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Burlington State of Emergency and COVID-19 FAQs

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*Please note: FAQ page updated on Friday, June 19, 2020.

The following media release was sent out on March 22 by my office:

Yesterday (March 21), I declared a State of Emergency for the City of Burlington.

I have received an overwhelmingly positive reaction from our community, along with many valid questions and concerns about what this means for our day to day living, businesses, and parks. I am glad to see this declaration has caused people to more deeply consider their decisions and actions. That was the intended outcome and I know it will help our city through this crisis.

Today, the City of Burlington has made the decision to close Lowville Park to the public, effective Monday, March 23. This is part of the City’s continuing efforts to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus by following the advice of our public health officials to increase social distancing.

Lowville Park has been very busy with visitors using the closed playground and picnic areas. Although many of our visitors have respected social distancing, there are reported concerns with crowding in some areas, parking lot capacity and people entering areas that are marked as closed. The Province prohibited gatherings of 50 people or more when they declared a provincial State of Emergency last week. As a result of similar concerns, Conservation Halton has already closed all their parks to the public.

Considering these challenges, Lowville Park will remain closed indefinitely as of Monday. Any vehicles parked in the Lowville Park lot will be towed. We are considering additional park closures on a daily basis. While we want our residents to get outside and stay active, we have to make tough decisions when we do not see the social distancing behaviours our public health officials are recommending.

I know there are many additional questions out there, and to help you better understand what a State of Emergency means to the people of Burlington, to our local businesses, and to our essential services, I have put together the following FAQ.

The Provincial government has also released some frequently asked questions it has received – please click this link to view them: Province of Ontario_Consolidated Qs and As_2020-03-24.

The City of Burlington also has a dedicated page for Q-and-As from COVID-19 Public Town Halls, and one on resources for residents and non-profit organizations — please click their respective links.

— Mayor Marianne Meed Ward

STATE OF EMERGENCY FAQs:

(responses found below past the summary of questions)

FAQ LIST

MOST RECENT:

  • Why is the City of Burlington not issuing a mandatory mask order?
  • Questions about summer activities? (Please click the link)
  • With our parks and skateparks opening up, why is Burlington’s beach still closed and why is there now fencing keeping us out?
  • I’m confused about the “social gatherings of 5 people” rule and what that actually means. Can we get some clarification?
  • Why did Burlington cancel summer programs when the Province has indicated that summer camps may be able to proceed in July with significant restrictions?

STATE OF EMERGENCY/GOVERNMENT ORDERS/BYLAWS:

  • Why did you declare a State of Emergency?
  • Burlington now has a COVID-19 Physical Distancing Bylaw – what’s that all about?
    • Why did the maximum fine for the Physical Distancing Bylaw increase? When did that happen?
    • I organize sports teams of adults and would like to continue training in public parks as the weather gets warmer. We won’t be using the parking lots, marked sports fields or any other park amenities. We’ll also limit training/practices to 5 people not from the same household who stay 2 metres away from each other. Is this allowed?
  • How long is this going to last?
  • What other important things should I know about?

ENFORCEMENT:

  • How many tickets has the City of Burlington issued to date related to COVID-19?
  • I keep seeing large groups congregating in parks – can’t the City do something to stop this?
  • I still see businesses open that I don’t think are essential – what should I do?
  • Who is responsible for enforcing fines for a violation of an emergency order made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act?
    • I’m seeing people not following the emergency orders from the Province – can I do anything about this?

ESSENTIAL SERVICES/BUSINESS INQUIRIES:

  • What is an essential service?
    • The Province has ordered all non-essential businesses to close down, however, there is construction still occurring in my neighbourhood and around the city, why is this allowed?
    • Is Canada Post considered an essential service?
  • I’ve closed down my non-essential business, but I’m worried about keeping it safe during this shutdown — is there anything I can do?
  • What about take-out and drive-thru restaurants? Are they still safe?
  • I’m seeing construction continuing in my area — I thought this was banned?
  • With the City announcing closures until the end of June, I’m worried my local business won’t survive until then — is there any help out there for us?
  • I’ve heard mayors from Vancouver and Halifax are taking a 10% pay cut to help offset their city’s revenue losses that have contributed to city employees layoffs. Is the City of Burlington thinking of doing the same?

PROTECTION/HEALTH:

  • Should I be wearing a protective mask?
  • I’m planning to put up/install an outdoor swimming pool this spring/summer while self-isolating — is there anything I need to know?
  • There are City workers outside my front door. Can I go out, say hi and give them a drink?
  • I heard that Vitamin C will help treat COVID-19 — is that true?
  • Has the Region of Halton considered mobile testing units, for example, testing employees working in the essential service industry at their work place?
  • Can I still go for a walk with my family?
    • Can I go outside at all?
  • I’m still getting knocks from door-to-door salespeople and very concerned for my health and safety as they’re also trying to hand me a flyer — can’t this be stopped?
  • I saw my neighbour at the grocery store and they just returned from a trip? Is that allowed?
  • We’re grandparents looking after our grandchildren at our home while their parents – essential workers – are working. Are we in violation of any provincial emergency orders and/or city bylaws?
  • Do you have any advice for families with shared custody of children?

PARKS/COMMUNITY GARDENS/OUTDOOR EVENTS:

  • FAQs on City’s safety guidelines for drive-by parades and processions.
  • I’m confused – with the Province’s announcement of closures of all park and outdoor amenities, can I still walk through the park?
  • Are online garage sales from all the local community groups still safe?
  • I see some communities are opening community gardens. Why isn’t Burlington?
  • Are Burlington’s Community Clean Up Green Up events still happening?

CHANGES TO SERVICES:

  • Will we be getting any relief on our hydro rate payments?
  • Will there be increased garbage pickup during this time?
  • Should staff dedicated to the recycling program still be working – is that really a priority right now?

LOOKING TO HELP:

  • I’m an entrepreneur/company that wants to help with special services aimed at assisting with the COVID-19 situation — who should we contact?
  • We’re seeing painted rocks in Burlington and want to add our own — where is it best to place them in the city?
  • My friends and I are looking to help out our community any way we can, and thought we could sew masks together for our hospital staff — would that do any good?
  • What is being done to help those who are homeless in our community during this?

RESPONSES

MOST RECENT:

Q: Why is the City of Burlington not issuing a mandatory mask order?

A: City Council does not have the authority to issue a mandatory mask order. Only the medical officer of health within a Public Health Unit can do that (that’s how the orders were issued in other cities).

In our case, the Region of Halton Medical Officer of Health has the authority. Regional Council met on June 17 and this issue was raised, and her response was that she will not be issuing a mandatory mask order. You can view the meeting and hear the discussion from the meeting here: https://edmweb.halton.ca/OnBaseAgendaOnline/Meetings/ViewMeeting?id=4142&doctype=2.

Her public health advice and guidance around masks can be found here: https://www.halton.ca/For-Residents/Immunizations-Preventable-Disease/Diseases-Infections/New-Coronavirus/Reopening-Halton-Region#04.

Businesses have the ability to mandate masks on their own premises and I’ve encouraged residents to contact those businesses where they believe masks should be required.

The direct response from our Medical Officer of Health on issuing a mandatory mask order is as follows:

“There is no plan to issue an order requiring the use of masks at businesses in Halton.

Halton Region Public Health has been actively supporting local partners and businesses as they prepare to reopen by referring them to sector-specific guidance documents, providing Halton fact sheets, and responding to questions. Halton Region’s Small Business Centre has also been providing guidance to local businesses through a new webinar series, ‘Reopening your business in Halton’.

Public Health continues to promote the most effective interventions for reducing the spread of COVID-19; physical distancing, hand and respiratory hygiene and staying home when ill. Wearing a non-medical mask is an additional measure that individuals can take to protect others around them when physical distancing is a challenge, but does not replace other measures. Local businesses may individually choose to develop policies requiring customers to wear a face covering while in their premises. Throughout reopening, we will continue to provide guidance to businesses and assess the need for any additional measures.”

The City of Burlington can mandate masks in our own facilities and we are discussing these issues as we plan ahead for the eventual reopening of City Hall and our community facilities. In the shorter term, we will be requiring masks on our public transit.

If you have further questions, comments or concerns, please connect directly with accesshalton@halton.ca.

 

Q: With our parks and skateparks opening up, why is Burlington’s beach still closed and why is there now fencing keeping us out?

A: The Province still has mandated Ontario’s beaches stay closed through its Emergency Orders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If the Province eases that restriction, then the Region of Halton would have to resume testing of the water for bacteria to determine whether it is safe to enter — they are not doing that yet.

Additionally, Burlington’s beach has not been groomed for safe use yet and park washroom facilities remain closed due to staff focusing on other COVID-19 operations.

With regards to the fencing: Unfortunately, despite announcements and signage asking people to comply with the Provincially-mandated beach closure, last weekend, we saw a high volume of users on the beach who even when approached with educational measures by our bylaw team, still refused to leave.

Our options at this point are either: to issue a high volume of costly tickets; to accept increasingly higher numbers of COVID-19 in Ontario as we have seen since May 10; or to put up a fence.

These aren’t easy times or easy choices and we ask everyone to be respectful of the ultimate goal of minimizing an uncontrollable spread of this virus, so we can get back to enjoying the things we love as soon as possible.

 

Q: I’m confused about the “social gatherings of 5 people” rule and what that actually means. Can we get some clarification?

A: Social gatherings on public or private property of more than 5 persons are prohibited by the provincial regulation O.Reg. 52/20, unless all persons present are members of a single household.

For example:

  • A family of 4, can only have 1 person over, as anything over would run contrary to the requirement that social gatherings not exceed five people
  • A family of 4, when on public property, can only meet with 1 other person, as anything over would run contrary to the requirement that social gatherings not exceed five people
  • A family of 6 does not have room to have anyone over as that would run contrary to the requirement that social gatherings not exceed five people
  • A family of 6 also should not meet on public property with anyone not part of their single household, as that would run contrary to the requirement that social gatherings not exceed five people.  Meeting with 1 other person would make this a gathering of 7, which is contrary to the requirement that social gatherings not exceed five people.

There are exceptions to the above, and they include e.g. essential businesses, daycares, and funerals.

When on public property, physical distancing requirements must be observed between all persons not members of a single household.

 

Q: Why did Burlington cancel summer programs when the Province has indicated that summer camps may be able to proceed in July with significant restrictions?

A: The city has cancelled all existing programs, rentals and events through to the end of Labour Day (Sept. 7).

These programs, rentals and events were all developed, advertised and sold pre-pandemic and included large gatherings both indoor and outdoor. Based on our current and forecasted situation, including that the provincial emergency order limiting groups to no more than five people remains in effect, all of these will need to be re-designed or modified based on new rules as they are announced.

As we get the new rules and restrictions from the province we will look to implement a new slate of programs including summer camps. We need the specifics in order to plan, market, sell, hire staff back and prepare facilities, put all new procedures in place to adhere to the new rules and provide a safe, modified service.

The province has not yet released the guidelines for group size or any other restrictions or guidelines under which summer camps may proceed. We need this information to effectively launch redesigned programs, especially if we are going to be able to offer summer programs.  We have asked our local MPP to communicate that the sooner the province can provide these details to municipalities, the sooner we can plan and prepare. That way we are not guessing and reacting to the announcement with limited time to delivery a program for our community.

 

STATE OF EMERGENCY/GOVERNMENT ORDERS/BYLAWS:

Q: Why did you declare a State of Emergency?

A: With the support of Council, senior City staff, our Emergency Control Group, and senior staff at Joseph Brant Hospital, this declaration helps send a message to our community that times are serious and people’s lives are on the line. It aligns us with the Province of Ontario’s declaration earlier last week, and we are seeing many communities across North America do the same to ensure people understand the serious nature of what is going on, to support self-isolation and social distancing, and help to focus our city on essential services and activities.

 

Q: Burlington now has a COVID-19 Physical Distancing Bylaw – what’s that all about?

A: At a Special Council Meeting on April 6, Burlington City Council approved a new COVID-19 Physical Distancing Bylaw to complement enforcement of provincial orders.

Many of you may have some questions related to the bylaw. We’ve compiled a separate page for a few frequently asked questions to help you better understand how the new bylaw works.

 

Q: Why did the maximum fine for the Physical Distancing Bylaw increase? When did that happen?

A: The Province of Ontario has agreed to Burlington increasing the fines to $750 for the two charges associated with the City of Burlington’s Physical Distancing Bylaw to be more in line with other municipalities, such as Oakville.

We wanted the fine to be significant enough to send a message and provided tools of enforcement that the 2 metre/6 foot minimum must be respected for everyone’s health and safety.

When the City introduced the bylaw on April 6, the maximum we could impose was $500, but we simultaneously applied to the courts to allow us to set a higher minimum fine. They granted our request on April 9, so the maximum fine is now $750.

 

Q: I organize sports teams of adults and would like to continue training in public parks as the weather gets warmer. We won’t be using the parking lots, marked sports fields or any other park amenities. We’ll also limit training/practices to 5 people not from the same household who stay 2 metres away from each other. Is this allowed?

A: Activity of any kind is not permitted in any sports fields, basketball courts, skate parks and playgrounds in the City of Burlington as all of them have been closed. Sporting activity is also not permitted on an unmarked field or open park area any more than a marked one.

Doctors have also said while running is a great way to stay health and prevent illness, doing so now can increase the chances of producing micro-droplets that can transmit the virus from person to person – as it will be hard with sports training to not breathe heavy, spit or clear your throat. Since even those not exhibiting symptoms can be carriers and spread the COVID-19 virus, as we’ve heard from medical experts, it is not a good idea to get together for sports training with others.

 

Q: How long is this going to last?

A: Honestly, I don’t know. From what we have seen in other countries, it could be weeks and it could be even longer. The most important thing we can do to help slow the spread of this virus and mitigate the impact it has on our community and our healthcare system is stay home. It only stands to reason that the more we do right now, the better off we will be later.

 

Q: What else is important to know right now?

A: The most important thing I want everyone to know right now is to be thoughtful, responsible, and kind. Follow the advice of healthcare experts and local leaders. Avoid the temptation to blame others and treat people the way you would like to be treated. We are all in this together.

This past year I had the pleasure of meeting some of our local WWII veterans as part of the 75th anniversary of D-Day at Juno Beach in France. I heard their stories of sacrifice and understood the bravery and courage it took to fight for our freedoms and safety. It gives me perspective in these challenging times. We are not being asked to leave our families and go overseas to storm a beach. We are being asked to be responsible, to stay home, and be patient. I think it’s the least we can do for each other and our country.

Our top priority remains the health and well-being of our residents. We are committed to keeping you informed in clear and timely manner and encourage you to stay updated via the City’s dedicated website. Additional information on all COVID-19 related matters can be found at the Halton Region website, the Ministry of Health of Ontario’s website, and the Federal Government’s website.

Stay healthy, stay calm, and be kind to one another.

 

ENFORCEMENT:

Q: How many tickets has the City of Burlington issued to date related to COVID-19?

A: As of May 1, City of Burlington By-law Enforcement Officers have issued 2 tickets (provincial offences notices) related to COVID 19. The Building and Bylaw Department has addressed more than 1,600 complaints/inquiries in the month of April with our primary goal of educating the public in relation to the Provincial Emergency orders and the Burlington Social Distancing By-law. Overall, the community has been receptive and respectful during these interactions but still we ask all residents to adhere to the requirements in place.  As always the health and safety of staff, the public and front line healthcare workers is paramount.

Tickets can be issued around three areas:

  • Social/physical distancing
  • Emergency orders – essential businesses
  • Emergency Orders – congregation of people in closed facilities i.e. public parks, parking lots, etc

 

Q: I keep seeing large groups congregating in parks and using the playground equipment and skate facilities – can’t the City do something to stop this?

A: We understand residents are concerned with the continued behaviour of park visitors that does not follow the repeated requests to not use facilities in parks. Messaging continues to be pushed through social media that facilities in parks are not to be used. Run, walk or cycle through parks and please carry out whatever garbage you have and dispose of it at home. City staff resources are currently reduced.

Complaints about blatant disregards for public safety can be sent to the Halton Regional Police Service by calling their non-emergency line at 905-825-4747. They are making an effort to visit sites and educate the public.

 

Q: I still see businesses open that I don’t think are essential – what should I do? 

A: As part of the Orders issued by the Provincial Government on Wednesday, March 17th, 2020, relating to the enforcement the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMPCA), the Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS) are initiating a planned response to ensure community safety and well-being. Should police receive concerns relating to complaints of violations of any of the aforementioned orders, they will consider a progressive response of dialogue, education, warning, and enforcement (if required). The HRPS will work with the Region’s health department to assist them in conducting their investigations as well. See the attached link for businesses on the list of the Province’s mandated closures.

As part of Burlington’s State of Emergency, and in addition to the Province’s list of mandated closures, I have encouraged all local businesses to voluntarily close except those that deliver essential goods and services. Neither myself nor the City of Burlington has the power to force a business to close. All I can do is ask. Please keep in mind that it may not be obvious to the general public what each business does – they could provide rental equipment for essential city services or supplies for our local hospital, for example. They may have a skeleton staff on-site and be able to maintain social distancing inside their building. Let’s trust people to make the right decisions and remember to be sympathetic of the significant financial impact it will have on them and their employees to close as we encourage them to prioritize the health and well-being of our community at this time.

 

Q: Who is responsible for enforcing fines for a violation of an emergency order made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act?

A: According to the Province of Ontario, police are responsible for enforcing emergency orders under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. Offenses are described under s7.0.11 under the act, and set fines have been established by the Ontario Court of Justice.

 

Q: I’m seeing people not following the emergency orders from the Province – can I do anything about this?

A: For the duration of the pandemic, if a member of the public wishes to report an incident of non-compliance with the emergency orders, they may contact the Halton Regional Police Service COVID-19 Hotline:

905-825-4722

It is critical that our residents use 911 for emergencies only.

A call taker will collect relevant information from the complainant, and when appropriate, a by-law enforcement officer or police officer will be dispatched to follow up. Upon responding to an alleged incident of non-compliance, the severity of each infraction in relation to the potential risk to public health and the spread of COVID-19 will be taken into account to guide a response. If compliance is not obtained through dialogue and education, officers have the authority to issue a ticket or summons.

The enforceable orders that fall within the authority of the Halton Regional Police Service, the municipal by-law officers and Conservation Halton officers include:

People who are being charged with an offence under the EMCPA will be required to identify themselves if asked by a provincial offences officer, which includes police officers, First Nations constables, special constables and municipal by-law enforcement officers.

 

ESSENTIAL SERVICES/BUSINESS INQUIRIES:

Q: What is an essential service or business?

A: An essential service is defined in Federal terms as any service, facility or activity of the Government of Canada that is or will be necessary for the safety or security of the public or a segment of the public.

Examples of government services or activities that may be considered essential include but are not limited to: border safety/security, correctional services, food inspection activities, accident safety investigations, income and social security, marine safety, national security, law enforcement, and search and rescue.

The Province of Ontario’s defined Critical Infrastructure Sectors include food and water, electrical power, gas and oil, financial services, our healthcare system, and transportation networks. The Province has also come out with its own expanded list of essential services and business a list of its essential services and businesses (note: on April 3, 2020, the Province updated/reduced this list) and a toll-free line 1-888-444-3659 to provide support to Ontario businesses who have questions about the province’s recent emergency order to close at-risk workplaces following recommendations by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.

At City Hall, we already closed facilities last week and asked staff to work from home with the exception of services that need to be delivered under one of the following categories:

  • Are required to meet certain legislative requirements;
  • Support employee and public health, safety and security;
  • Enable critical community services and supports, including COVID-19 mitigation and recovery;
  • Support services necessary to keep essential services operating;
  • Protect and operate vital infrastructure; and
  • Fulfill contractual, legal and financial obligations.

It’s common sense. We need law and order, we need emergency services, we need groceries and home maintenance items, we need banks and telecommunication services, we need gas, and we need a supply chain of those products including trucks and drivers to deliver them. Our hospitals and emergency workers need equipment and supplies. We need continuity of government, and we need public safety and security. It’s not as easy as coming up with one definitive list, but we need to use good judgement and give our decisions a second thought.

 

Q: The Province has ordered all non-essential businesses to close down, however, there is construction still occurring in my neighbourhood and around the city, why is this allowed?

A: The Province has released a list of Essential Workplaces and that list can be found here. Under this list, Construction work and services, including demolition services, in the industrial, commercial, institutional and residential sectors is included on the list, meaning the City of Burlington cannot stop this work from occurring. All applicable city permits, bylaws and inspections still apply to construction projects including noise bylaws.

Please continue to check the Provincial webpage and City’s communications channels for any updates to the Essential Workplaces list.

 

Q: Is Canada Post considered an essential service?

A: Yes. However, Canada Post may experience delays or post office closures due to circumstances beyond their control. If post offices must close, customers will be redirected to the next closest location. Customers should refer to Canada Post’s website for the latest updates: www.canadapost.ca.

 

Q: I’ve closed down my non-essential business, but I’m worried about keeping it safe during the shutdown – is there anything I can do?

A: To increase security for those businesses throughout our Region, the Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS) is offering the following suggestions for properties that are temporarily closed:

  • Remove valuables from storefront displays
  • Keep the interior, front, and rear entrances well lit
  • Keep some lighting on inside for surveillance opportunities
  • Remove valuables such as cash from the till and leave open. Place the cash tray in plain view
  • Ensure the contact is up to date on any alarm monitoring system
  • Clearly post signage on the door/window to indicate:
    • Premise is monitored by alarm company;
    • That no money is kept on premises; and
    • Contact information for the police and business owner in the event a member of the public observes damage to property or suspicious activity
  • Consider installing a surveillance camera system that can be monitored online
  • Consider installing laminate on windows and glass doors to increase glass integrity from blunt force
  • Ensure all doors are properly secured

The HRPS will also be conducting targeted and proactive patrols of businesses that have closed to ensure they are secure.

The HRPS would also like to urge managers of construction sites that may be closing to take measures to ensure the security of their sites and tools. Tools on vacant construction sites are a popular target for thieves and should be removed when possible.

 

Q: What about take-out and drive-thru restaurants? Are they still safe?

A: We know food is an essential. Whether you are picking up food from the grocery store or a take-out restaurant is not significantly different. As I mentioned before, the virus can live on surfaces for 2 days. The same can be said for picking up essentials from our local food banks, or accepting at-home deliveries from grocers, Wal-Mart or Amazon. We are relying on both types of business to exercise precautions in their food handling and staff hygiene, and to ensure sick employees and customers stay home. The most important thing is to use good judgement, employ social distancing, wash your hands, and stay home if you’re sick.

 

Q: I’m seeing construction continuing in my area — I thought this was banned?

A: While no new residential construction projects will be allowed to break ground, those already under construction will continue depending on what stage the construction has achieved.

Ontario.ca states the following:

  • Residential construction projects will be allowed to continue where,
    • a footing permit has been granted for single-family, semi-detached and townhomes;
    • an above-grade structural permit has been granted for condominiums, mixed-use and other buildings’ or
    • the project involves renovations to residential properties and construction work was started before April 4, 2020.

Further Suspension of Noise By-laws

In order to facilitate essential health care and residential construction, a regulation was passed (Ontario Regulation 131/20) that limits Section 451.1 of the Municipal Act by liftingmunicipal noise by-laws to permit certain construction work to continue outside of the normal workday/work week.  The decision to work during hours that normally would be prohibited under a noise by-law is at the discretion of the construction company.

This exception applies to:

    • Construction projects and services in a municipality associated with the healthcare sector, including new facilities, expansions, renovations and conversion of spaces that could be repurposed for health care space, at any time of the day or night.
    • Any other construction activity in a municipality may operate between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
    • No amendments to municipal by-laws are required.
    • The provincial help line at 1-888-444-3659 is a resource for clarification on what municipal construction projects could be considered to be on the revised services list. That said, it may be prudent for municipal governments to consult with legal counsel for clarity on individual projects.  Any of the workplaces that remain open must abide by the directives from the Chief Medical Officer or local public health units and comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

 

Q: With the City announcing closures until the end of June, I’m worried my local business won’t survive until then — is there any help out there for us?

A: The City of Burlington closures affect City Hall, administration facilities, recreation facilities and parks (as of April 1, 2020, those closures are until the end of June). Closures of non-essential businesses are mandated by the Province of Ontario (as of April 1, 2020, the Province announced closures would remain in effect until April 13 — this may be extended if managing the effects of COVID-19 need to be continued).

Burlington’s business support organizations (Team Burlington) — which includes Burlington Economic Development, Burlington Chamber of Commerce, Burlington Downtown Business Association, Aldershot Village BIA and Tourism Burlington — are taking a co-ordinated approach in supporting businesses during COVID-19.

A business resource site has been launched to keep businesses informed about programs, funding opportunities, resources and online services to help ease the stress and uncertainty businesses are currently facing.

Burlington Economic Development has also set-up a business support phone line to provide businesses with direct access to staff to answer questions and help make sense of new information coming from higher levels of government. Businesses can call 289-337-5505, ext. 102, Monday to Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

 

Q: I’ve heard mayors from Vancouver and Halifax are taking a 10% pay cut to help offset their city’s revenue losses that have contributed to city employees layoffs. Is the City of Burlington thinking of doing the same?

A: The City of Burlington announced layoffs of part-time and contract staff who were directly involved in recreational programming that was cancelled due to COVID19. However, we are exploring offering recreational programming via remote means during the emergency, and/or redeploying some of these part time and contract staff to new opportunities.

In addition, there is financial assistance available to workers laid off due to COVID19 through the federal CERB benefit as well as the provincial Employment Insurance. You can find links to these on our COVID webpage, as well as directly from federal and province websites.

The city is not planning any reductions to the wages or salaries of employees who continue to work during the COVID19 pandemic, including city council members.

We are taking a number of measures to reduce costs or redeploy savings, and these are detailed in a 3-month financial outlook report with appendices presented to City Council  April 20, and available here:

The steps detailed in the reports will allow us to deal with the impacts of COVID19 in the short term, while also maintaining community services. Because of a number of factors detailed in the report, we are in a much better financial position than other municipalities to weather these impacts with the steps we have taken.

After factoring in revenue loses, savings and cost-cutting, the net shortfall is $200,000 to the end of June 2020. Our financial picture will be closely monitored and adjusted as need be throughout the year and the duration of the emergency and beyond.

 

PROTECTION/HEALTH:

Q: Should I be wearing a protective mask?

A: According to the Halton Region Public Health, when physical distancing is not possible, wearing a non-medical mask may protect others from your germs. Physical distancing and hand-washing are still your best defense; masks are an extra step to protecting others.

Here is a Halton Region Should I Wear A Mask? Graphic graphic for more details.

 

Q: I’m planning to put up/install an outdoor swimming pool this spring/summer while self-isolating — is there anything I need to know?

A: Please remember that any body of water used or intended to be used for swimming or display that is capable of holding water in excess of 600 mm (1.97 ft.) requires a permit from the City of Burlington — including all inflatable and temporary pools. For more information, please refer to the Resident’s Guide to Pools on the City’s website or contact the Building Department at building@burlington.ca.

 

Q: There are City workers outside my front door. Can I go out, say hi and give them a drink?

A: No, please do not approach hydro, roads and parks or any other workers doing work on the road, sidewalk or hydro wires outside your house. We have seen residents approaching workers, touching trucks, offering beverages. While we and the workers appreciate your intent, this makes them uncomfortable and interferes with their work. Please do not approach. Thank you.

 

Q: I heard that Vitamin C will help treat COVID-19 — is that true?

A: We talked to the Medical Director of Infectious Diseases at Joseph Brant Hospital who advised: “There have not yet been any published studies that have recommended parenteral (IV) Vitamin C for the treatment of any infection to my knowledge, including COVID-19. When taking vitamin C, if amounts beyond the maximum absorbed dose are taken, unfortunately, the rest is excreted by the kidneys. Recently, there was a very large meta analysis that was published that refuted any benefit to Vitamin C in treatment of sepsis as well, for context.

Although it stands to reason that Vitamin C is helpful for the immune system and is a required micronutrient, unfortunately, it does not appear to help beyond this.

 

Q: Has the Region of Halton considered mobile testing units, for example, testing employees working in the essential service industry at their work place?

A: Presently, Halton Region Public Health is working closely with Halton Healthcare and Joseph Brant Hospital to facilitate assessment and testing for necessary individuals at four assessment centres in Halton. Halton Region Community Paramedics are also supporting testing in long-term care homes and are able to provide mobile testing as needed for vulnerable individuals who are unable to travel to an assessment centre. Guidance on assessment and testing protocols and priorities are received from the Ministry of Health and are updated frequently as information emerges.

Essential workers should practice physical distancing and good hand hygiene, cough and sneeze into tissues or sleeves, self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms and complete the online self-assessment each day before attending work. In the event that that they develop symptoms or the online self-assessment form recommends self-isolation, workers should stay at home for a minimum of 14 days from symptom onset. Halton residents who are experiencing symptoms are welcome to call 311, 905-203-7963 (for Oakville, Milton or Halton Hills residents) or 905-632-3737, ext 6660 (for Burlington residents) for further assessment and to determine whether testing is required.

For ongoing updates and public health messaging, please visit halton.ca/covid.

 

Q: Can I still go for a walk with my family?

A: Yes, you can still go for a walk or bike ride and get outside to stay active and get some fresh air, as long as you are doing so with the people from within your own household. As far as other family, friends and neighbours go: no play-dates, no baseball games, no dinner parties or poker nights even with close friends, and no pick-up games of hockey in the street. If you encounter others while out for a walk, employ social distancing techniques and maintain at least a 6-ft distance from everyone except those in your own household and/or immediate family. These steps are critical in minimizing the spread of COVID-19, especially by those with mild or minimal symptoms. Ensure children stay off public playground equipment as it is not disinfected, and we know this virus can live on surfaces for up to 2 days. If you are sick or have been advised to self-isolate due to recent travel, stay home until you are fully recovered or have passed the 14-day self-isolation period with no symptoms.

 

Q: Can I go outside at all?

A: If you are not sick or have not travelled, go outside to:

  1. access healthcare or medication;
  2. to shop for groceries once per week;
  3. to walk your dog; or
  4. to get your daily exercise.

Make sure you maintain a physical distance from others of at least 2 metres — and don’t congregate.

 

Q: I’m still getting knocks from door-to-door salespeople and very concerned for my health and safety as they’re also trying to hand me a flyer — can’t this be stopped?

A: Halton residents are being asked to practice physical distancing in public spaces to reduce and slow the spread of COVID-19. Door-to-door solicitation, where sales people engage in conversations and directly hand-out materials (e.g., flyers) is discouraged as it is difficult to maintain a distance of 2 metres (6 feet) while opening a door and/or being directly handed materials. It is especially a concern for older adults, those with chronic health conditions and other high risk groups who are at a greater risk for severe illness if infected with COVID-19.

Halton Region Public Health suggests that residents do not open their door to door-to-door sales persons.

For local businesses engaging in door-to-door sales, your staff should not be knocking on doors and should leave promotional materials in a mailbox or on front doorsteps. There is no evidence of COVID-19 being transmitted by paper products. Other risk mitigation strategies that can be implemented to protect the health of staff when handling and distributing paper and other materials:

  • Share with staff information on how COVID-19 is spread.
  • Ask staff to screen themselves daily before coming to work using the Ministry of Health’s online COVID-19 self-assessment tool and avoid coming in to work if sick.
  • Encourage staff to wash hands frequently with soap and water or with alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Encourage staff to avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Make hand sanitizers available throughout the work area.
  • Increase the frequency of environmental cleaning and sanitizing for all common areas and frequently touched surfaces as outlined in Public Health Ontario’s COVID-19 Cleaning and Disinfection for Public Settings factsheet.
  • Encourage staff to practice 2m (6ft) of physical distancing (social distancing) at all times.

 

Q: I saw my neighbour at the grocery store and they just returned from a trip? Is that allowed?

A: As part of the State of Emergency, I have asked all our residents to stay home unless they are going to work, to a medical or other essential appointment, or to get essential supplies. Further, the Federal Government has mandated that all individuals who are returning from travel outside of Canada self-isolate for a period of 14-days and self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19. That means that recent travelers have additional restrictions and should not be going to work, the grocery store, or other appointments. They must rely on delivery services or ask healthy friends and neighbours to drop off supplies for them. We can help them by offering our support so that they don’t feel the need to go out.

If you are concerned that someone who should be self-isolating is not following those guidelines, or that someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 is not self-quarantined, you can call 311 or reach out to our local police at 905-825-4722 for advice. Please remember that this shouldn’t be a time to shame others or try to catch people doing something wrong.  Before reaching out to report, think about alternative ways to support good behaviour. This is a time to constructively spread awareness and offer help to others so that people don’t need to put our community at risk.

 

Q: We’re grandparents looking after our grandchildren at our home while their parents – essential workers – are working. Are we in violation of any provincial emergency orders and/or city bylaws?

A: Thank you for the support you are providing to essential workers during this difficult time. There are no rules or by-laws that require you to cease caring for your grandchildren, however, it is recommended that older adults and people who have serious underlying conditions stay at home as much as possible as they are at risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

If this is not feasible due to your family situation, you may wish to consider your home and your daughter’s as a ‘family bubble’. Important steps for both families to take to protect yourself and others include:

  • Limiting contact with people outside of your ‘family bubble’
  • Maintaining physical distancing as much as possible within the ‘family bubble’
  • Practicing good hand hygiene
  • Coughing or sneezing into a sleeve or tissue
  • Cleaning frequently touched items and spaces
  • Using separate spaces from individuals required to work outside of the home as much as possible

 

Q: Do you have any advice for families with shared custody of children?

A: According to the Law Society of Ontario, unless the child and one parent is under quarantine or must self-isolate, court orders or agreements must continue to be followed. If a court order or agreement does not exist, it is expected that parents maintain the children’s routine as much as possible. This means a child can continue to see both parents if that is what would normally happen. Both public health and family law prioritize the best interests of the child. In troubling and disorienting times, children need access to the love, guidance, and emotional support of both parents. This guidance has been put forward in recent family court cases.

Small or temporary changes may be needed to agreements, for example if a court order states that parents will meet at a business that is closed in response to COVID-19, an alternative location would need to be agreed upon. Or, if one parent must self-isolate for 14 days. If a parent is concerned about the child’s safety due to behaviour or plans that do not follow COVID-19 recommendations, specific evidence or examples would be needed for consideration to stop access. According to the Law Society of Ontario, a court is likely to agree that it’s a good reason to stop access until self-isolation is completed. Contact your local court for more information.

It is important for everyone to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by using the Ontario COVID-19 online assessment, practicing physical distancing, staying home unless absolutely necessary to go out, covering coughs and sneezing with a tissue or sleeve, practicing proper and frequent hand hygiene and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects, including items travelling from home to home with the child.

 

PARKS/COMMUNITY GARDENS/OUTDOOR EVENTS:

Q: FAQs on City’s safety guidelines for drive-by parades and processions.

A: Click the link above for frequently asked questions on drive-by parades and their responses.

 

Q: I’m confused – with the Province’s latest announcement of closures of all outdoor amenities, can I still walk through the park?

A: The Provincial order announced on March 30 closes all communal or shared, public or private, outdoor recreational amenities everywhere in Ontario, including but not limited to playgrounds, sports fields, basketball and tennis courts, off-leash dog parks, beaches, skateboard and BMX parks, picnic areas, outdoor community gardens, park shelters, outdoor exercise equipment, condo parks and gardens, and other outdoor recreational amenities.

Green spaces in parks, trails, ravines and conservation areas that aren’t otherwise closed remain open for walkthrough access only — individuals must maintain the safe physical distance of at least two metres apart from others. Ontario’s provincial parks and conservation reserves remain closed.

 

Q: Are online garage sales from all the local community groups still safe?

A: Halton Region Public Health is encouraging residents to stay at home as much as possible and to avoid non-essential trips into the community. Residents should consider whether the item(s) they are interested in purchasing are essential to their situation right now or whether it can be postponed until a later date.

If a purchase is essential, Halton Region Public Health recommends the following:

  • Avoid meeting in person
    • Consider leaving items out for “porch pick-up” and transfer money electronically;
    • If you must meet in person, do not meet in groups greater than 5 people and practice physical distancing (social distancing)
  • Practice good hygiene
    • Sellers should clean items with regular household cleaners or diluted bleach before selling;
    • Buyers should wash their hands after handling the item, avoid touching their face and clean the item with household cleaners or diluted bleach.

Residents should be aware that websites, such as Kijiji, have banned listings for items — such as masks, hand sanitizers, etc. — in an effort to stop price-gouging.

 

Q: I see some communities are opening community gardens. Why isn’t Burlington?

A: The City of Burlington must comply with Ontario’s emergency closures. The Provincial government had deemed community gardens as non-essential recreation along with all park facilities, playing fields, playgrounds, etc., that are also closed. People may walk through the parks, but not stop. Although the community gardens usually open May 1, until further notice from the Provincial government, the opening has been delayed until July 1 and the closing date extended to Nov. 1 for those that have already been assigned a garden plot. All these gardeners have been made aware and look forward to moving past this pandemic as we all do.

APRIL 25 UPDATE — The Province issued new emergency orders that will permit the use of allotment gardens and community gardens across the Province (Ontario Allows the Redeployment of Staff to Better Care for Vulnerable People During COVID-19). As a result of this new announcement, the City of Burlington will be looking into how to safely open and operate community gardens for the public.

 

Q: Are Burlington’s Community Clean Up Green Up events still happening?

A: Due to the on-going threat of COVID-19, the Clean Up Green Up events have been postponed. Please visit BurlingtonGreen’s website to stay up-to-date on their activities and announcements during COVID-19 and visit the City of Burlington’s Environmental Programs webpage for more information.

 

CHANGES TO SERVICES:

Q: Will we be getting any relief on our hydro rates payments?

A: UPDATE (May 6): The Province announced extending the temporary emergency hydro rate relief to May 31 for families, residents, farms and small businesses who pay Time of Use (TOU) electricity rates. Burlington Hydro customers will continue to be charged the off-peak rate of 10.1 cents. Province Media Release.

ORIGINAL RESPONSE:

We received some information from Burlington Hydro and are sharing it below:

“Premier Ford announced temporary 45-day emergency rate relief for electricity rate payers impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Effective Tuesday, March 24, 2020, households, farms and small businesses who pay time-of-use (TOU) electricity rates will be charged off-peak rates at 10.1 cents per kWh 24 hours a day, seven days a week. TOU ratepayers will automatically see the lower rate reflected on electricity bills in the next billing cycle. The off-peak rate will be shown as the price for all three TOU periods.

This announcement, along with Burlington Hydro’s ‘essential workplace’ designation, has been communicated to our customers on our website and via Twitter. While employee updates are posted on our internal website, our public facing BHI website has been set-up to communicate with our customers.

If you are interested in our public communications, access our website at: www.burlingtonhydro.com and click on the image box: COVID-19 – Burlington Hydro Coronavirus Response. You can also follow us on Twitter: @BurlingtonHydro.

And remember, for all employee updates, go to our internal website: https://shineinside.ca.”

 

Q: Will there be increased garbage pickup during this time?

A: At this time, Halton Region does not have plans to change the 3 bag limit for garbage. Region staff has told us  they understand that some residents may place additional garbage bags above the 3 bag limit curbside and have instructed their drivers that if the amount is reasonable, to collect. That said, the Region is still encouraging recycling over placing items in garbage bags. According to the Region, approximately 60% of household waste is recyclable material and organic waste. Recyclable material can be placed in clear plastic bags and the blue box, and organic waste can be placed in the green cart. These materials will continue to be collected once a week and there is no limit to the amount of recyclables and organic waste that can be placed for collection.

Households can also place bulk waste on their scheduled garbage collection day, where a maximum of 3 bulk items may be placed for collection every other week.

In addition, Regional staff have told us residents can still purchase extra garbage bag tags:

Halton Region’s Landfill Site remains open to receive additional waste from residents.

That all being said, the Region will continue to monitor the situation to determine if a change in approach is required.

 

Q: Should staff dedicated to the recycling program still be working – is that really a priority right now?

A: Halton Region has told us the individuals collecting Blue Boxes and processing recyclable material wear proper protective apparel as do the individuals working at the processing facilities.  The contractors have taken the proper preventative measures to protect their employees and have not expressed any additional concerns at this time.

The recycling and processing of recyclable material is an important service that ensures not only items are recycled, but sufficient amount of material is available in order to manufacture products and packaging.  If materials were not recycled for an extended period of time, there would not be enough raw material readily available to manufacture materials used in the healthcare and food industries, for example.

The Region has told us it will continue to monitor the situation and make changes as needed.  For the moment, all municipalities are continuing to collect recyclable material and deliver standard curbside waste collection services.  We do sincerely appreciate efforts by our residents to recycle.

 

LOOKING TO HELP:

Q: I’m an entrepreneur/company that wants to help with special services aimed at assisting with the COVID-19 situation — who should we contact?

A: Thank you for reaching out and looking to help our community during this challenging time.

The best way to surface your solution and have it evaluated and deployed in a timely manner is to reach out to the Province of Ontario’s call for suppliers and solutions.

  • If you can supply emergency products to help fight coronavirus such as ventilators, masks, sanitization, eye protection, etc., click here.
  • If you have an innovative solution that can help with the impacts of coronavirus, such as virtual mental healthcare options or other specific scenarios, click here.
  • If you have other solutions, products or services that could help our COVID-19 response effort, click here.

The Government of Canada also has a similar coordinated website for suppliers and services to help in this manner. More details and how to submit your product or service for consideration can be found here.

If you are able to make a local donation to Joseph Brant Hospital, they are looking for masks, face shields, gloves and gowns, etc. and can be reached by emailing COVIDdonations@josephbranthospital.ca or by calling 905-632-3730, ext. 1314.

 

Q: We’re seeing painted rocks in Burlington and want to add our own — where is it best to place them in the city?

A: The beautiful rocks being shared across the city are appreciated but be sure to keep them on your own front yard for people to enjoy as they walk through your neighbourhood. Please avoid leaving them in City parks and pathways or on sidewalks.  With spring here and grass cutting of parks and street sweeping and roadside cleanup underway, these rocks can damage equipment, become potential projectiles from equipment or present a possible tripping hazard. We ask residents also be mindful to not remove stones from our beaches and shoreline as they help to protect against erosion. Burlington Council and City staff thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

 

Q: My friends and I are looking to help out our community any way we can, and thought we could sew masks together for our hospital staff — would that do any good?

A: Thank you for offering and thinking about your community and our frontline hospital staff. It’s important that we all work together to make our communities as safe as possible. When it comes to masks, it can actually be very difficult to make a mask that would be helpful in preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The biggest downside to a fabric mask with materials such as cotton (for example), the weaving of the cotton is actually not tight enough to capture the virus and prevent it from moving through. So, the worry is that people might have a false sense of security while wearing those types of masks — it could, in fact, increase the risk of getting the virus. Reach out to josephbranthospital.ca for the various ways the hospital is looking for help.

 

Q: What is being done to help those who are homeless in our community during this?

A: All emergency shelter options in Halton remain open and shelters are actively screening for COVID-19 at intake. So far, there have been no active or suspected cases reported. We’ve shared best practices for self-isolation and sanitization with providers of emergency shelter and supportive housing, and Regional staff remain available to assist agency providers as needed.

Dedicated isolation spaces for individuals who may present COVID-19 symptoms or are immunocompromised have been established in the Lighthouse Emergency Shelter and our largest Housing with Related Supports Provider (Domiciliary Hostel) Bethany Residence in Burlington. Individuals who are experiencing homelessness or living in a congregate setting that develop COVID-19 like symptoms will be assessed by Public Health and triaged to alternative shelter environments.

Funding to assist homeless and at risk of homelessness residents continues through Halton Region’s Housing Stability Fund. Assistance with rent arrears, utility arrears, moving, storage and furniture acquisition continues to be available and we’ve received a steady increase in requests. Regional staff are closely monitoring and acting quickly to assist Halton residents in need. We will continue to update Council on this progress.

 

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.

We’ve also created a dedicated page to feature the local organizations and businesses that have inspired us during the COVID-19 pandemic by taking action to support our community in new and creative ways — head to bit.ly/covidwallofinspiration.

HELPFUL RESOURCES & RELATED LINKS:

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

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Marianne Meed Ward

Marianne Meed Ward

A Better Burlington began in 2006 after my neighbours said they felt left out of city decisions, learning about them only after they’d been made. As journalist for 22 years, I thought “I can do something about that” and a website and newsletter were born. They’ve taken various forms and names over the years, but the intent remains: To let you know what’s happening at City Hall before decisions are made, so you can influence outcomes for A Better Burlington. The best decisions are made when elected representatives tap the wisdom of our community members, and welcome many different perspectives.This site allows residents to comment and debate with each other; our Commenting Guidelines established in 2016 aim to keep debate respectful. Got an idea or comment you want to share privately? Please, get in touch:

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