In an effort to slow down an increase in coronavirus cases among youth, the city of Hamilton says it’s hoping to “engage” people in their 20s through a physical-distancing campaign starting this week.
The campaign entitled “Physical Distancing Hamilton Style” is expected to hit workplaces, hospitals, libraries, and schools through a number of digital platforms including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
A SOBI bicycle, 21 cups of coffee and three french bulldogs are some of the “units of measurement” the campaign is using to promote keeping a distance of two metres (six feet) apart.
Hamilton’s medical officer of health revealed the plan in early June after an uptick in coronavirus cases among the 20 to 29 age group in the city, particularly with those between 20 and 24.
“It’s going to focus on changing behaviour and engaging people who are in this age group in creating and adopting new physical-distancing measures and norms,” said Dr. Elizabeth Richardson. “So the tactics will largely focus around social media in order to start getting messaging out quickly to a large audience.”
As of June 12th, the age group accounted for 44 per cent of new cases in the city and makes up 20 per cent (163 of 802) of the city’s coronavirus cases.
“The main issues when we go through and investigate these cases and talk to their contacts are this piece about fully and consistently applying preventive measures when they’re commuting to and from work, or if they’re in a recreational or social environment,” Dr. Elizabeth Richardson said in a case update prior to the launch of the campaign.
Dr. Todd Coleman, an assistant professor in the department of health sciences at Wilfrid Laurier University, agrees with the city’s assessment that it’s likely the age group is relaxing after 15 weeks of the pandemic, thinking they may not get it if they haven’t already.
“It does speak to a few possibilities that we are seeing such as relaxed social distancing among this group based on various reasons,” Coleman told Global News. “It also maybe because they think they’re not at high risk.”
However, Coleman says while it’s not heavily affecting people in their 20s, catching the virus and COVID-19 could have severe detrimental side effects such as lung damage or fibrosis.
“And we still don’t know what the long-term effects of being infected with this virus are,” said Coleman.
The city believes the increase in cases among youth is also likely a combination of people living with families, adults with roommates and younger people working together but not following physical distancing rules.
Public health says youth are as likely to get the coronavirus as any other age group, but typically experience milder symptoms and are not likely to require hospitalization.
Hamilton’s associate medical officer of health Dr. Ninh Tran told Global News the danger for those less worried about fighting off the illness is spreading the disease to someone else who may not be as healthy.
“Even though it might not impact us as individually, we might carry it and spread it to others, our friends, family, loved ones who are more vulnerable. So it’s important to continue to do the physical distancing not only to protect yourself but to protect others.”
Hamilton has 802 coronavirus cases as of June 22 with 793 confirmed and nine probable cases, according to public health.
The city’s cases have been connected to 43 deaths in the city.
The city has no current institutional outbreaks, and has 16 patients in hospitals: Hamilton Health Sciences has 14 while St. Joseph’s hospital has two.
To date, 708 of the city’s 802 known COVID-19 cases — or 88 per cent — have been resolved.
Hamilton and a number of nearby regions, including Niagara and Halton, entered stage two of Ontario’s reopening plan as of Friday.
Many personal care services, such as hair and beauty salons, tattoo studios and day spas, have opened with COVID-19 health and safety protocols in place.
Bars and restaurants also opened for outdoor dining only, and Hamilton’s spray pads and beaches opened up for use on the weekend.
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