What you need to know about COVID-19 in Hamilton and Halton

In Halton, a 51-year-old from Milton died on March 18 at Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital.

Haldimand-Norfolk has reported its first death related to COVID-19 — a resident of Anson Place Care Centre in Hagersville who died March 26 at West Haldimand General Hospital

There have been 12 people hospitalized in Hamilton with COVID-19 including a baby at McMaster Children’s Hospital.

COVID-19 is out in the Hamilton and Halton communities as some confirmed cases can’t be traced back to international travel, although most cases are still connected to travellers. However, the number of cases acquired in the community is now up to 21 in Hamilton.

An outbreak was declared at Heritage Green Nursing Home after a second resident tested positive. There is now a third case of COVID-19 at the Stoney Creek long-term care centre.

Hamilton’s cases include a three-month-old baby and another baby under the age of two. There is also two more children under the age of 20.

More than one-third have other conditions such as diabetes, cancer, or heart, renal or chronic lung disease, which makes them more vulnerable. Also high risk are the 19 cases over the age of 65.

March 11 marked the first case of confirmed COVID-19 in Hamilton and Halton. It was a 32-year-old radiation oncologist who lives in Burlington and works at Juravinski Cancer Centre. She treated 11 patients and worked with nine staff before discovering she got novel coronavirus during a trip to Hawaii. Two doctors who live in Hamilton but work elsewhere have also got COVID-19.

What to do if you have symptoms

Go to ontario.ca/coronavirus to complete a self-assessment. Contact your family doctor or public health at 905-974-9848, phscovid19@hamilton.ca or hamilton.ca/coronavirus.

Assessment and testing centres are open at the West End Clinic and King Campus urgent care centres by referral from public health or family doctors only. Only those who are sick and meet certain criteria will be tested.

Is there help for workers?

The federal government is giving $2,000 a month for four months to Canadians out of a job because of COVID-19. To qualify for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, workers had to make $5,000 or more over the past 12 months. The $52 billion is expected to start flowing the week of April 6.

Ontario passed legislation aimed at protecting the jobs of employees who self-isolate. It also announced $3.7 billion in support which will provide a one-time payment of $200 per child up to 12 years of age and $250 for those with special needs. In addition, the package includes electricity cost relief, emergency child care for essential workers, expanding access to the emergency assistance program administered by Ontario Works, six months of Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loan and interest accrual relief, doubling the Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) payment for low-income seniors for six months as well as dedicated relief funding for Indigenous communities and social service organizations.

The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario is asking residents to show their support for health-care workers on the front lines of COVID-19 by going on their porches, balconies or opening their windows everyday at 7:30 p.m. and making noise such as banging pots and pans, singing, applauding or honking.

Assistance for businesses

The federal government will cover 75 per cent of wages for workers at small and medium-sized businesses affected by COVID-19 so staff don’t have to be laid off. This will be backdated to March 15.

Banks will soon offer $40,000 loans guaranteed by the government to qualifying small and medium-sized businesses. The loan will be interest free for the first year and $10,000 of it will be forgivable if certain conditions are met.

The federal government is deferring GST and HST payments, as well as duties and taxes owed on imports until June.

It will also provide an additional $12.5 billion through Export Development Canada and the Business Development Bank to help small and medium-sized businesses with their operational cash flow requirements so they will be able to apply for a guaranteed loan.

The city and Hamilton’s three chambers of commerce are forming an economic recovery working group and launched a website at hamiltonchamber.ca/covid19.

It has also created Hometownhub.ca, an all-in-one online sales site for Hamilton’s small businesses.

For local artists and musicians, the city is providing startup support for an online platform for virtual performances called “Hamilton Shows Up.”

The province is asking the manufacturing sector to redeploy capacity toward the production of essential equipment like ventilators, masks and swabs with information at ontario.ca/page/how-your-organization-can-help-fight-coronavirus.

The province has launched a toll-free line 1-888-444-3659 for Ontario businesses with questions about the emergency order to close non-essential workplaces.

It’s also giving $1.9 million in Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) premium payment deferrals for six months.

In addition, businesses have five months interest free to file or pay most provincially administered taxes, including employer health, gas and tobacco, starting April 1.

Learning resources for kids

The province has launched an online portal at ontario.ca/page/learn-at-home.

TVO is providing online math tutoring for students in grades 6 to 10 at tvomathify.com/students.

It also has 65 free online games based off the Ontario curriculum for students from kindergarten to Grade 6 at tvompower.com.

Free online learning resources from McMaster University for ages 18 months to 6 years at playandlearn.healthhq.ca/en.

Hamilton virtual town hall

The city will hold a virtual town hall at 7 p.m. every Wednesday that will be broadcast on Cable 14 or at youtube.com/insidecityofhamilton.

What is closed and cancelled?

Ontario has declared a state of emergency and mandated the closure of bars, restaurants, theatres, indoor recreational facilities, places of worship, daycare centres, private schools, cinemas and concerts until at least April 13. It also ordered non-essential manufacturing and businesses to close starting Wednesday, March 25, for at least two weeks. The government has posted a list of “essential workplaces.”

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health is asking people to only leave their homes to access health care services, shop for groceries, pick up medication, walk pets and support vulnerable community members. They should also limit the number of essential trips.

People aged 70 and over are strongly advised to self-isolate, seek help over the phone and get neighbours, friends or family to help with essential errands.

The province’s elementary and high schools are closed and it’s not clear for how long after Premier Doug Ford said that classes will not resume April 6. Jury trials have been suspended. Full-time DriveTest Centres and part-time Travel Point locations shut down.

Hamilton has closed all of its facilities including city hall, recreation centres, libraries and arenas. It also closed city-run museums, seniors’ centres and clubs, municipal service centres, public counters, the Ancaster Rotary Centre, community halls, the Gage Park Tropical Greenhouse and the tourism visitor centre at the Lister Block. All city-run programs are closed, most council and standing committee meetings are suspended and the city is not collecting yard waste. Hamilton has closed its playgrounds as well as Albion Falls. Escarpment stairs are for essential use only. Parking enforcement has been relaxed in many areas.

The Hamilton Conservation Authority has shut its parks to the public, including to membership holders.

The City of Burlington has declared a state of emergency and shut down recreation facilities, city hall and city-run programs until the end of June. Also closed to the public are libraries, museums, the Royal Botanical Gardens, Art Gallery of Burlington, the Burlington Chamber of Commerce, the animal shelter, Burlington Economic Development, TechPlace and Tourism Burlington. The Burlington Performing Arts Centre cancelled events until April 6. Lowville Park is closed, the mall was asked to close and bookings have been cancelled. The public is to keep out of playgrounds, sports fields, skate parks, dog off-leash areas and community gardens.

McMaster University and Mohawk College cancelled all in-person classes and exams. Mohawk has closed all of its campuses and asked students in residence to go home. McMaster closed student residences as of March 21.

The elected band council of Six Nations of the Grand River is erecting barricades to restrict the flow of visitors to the territory to help reduce the spread of virus transmission

Long-term care homes and retirement homes have been told by the province to ban visitors except for residents who are extremely ill or receiving palliative care.

St. Joseph’s Healthcare, Hamilton Health Sciences and Joseph Brant are no longer allowing visitors with some exceptions.

Hospitals have been given broad powers by the Ontario government to cancel and postpone non-urgent services as well as redeploy and recall staff.

A number of major local sports events have been cancelled, including the Around the Bay Road Race, Allan Cup and minor hockey.

The city is warning residents not to use playground equipment and park benches.

The Spectator is keeping a tally of major closures, including Core Entertainment and shortened mall hours.

What is open?

Provincially mandated closures do not include grocery stores, pharmacies, LCBO, the Beer Store, cannabis stores, pet food stores, gas stations, convenience stores, auto repair, plumbers, electricians and other trades, delivery services for online purchases, office supplies, construction sites and emergency community health care such as dentists.

Restaurants can — and are encouraged to — provide takeout. They are also allowed to sell alcohol for takeout and delivery between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m.

Other services not affected in Hamilton include police, fire, paramedics, Hamilton Water, garbage, recycling, organics collection, shelters, road maintenance (including snow removal) and the Hamilton Farmers’ Market.

Hamilton’s three community recycling centres are open, but they will only take debit and credit.

The province plans to exempt certain child-care centres from its earlier order to close so essential staff on the front line of COVID-19 can work. A list of emergency daycare centres will be posted at ontario.ca/coronavirus. In Hamilton, the free centres are Todays Family, Wee Watch Golfwood and Wee Watch Galbraith. Some small in-home child care is also permitted to operate.

The Salvation Army is seeing an unprecedented increase in demand and has an immediate need for donations of food, water, personal protective equipment such as gloves and masks, soap, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and cash at salvationarmy.ca/donations.

The United Way of Halton and Hamilton has created a COVID-19 emergency fund at UWHH.ca.

Transit changes

HSR is free until further notice. Riders will only be able to board the bus at the rear doors except for those with mobility devices who will be loaded and unloaded at the front doors. The seats behind drivers have been blocked off and riders are asked to stay behind the yellow line.

Buses started running on a Saturday schedule all of the time on March 23 except for Sundays which will keep its normal schedule.

Public health recommends those travelling in taxis or ride shares roll down the windows.

DARTS is restricting its transit service to essential trips only such as work, medical appointments, picking up prescriptions and shopping for groceries.

Travel warnings

Hamilton’s medical officer of health strongly warns against international travel, saying you may not be able to get home when you planned.

The federal government is urging Canadians abroad to come home now while commercial flights are still available.

Those returning from international travel must quarantine by law for 14 days except for essential workers crossing the American border.

Anybody exhibiting symptoms of the virus will not be permitted to board flights including domestic or trains for intercity trips.

The border is closed to anyone who is not Canadian or a permanent resident with some exceptions.

There is also no non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border. Essential travel will continue in order to preserve supply chains.

International flights from the majority of countries can only land at four airports located in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver.

So far, the John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport is not affected as exceptions were given to flights from the United States, the Caribbean, Mexico, and Saint Pierre and Miquelon.

jfrketich@thespec.com

905-526-3349 | @Jfrketich

jfrketich@thespec.com

905-526-3349 | @Jfrketich