 14 days. If you’re over 70 or have an underlying medical condition, please self-isolate. By self-isolating you are protecting the health of your family, friends, and loved ones.

For those who are not self-isolating, if you HAVE to go out, please stay at least 6 feet from those around you.

If you have questions or need help, please contact my office at 905-639-7924 or visit my website at janemckennampp.ca and use my COVID-19 Virtual Assistant to connect you with the latest information 24/7.

Joseph Brant Hospital President and CEO Eric Vandewall:

Joseph Brant Hospital is taking important measures to ensure the safety and well-being of our patients and families as well as our staff, physicians and partners. As the situation rapidly evolves, we are doing everything possible to plan and prepare to meet the increased care needs of our community. To learn about Joseph Brant Hospital’s response to COVID-19, visit www.josephbranthospital.ca/COVID-19.

 

Q-and-A’s FROM TELE-TOWN HALL

Q: What precautions should we take while walking and should we wear a mask while we’re out grocery shopping?

Answer from Dr. Kalina: Those who have been mandated by our government to quarantine are not to go outside at all. For people who are social (physical) distancing, it’s important to get out for some fresh air. When you do, stay 2 metres (6 foot) away from others. Be sure to wash your hands when you come back inside and don’t touch your face. There is no rule for wearing a mask in public.

Q: I’m 85 and live in south Burlington. If I need to go for a test, where can I go?

Answer from Dr. Kalina: If you’re feeling unwell and have symptoms like a cough, feeling tired, have sore muscles, that’s when you call Public Health at 311 and we can facilitate a test for you in Burlington. If you’re experiencing an emergency and you need immediate help, call 911 and you will be brought to the hospital’s emergency department.

Q: Are there any COVID-19 cases in Burlington?

Answer from Eric Vandewall: There is 1 confirmed case at Joseph Brant Hospital.

Answer from Mayor Meed Ward: Halton Region has the most up to date stats on the number of COVID-19 cases at halton.ca/coronavirus.

Q: Is the City of Burlington deferring tax payments?

Answer from Tim Commisso: We are looking at a deferral of interest payments on taxes and that’s subject to a report going to Council in April. (Please click the link for more details.)

Q: Ventilators – How many do we have? Are we getting more? Have we made modifications to serve more patients at a time?

Answer from Dr. Kalina: We do have at least 50 active and usable ventilators, and the means to expand our capacity.

Answer from Eric Vandewall: We have introduced a public assessment centre in Burlington and moved to active screening of all of our staff and physicians. We’ve also enacted ways to convert spaces in the hospital to use in anticipation of increased care for COVID-19 patients. Overall, we’re in a very good place in terms of preparedness.

Q: I just returned from the U.S. and I’ve been quarantined for two weeks. Does this mean I can’t go outside to garden in my backyard?

Answer from Dr. Kalina: If the backyard is protected/closed off from other individuals — the important thing is you’re not in contact with anyone during the quarantine.

Answer from MP Karina Gould: Yesterday (March 25), the Minister of Health introduced the Quarantine Act. We have noticed people taking a relaxed approach. The government will be doing random spot checks. Those who are found contravening the Act can be fined up to $750,000 or face up to 3 years in prison.

Q: In the event our hospital becomes overloaded, are we considering an emergency auxiliary site?

Answer from Eric Vandewall: We are looking at a number of options and work is underway in creating remote patient sites. We’re having conversations with the hotel industry in town and looking at other care models, as well as on-site models for capacity.

Q: I have three adult children who all have essential service jobs that put them in harm’s way. How can we protect ourselves since they have a higher probability of contracting COVID-19 and transferring it?

Answer from Dr. Kalina: The virus is spread through coughs and sneezes, but it doesn’t remain in the air, it falls to the ground and on nearby surfaces. I think it’s important your children protect themselves in their lines of work, using personal protective equipment. If they don’t have symptoms, the risk of transmission is fairly low. If they do develop symptoms, those who are healthy should stay a little farther away from them, and they should stay in a separate room and not share a bathroom with those without symptoms. You can also call Public Health at 311 as they are a great resource to reach out to for specific questions.

Answer from MPP Jane McKenna: We have passed bills at the provincial level to protect employees who walk away if they are feeling unsafe at work. You can contact my office for more. We also know the people and employers in essential services right now are making sure proper protocols and procedures are taking place.

Answer from MP Karina Gould: All levels of government are working really well to make sure we’re doing what’s best for our residents and Canadians. We’re taking these measures for physical (social) distancing to make sure the people on the frontlines are being kept safe as well. The Canada Emergency Response Benefit takes care of those who are sick, working parents without childcare, wage earners and self-employed individuals, workers still employed but not receiving income – the folks that don’t qualify for Employment Insurance. People can also contact my office for more info.

Q: Has the age of mortality from this virus changed now? How long is the wait for test results? At City Hall, how can we know who’s working from home and who’s not? Will there be measures to address backlogs?

Answer from Dr. Kalina: We are seeing data showing that older adults have a higher rate of mortality. Data in Canada also shows there is still a mortality rate for all adults who get COVID-19, in addition to older adults. There is a backlog of 6-7 days for test results. I know there is a strong push to bring other labs to test live for COVID-19 to speed up testing and getting results.

Answer from Tim Commisso: Most of our staff who are able are working from home now. Our Service Burlington desk is still fully operational. Most operations are now through email and our main phone line. If there are issues, people can contact me and the Mayor by email to let us know.

Answer from Mayor Meed Ward: We’re not going to be able to get back to 100% right away once this is over. We have a number of essential services staff working, such as infrastructure. We have our bus drivers out, but we have deployed as many staff offsite. It will take some time to ramp back up to full speed. We’re planning for a potential 3-month horizon right now. We know this won’t be over by April 6.

Q: Should we be closing all of our playgrounds?

Answer from Mayor Meed Ward: We’ve closed our fenced sports fields and Lowville Park — congregating in groups (and that’s anyone not in your immediate household) must stop. We need to keep our distance, and just walk through our parks and trails, don’t stop. We don’t want to have to barricade our parks, but we’re prepared to take stronger measures. We’re asking people not to gather. Let’s do the right thing for each other.

Q: We’re grandparents and we’ll be done our 14-days of self-isolation with no symptoms on April 1, can we start babysitting our grandchildren?

Answer from Dr. Kalina: At the end of the day, it has to be a risk/benefit conversation for everyone. I appreciate the difficulty in the situation. Ideally, we want people to stay home and have contact only with those who live with them.

Q: What is the enforcement responsibility of the police?

Answer from Supt. Odoardi: Part of our duty is to educate and ensure folks know the rules of what we’re doing right now — to respond and educate. We’re getting calls for people not engaging in social distancing, that’s one right now where we have no enforceable provisions. However, we send an officer out and they educate the public, and that has been very successful so far. In terms of the Emergency Measures Act, there are enforceable provisions for non-essential businesses who remain open. Again, there we have been educating and that’s been very successful too. Lastly, with the Quarantine Act, we are receiving legislative processes where we will assist the federal authority in doing random spot inspections and following up on complaints.

Answer from Deputy Chief Wilkie: We’re working 24/7 towards public safety and well-being. We have a control group looking at how to mitigate risks for our officers. We’re being proactive and have the ability to be nimble to go with the changes and continue serving Halton.

Q: Any insight on when school will be back? How can we be sure people who come back from travels stay in quarantine?

Answer from MPP McKenna: School won’t be returning on April 6. Additional details will be coming over the next few days.

Answer from MP Gould: Anyone who returns is being tracked and we will be doing spot checks. When you return to Canada, you have to go straight home and can’t use public transit or make stops. You must quarantine in the place you land in Canada.

Q: We’re in our 80s, in good health and live in an apartment. However, every 4 weeks we have cleaning ladies come in to assist us with our cleaning. Is this safe to continue?

Answer from Dr. Kalina: It’s best people are in contact with just those they live with. It’s prudent you aren’t bringing other people into your homes.

Q: Are there any volunteer opportunities to safely help the community and those in need?

Answer from Mayor Meed Ward: We do have resources we’ve collected on burlington.ca/coronavirus – Councilors Rory Nisan and Shawna Stolte have helped bring these resources together. We also have 211 that folks can call. As well, the Burlington Food Bank and Food for Life Halton are also great resources.

Answer from Counc. Nisan: We have the Good Neighbour Project – GTA that offers supports and is accepting volunteers. Connect with them at goodneighboursproject-GTA on facebook or call 647-873-2230.

Answer from Counc. Stolte: There have been a few groups that have come up on Facebook – such as CareMongering Burlington, with almost 5,000 members across Burlington. The group helps with grocery delivery, volunteering, etc.

Q: What is the role of the fire department?

Chief Lazenby: Our Emergency Control Group has a virtual meeting every afternoon and our Crisis Communications Group meets virtually every morning. Our Fire Services are also equipped and ready to go for our residents when we are needed in the community.

Q: My daughter is expecting in May – what are the plans for women giving in birth at the hospital?

Answer from Dr. Kalina: When your daughter comes to Joseph Brant Hospital, she will unfortunately be limited in the number of visitors she can have – this is in order to protect her, other patients and hospital staff.

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 that will be updated as new information becomes available.

HELPFUL RESOURCES & RELATED LINKS:

*Posted by John Bkila, Mayor’s Media and Digital Communications Specialist

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