Coronavirus: Hamilton to monitor recreational trails for social distancing, says EOC director

Hamilton's emergency operations director Paul Johnson is hoping the city will not have to close any more trails or green spaces over COVID-19 concerns. Paul Tipple / Global News

On Thursday, the City of Hamilton closed a portion of the Waterfront Trail in connection with the province’s direction to limit the spread of the new coronavirus by banning gatherings of more than five people.

Emergency operations centre (EOC) director Paul Johnson said the closure of the beach trail was in response to the number of people who had reportedly congregated at the city-run space over the last few days, essentially ignoring Ontario’s social-distancing order.

“I can tell you all on the beachfront, the situation over the last couple of days was just unacceptable. It was too many people,” Johnson said during the city’s COVID-19 update on Thursday.

READ MORE: COVID-19 cases in Hamilton increase to 127, 2 of them fatal — public health officials

Johnson says the city is now “monitoring” the remaining walking and cycling paths, like the Red Hill Valley Recreational Trail, and “trying very hard” not to close them down to allow opportunities for people to get outside.

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“We’re also very cognizant that some of our trails and other amenities, recreation amenities, do offer ways for people to get around the city for a central movement to work or to appointments or to stores such as grocery stores or pharmacies. So I can’t tell you where this will stop, quite frankly,” Johnson said.

Hamilton Conservation Authority closed down Confederation Beach Park and a number of other green spaces on March 25 amid concerns over community spread of the new coronavirus. Dave Woodard / Global News

Options to exercise in parks and gardens around the city became more difficult in late March when the Hamilton Conservation Authority closed all of its 14 conservation areas at least until May 25 amid concern of little social distancing on trails and at the waterfalls.

Then, on Thursday, the city shut down access to the escarpment stairs about a week after the city told residents the stairs were for essential travel only.

READ MORE: HCA closes conservation areas amid coronavirus pandemic

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“We were hopeful we wouldn’t have to close the stairs. But the reality is that, you know, it comes a point where you look at the volumes, you look at the way people are using it,” Johnson said.

Johnson says over the next few days, the EOC is going to use surveillance to monitor social distancing along the city’s remaining paths in addition to documenting any evidence of people evading the province’s orders.

“So the short answer is we hope we don’t have to close anything more,” he said.

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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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