Hamilton unlikely to advise city bus passengers to wear masks, says MOH

In early April 3, Hamilton introduced passenger limits on HSR buses allowing a maximum of 10 riders at a time, with articulated buses allowing only 15. Lisa Polewski / Global News

Hamilton, Ont.’s medical officer of health says it’s unlikely public health will advise riders of the HSR to wear masks during their trips amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the city’s town hall on Wednesday night, Dr. Elizabeth Richardson said the recommendation is out there but believes any sort of control used to make riders and drivers safe should be the ones that are “most effective.”

COVID-19-fighting measures, like limited seating capacity and extensive fleet cleaning, are more effective practices according to Richardson.

READ MORE: Ontario announces curbside pickup for storefront retail, full reopening of garden and hardware shops

“It’s important to understand wherever you’re using any sorts of controls to make sure that we’re using the ones that are most effective,” said Richardson, “So making things like [masks] mandatory isn’t likely to happen at this stage, but it’s something we’ll continue to watch as we go forward.”
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The issue first came to light in mid-April when Canada’s largest transit union insisted city bus riders be required to wear masks.

The Amalgamated Transit Union’s list of “safe service” demands was sent to municipalities across Canada urging more protection measures for city bus drivers amid the pandemic.

In late March, the city’s first COVID-19 safety measures for buses included daily cleaning of the entire fleet, putting routes on a Saturday schedule Monday through Saturday, and adding buses and drivers to the city’s heaviest routes at the busiest times.

On April 3, the city went a step further introducing passenger limits on HSR buses allowing a maximum of 10 riders at a time, with articulated buses allowing only 15.

City considers monthly pass refund

In the update on Wednesday, Hamilton’s transit director said the city is considering refunds on monthly passes that became meaningless in late March when the HSR stopped collecting fares amid the pandemic.

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READ MORE: COVID-19 forcing tough decisions from Hamilton and area event programmers

In an effort to beef up safety measures for drivers and riders, the service forced riders to enter buses from the rear doors which gave way to free rides. At the time, the practice was only expected to be in effect until April 5.

“So we are currently working on what that plan is going to be and we will be bringing that forward in the near future, ” said Debbie Dalle Vedove, Hamilton’s transit director, during the city’s virtual town hall on Tuesday.

Dalle Vedove says March and April pass holders should hold onto them until a potential refund plan is put in place.

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

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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.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 survivor still struggles with symptoms' COVID-19 survivor still struggles with symptoms
COVID-19 survivor still struggles with symptoms – Apr 24, 2020

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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