On Tuesday, KFL&A Public Health announced the first three cases of the novel coronavirus in Kingston. Even before this announcement, many local organizations decided to cancel services and events that involve gatherings to avoid the potential spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Despite the new cases, Dr. Kieran Moore, medical officer for health at KFL&A Public Health, says the risk of contracting the virus is low. Nevertheless, public health is still advising people take precautions to protect themselves, like frequent handwashing, avoiding touching your nose and mouth and staying home when you are sick.
Kingston’s public health unit is not testing for the virus. A dedicated COVID-19 testing centre has opened at Hotel Dieu Hospital, but only those who have travelled in the last two weeks will be swabbed for the virus if they are showing symptoms like coughing, fever or tightness in the chest.
Dr. Kieran Moore, chief medical officer at KFL&A Public Health, says that the vast majority of other respiratory infections will resolve themselves on their own. If you are feeling ill, he said, stay home and stay away from work until 24 hours after you stop showing symptoms.
There is currently a flu outbreak in Kingston, and therefore, those who have not travelled in the last 14 days and are showing respiratory symptoms could possibly have the flu.
Otherwise, KFL&A Public Health is advising anyone who has travelled in the last two weeks to self-isolate for a period of two weeks after they returned home.
“This recommendation is retroactive for any individuals that have returned from travel outside of Canada (e.g., if you returned 7 days ago, you would self-isolate for the next 7 days),” the public health agency said.
As for events, classes and gatherings, many have been cancelled or postponed in the city, but others continue to run. Check out our list below to help you plan the coming weeks.
Provincial closures for state of emergency
On Tuesday, premier Doug Ford announced the province is currently under a state of emergency, leading to the closure and cancellations of certain services.
This means all gatherings of 50 or more people should be cancelled, and facilities providing recreational programs, all libraries, private schools , licensed child care centres, bars and restaurants (takeout and delivery excluded) and theatres, cinemas and concert venues must close.
Changes in Utilities Kingston services
Time-of-use electricity rates and schedules continue to apply. These rates are set by the Ontario Energy Board, not your local utility company. Premier Doug Ford has indicated he is working with the Minister of Energy on the issue. Meanwhile, the Ontario Ministry of Energy has indicated it’s looking at programs and policies to best support electricity customers during this difficult time, and that information will be available in the coming days. Utilities Kingston is closely monitoring the situation.
Planned power outages are postponed
To help relieve some hardship for customers during this uncertain and difficult time, Utilities Kingston is postponing any non-essential planned power outages. This includes the wide-area outage planned in the University District and Alwington area on March 22.
Utilities Kingston is also suspending non-critical programs and services until further notice, to help protect the health and safety of employees, and contain the spread of COVID-19 in our community.
The following are some of the programs and services that are suspended:
- All public tours of our facilities.
- The preventative plumbing program. If your existing application will be placed on hold, Utilities Kingston will contact you by email.
- Proactive water, gas and electricity meter replacement programs. Urgent meter issues will be addressed and can be reported 24/7 to 613-546-1181.
- Any other non-critical programs that require a visit from our employees to a home or business.
Restricted access at Kingston Police Services headquarters
Kingston Police are asking the public to avoid attending the front desk of the police station, located at 705 Division Street, unless absolutely necessary.
Members of the community can still access many services via the Kingston Police website or by calling the non-emergency number of 613-549-4660.
- Online reporting is available for 14 different categories here or by contact the general number at 613-549-4660 ext. 0
- For background checks, online applications can still be processed via this link. Once confirmed ready for pick-up, background checks can be obtained in person only between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m.. Monday through Friday. If an applicant needs to be fingerprinted to complete a vulnerable sector check, the completion of their check will be delayed.
- Kingston Police have suspended fingerprinting services during the COVID-19 outbreak.
- As of March 17, the collision reporting centre’s normal hours of operation are still in effect and its office is open.
- Those involved in a collision where police are not required can attend the visitor parking lot at 705 Division St and first contact reporting centre personnel by calling 613-540-6653 to inquire about their services, if there has been any change in their operation, and whether they are required to enter the lobby.
- Full information on the CRC can be found here.
- Individuals required to sign-in at the front desk are still mandated to attend but can show their identification to staff through the glass partition.
- Those who have made arrangements with an investigator to attend the station for an interview or to surrender themselves relating to an outstanding charge or warrant will be asked to complete an active screening checklist before entering police facilities. Depending on the risk factors, people may be required to wear a provided surgical or procedure mask.
In an emergency always dial 911, but do not use it for general inquiries or to report a non-emergency. Communications personnel need to be available for priority calls.
Transit and travel disruption:
Effective Thursday, March 19, Kingston Transit passengers are asked to board and exit buses using the back doors. Passengers with accessibility needs can continue to use the front doors for boarding and exiting, but are asked to limit their interactions with bus operators.
Kingston Transit will not be accepting cash fares or paper transfers from passengers boarding at the back of the bus, and passengers will not be required to tap their transit passes at this time.
This change is in place until April 5, 2020 and protects the health and safety of bus operators.
As of Tuesday, March 17, Kingston Transit buses will be operating on a Saturday schedule all days of the week except for Sunday, which will keep its regular schedule.
“The most significant change is a reduction in the frequency of trips on express routes on weekdays, with buses running every 30 minutes. Real-time apps will not reflect these changes,” the city said in a tweet Monday morning.
Check the city’s website for the new weekday schedules.
Also starting Tuesday, Via Rail announced it will be significantly cutting down on services on its rail lines between Windsor, Ont., and Quebec City, Que.
“As a result of significant reductions in passenger volumes experienced in the last week, combined with the need to deploy our resources to more effectively deal with the pandemic, as of Tuesday, March 17, services will be reduced by 50 per cent in the Québec City-Windsor corridor.”
Kingston Health Sciences Centre started limiting visitors for patients at the Kingston General Hospita and at the Hotel Dieu Hospital to one person per patient.
They are also encouraging any visitors who may be feeling unwell not to come to the hospital.
Both hospitals will also be limiting entrances to their facilities, and staff will be screening and questioning those who enter about their health history.
For KGH, patients and family members should be entering the main Kidd/Davies entrance on Stuart Street. Exceptions to that rule are patients of the cancer centre, the renal and kidney program and the mental health and addiction program — these people should enter through the King Street entrance. Those needing emergency services should still enter through the emergency department.
As for Hotel Dieu Hospital, most patients are being told to access the hospital through the main entrance on Brock Street. Ears, nose and throat clinic patients should continue to use the Murray Building entrance, whereas patients with mobility aids may continue to use the entrance at the Access Bus drop-off point. Patients needing urgent care can still use the urgent care centre entrance.
Amenities for the vulnerable sector
James’ Valu-Mart, in the city’s east-end has decided to open a half-hour early every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, starting this Thursday to allow shoppers who may be more susceptible to COVID-19, like the elderly and those who have compromised immune systems, to shop for their goods.
“Please understand and respect that this extra 30 mins is for the elderly and/or for people with other underlying illnesses,” a Facebook post from the owner, James Van Wart said.,
Safe waste disposal
The city of Kingston is asking its residents to take extra care when putting their waste products out on the curb to help protect collectors from spreading COVID-19.
They are asking that residents follow these guidelines:
- Place used tissues and napkins in the garbage and wash your hands afterwards.
- Use liners for food waste placed in the green bin.
- Bag all waste and do not place waste loosely in garbage containers.
- If you’re sick, place all item that have come into contact with your mouth, nose or eyes into the garbage, even items that you normally place into your blue or grey box, such as water and beverage bottles, pop cans or milk and juice cartons.
On Wednesday, the city of Kingston implemented the following changes:
To access solid waste services, the city is asking residents to abide by the following directives:
- The truck scale and the recycling depot remain open Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. but will now be closed Saturdays.
- The yard waste depot remains open Monday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Buy bag tags online or at one of the locations listed here (while supplies last and/or location remains open). Commercial businesses will not be sold/mailed bag tags.
- While supplies last, Blue and Grey boxes are available in the payment centre at City Hall, 216 Ontario St.
- Open houses and tours of KARC are cancelled.
- OSKAR, the mobile event recycler, is not available. Have an upcoming event that may be affected? Email OSKAR@cityofkingston.ca.
- The opening of the Household Hazardous Waste Depot will be delayed.
- Need a medical exemption from the one-bag limit? Fill in this application and direct it to firstname.lastname@example.org. The receipt of bag tags may be delayed.
- Multi-residential condominium and commercial garbage disposal information and applications can be found here. Email applications to email@example.com.