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Lowville Park Closure & Burlington State of Emergency FAQs

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*Please note: FAQs updated on Thursday, April 2, 2020.

The following media release has been sent out today by my office:

Yesterday 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.

STATE OF EMERGENCY FAQs (answers found below past the summary of questions):

  • Why did you declare a State of Emergency?
  • Can I still go for a walk with my family?
    • Can I go outside at all?
  • I’m confused – with the Province’s latest announcement of closures of all park and outdoor amenities, can I still walk through the park?
  • There are City workers outside my front door. Can I go out, say hi and give them a drink?
  • I keep seeing large groups congregating in parks – can’t the City do something to stop this?
  • What is an essential service?
    • Is Canada Post considered an essential service?
    • 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?
    • 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?
    • Are online garage sales from all the local community groups still safe?
  • I saw my neighbour at the grocery store and they just returned from a trip? Is that allowed?
  • I’m an entrepreneur/company that wants to help with special services aimed at assisting with the COVID-19 situation — who should we contact?
  • 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?
  • 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?
  • What is being done to help those who are homeless in our community during this?
  • 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?
  • How long is this going to last?
  • What else is important to know right now?

Q: Why did you declare a State of Emergency?

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

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?

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

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

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

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: What is an essential service or business?

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?

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?

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

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?

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?

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.

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?

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?

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

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

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 905-825-4777 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: I’m an entrepreneur/company that wants to help with special services aimed at assisting with the COVID-19 situation — who should we contact?

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: 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?

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

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

“Yesterday, 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?

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?

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.

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?

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?

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.

Q: How long is this going to last?

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?

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.

Sincerely,

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward

City of Burlington

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 that will be updated as new information becomes available.

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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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