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COVID-19 Turned Burlington Upside Down in 3 days


Three days — that’s how long it took for COVID-19 to turn our world upside down in Burlington.

On Thursday, March 12, City Council met in person for the Corporate Services Strategy Risk and Accountability Committee.  Little did we know it would be the last time we would meet in person for the foreseeable future.

The next day (Friday, March 13), many of us had additional meetings, with staff or constituents.

On that Saturday (March 14), the city convened our Emergency Control Group after the first positive COVID-19 case was reported in Halton Region.

By Monday (March 16), Burlington City Hall had shut down. No more meetings in person.

We are now a little more than four weeks into dealing with the COVID-19 emergency in Burlington, with closures announced until the end of June, at minimum. We’ve heard from public health provincially and across Canada that the impact of COVID-19 will last well beyond the last diagnosis, and the impacts will be felt for as much as two years.

Once we’ve beaten COVID-19, it will take time to recover and rebuild our city, province and country. We are all in this together and we can do it.

For now, the more we stay apart, the sooner we can come together.

Below is a timeline of significant events in the COVID-19 pandemic globally and in Burlington. We’ll update this as we move through this, together.

July 19, 2019: Council unanimously approves our Emergency and Continuity Management Program bylaw, Municipal Emergency Response Plan and Emergency Management Program Committee Terms of Reference. These plans must be updated annually and submitted to the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management (OFMEM).

Dec. 31, 2019: A pneumonia of unknown cause was detected in Wuhan, China and first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) Country Office in China on Dec. 31, 2019.

Jan. 30, 2020: The WHO declares the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

Feb. 11, 2020: WHO announced a name for the new coronavirus disease: COVID-19.

March 6, 2020: The city establishes a Rapid Response Working Group (RRWG) was to make initial assessments of immediate actions to limit the spread of the virus through facilities, fleet, fire, and counter services.

March 11, 2020: WHO declares COVID-19 a “pandemic” with 118,000 cases of the virus in more than 110 countries and territories around the world, and the sustained risk of further global spread. WHO defines a pandemic as global spread of a new disease.

March 11, 2020: Halton Region Public Health announces first case of COVID-19 in Halton, a female in her 30s, a resident of Burlington and a Hamilton Health Sciences physician, who had recently returned from a trip to Hawaii.

March 12, 2020: The last time Burlington City Council met in person, as the Corporate Services, Strategy, Risk & Accountability Committee.

March 13, 2020: In compliance with the City’s Municipal Emergency & Continuity Management Program, the Rapid Response Working Group transitions to the Crisis Management Team (CMT). This placed our City in a Level 2 emergency activation. The Burlington Leadership Team, Mayor/Council, Office of Fire Marshal and Emergency Management notified.

March 13, 2020: City closes recreation facilities for 3 weeks.

March 14, 2020: Twice daily briefings begin – morning for Crisis Communications, afternoon for Crisis Management Team (CMT). Daily crisis communications calls commence with mayor and her staff, emergency personnel and communications staff to determine key communications required, reporting to the CMT for feedback and any additional action/items. CMT assumes operational oversight of emergency response actions, with membership including mayor, senior staff and emergency personnel, as detailed in the Emergency Plan approved in July 2019. Daily reporting by the mayor to council begins, as well as daily Incident Action Plans provided by CMT to council.

March 15, 2020: All city facilities, including City Hall, were closed to the public until April 5 in alignment with the provincial order closings schools during that period. It was
determined that all meetings during a three-week period would be cancelled including
the regularly scheduled March City Council meeting.

March 17, 2020: Province of Ontario declares State of Emergency.

March 17, 2020: The city’s Crisis Management Team transitions to the hybrid Emergency Control Group (ECG) to manage and monitor city operations and the community response. This elevates the level of emergency to a Level 3, the highest level short of the municipality declaring a state of emergency.

March 19, 2020: Halton Region confirms first death from COVID-19, a Milton man, who contracted the virus from an “unknown source.” Confirms community spread is happening.

March 19, 2020: The Ontario legislature passed Bill 187, the Municipal Emergency Act, 
2020, to enable municipalities, during a declared emergency, the ability to allow for
virtual participation, and to conduct council meetings electronically with members who
participate remotely being counted for the purpose of quorum.

March 22, 2020: Mayor declares State of Emergency in the City of Burlington.

March 23, 2020: First of park closures begins with closing Lowville parking lot.

March 24, 2020: Region of Halton and three other municipalities in the Halton (towns of Oakville, Milton and Halton Hills) declare State of Emergency.

March 24, 2020: First virtual council meeting held to approve time-sensitive matters only, including enacting the necessary Procedure By-law amendments to allow remote participation. A meeting guide was posted to the city’s website which provides additional information on how virtual meetings will occur.

March 30, 2020: City closures are extended to the end of June, to be re-evaluated closer to that date.

March 31, 2020: Team Burlington (Burlington Chamber of Commerce, Burlington Downtown Business Association, Burlington Economic Development, Aldershot Village BIA and Tourism Burlington) come together to create a unified online portal, phone number and webinars to provide the business community with COVID-19 support and information.

April 6, 2020: First standing committee meeting with remote participation and first timein closed session. Items for April standing committees were streamlined to ensure only
essential or time sensitive items were brought forward. After the review, it was
determined there was only enough items for one standing committee meeting for the
month of April.

April 6, 2020: Mayor calls a special Council meeting, where there is unanimous approval for A residential and commercial Interim Property Tax Relief By-law in response to COVID-19, and a Physical Distancing By-law, requiring people to stay 6ft apart from anyone they don’t live with, including a set fine of $500, later increased by court application to $750. Agenda: April 6

April 7, 2020: Burlington COVID19 Taskforce established April 6, and holds its first meeting April 7 bringing together almost 50 community leaders chaired by the mayor to coordinate needs and resources to address the healthcare and social impacts of COVID19.

April 14, 2020: Province extends the Declaration of Emergency by another 28 days, to May 12.

April 20, 2020: City council receives an updated financial report on impacts till the end of June on revenues and expenses, as well as cost control initiatives, showing a net shortfall of $200,000. City council also receives an updated 3-month workplan of activities for the corporation. Burlington Economic Development provides an update on impacts to local business showing over 1800 companies and 29,000 employees impacted in some way by COVID19. TEAM Burlington (which includes the Burlington Chamber of Commerce, Burlington Economic Development, Burlington Downtown Business Association, Aldershot Business Improvement Area and Tourism Burlington) also provides an update to council on supports and initiatives they are taking to aid local businesses, including the COVID19 information portal. Agenda: Item 12.3, 12.4

Roles in an emergency:

It’s important to note that there are three primary roles by those involved in managing and overseeing response in an emergency: deal with and solve the emergency (front line and essential service workers, public health officials); 2. communicate to the general public and community about steps being taken and what they can and must do; and 3. continue the business of city and serving our residents and businesses.

Our City of Burlington staff and Council have a role to play in one or more of these areas.

— Mayor Marianne Meed Ward

PLEASE NOTE: To stay updated on what the City of Burlington is doing regarding COVID-19, please visit the dedicated pages (and subscribe) and, and our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page — 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

To report an incident of non-compliance with provincial emergency orders, please contact the Halton Regional Police Service COVID-19 Hotline: 905-825-4722.


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

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Media Specialist: John Bkila