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Coronavirus: On-site staff to ‘educate’ and offer face masks in response to Niagara Falls video

The mayor of Niagara Falls, Ont., says the city will be “proactive” this coming weekend in the wake of a YouTube video posted on Tuesday that showed little physical distancing or mask-use on a busy city street amid the continuing coronavirus crisis.

“This was the busiest crowd that we’ve had all year,” said Jim Diodati who said the video showed a rare moment in a city that’s “been very quiet” and “desolate” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more: Coronavirus: Video shows large crowds and little physical distancing in Niagara Falls

In a press conference Thursday morning on Clifton Hill, Diodati said the response will be a “Crush the Curve” ambassador program featuring local employees dressed in bright yellow t-shirts and hats offering free hand sanitizer as well as face masks at cost.

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“I’m proud of the industry for doing a 24-hour turnaround. They turned right around immediately and stepped up and are going to fund this program so that we can educate and help people become aware of the importance of their behaviour because we want this to be safe to play,” Diodati said.

Click to play video: 'Video appears to show crowded scene in Niagara Falls, Ont.' Video appears to show crowded scene in Niagara Falls, Ont.
Video appears to show crowded scene in Niagara Falls, Ont – Jul 22, 2020

The video taken on Clifton Hill Saturday night near attractions like the Niagara Sky Wheel, Niagara Speedway and Dinosaur Adventure Golf shocked many YouTube viewers as large crowds and long lineups revealed little physical distancing amid the continuing coronavirus crisis.

“This makes me so mad” and “This is a disgrace I can’t believe people are doing this” were just some of the comments made on the Amusement Insiders YouTube channel, which featured the video shot by Niagara Falls resident Cole Morningstar.

The video had pulled in over 170,000 views by Thursday afternoon.

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Read more: Ontario reports 103 new coronavirus cases, 0 deaths; total cases at 38,210

The post also caught the attention of the region’s medical officer of health, Mustafa Hirji who called the scenes “disappointing.”

“Assuming valid, it’s an example of complacency to COVID-19,” Hijri said in a Twitter post on Wednesday afternoon. “Individuals, businesses, opinion leaders, & enforcement agencies all need to step up.”

The incident comes at a time of concern for Hirji and public health who have reported a doubling of active cases in the past ten days, 47 as of Thursday morning.

The region has also seen its total number of active outbreaks move from three to six in the last week, with four at long-term care homes.

Cole Morningstar/Amusement Insiders/YouTube

A video shot on Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls shows large crowds and little physical distancing during the city’s final weekend in Stage 2 of the province’s reopening plan. Diodati also said on Thursday that he expects Niagara Regional Council to pass a mandatory mask bylaw that he says will focus on “compliance, not conviction.”

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Earlier in June, Diodati was one of several regional councillors that voted against a mandatory mask bylaw put forth to the regional council saying the draft presented was likely “unenforceable.”

Read more: Close vote for Niagara regional councillors delays potential mask bylaw in region

“My approach has always been, I’d rather catch somebody doing something right and reward that behaviour, rather than catching them doing something wrong and punishing them. I don’t believe the stick is the best approach,” Diodati told Global News on the day of the vote.

Despite the deferral, St. Catharines and Niagara-on-the-Lake went ahead and passed their own bylaws.

Regional councillors will give it a go again on Thursday night during a special virtual council meeting with a revised draft which, if passed, will require masks to be worn in indoor public spaces, businesses and public transit with exceptions for medical conditions and for children under 5.

Employee tests positive for COVID-19 at Niagara Speedway

One of the attractions that will not be open this weekend will be the Niagara Speedway go-cart track as the facility has been shut down after a positive test from an employee.

Director of marketing Joel Noden told Global News they were informed by public health of the positive test and shut down on Monday as the agency reviews the attractions coronavirus safety protocols.

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“We went through all of our video footage,” said Noden. “Obviously, we’ve got security cameras everywhere and we checked to make sure that he was properly outfitted with a face mask and PPE and was taking proper precautions.”

The employee worked at the speedway on July 7, 8, 12, 13, and 14. The closure will see roughly 50 staffers remain at home in self-isolation, according to Noden.

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

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.

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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. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

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

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