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COVID-19: Tenants of Hamilton high-rise say narrative of ‘socialization’ amid pandemic ‘false’

Serena Pollack, 51, a resident at 235 Rebecca Street was one of several tenants who shared their dismay with how public health and the operators of the building have characterized the massive outbreak revealed on May 4, 2021. Global News

Tenants of a downtown Hamilton high-rise — in the midst of a major COVID-19 outbreak — are disputing public health’s assessment that it’s been caused by “socialization”.

On Friday, members of the Rebecca Towers tenant committee gathered out front of the 17-storey apartment building and accused their landlord of contributing to the spread of the virus within the complex.

“The city didn’t even bother to talk to the tenants and ask us what is going on. They just took the landlord’s word for it,” said Emily Power, speaking on behalf of the committee.

Read more: 1 dead, 55 COVID-19 cases tied to outbreak at central Hamilton apartment complex

“This is very disrespectful. This created a false narrative in the media that the tenants in this building are negligent. In fact, the majority of people who live in the building take COVID very seriously.”

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Power said most tenants at the 164-unit building at 235 Rebecca Street are working-class people with front-line jobs who take transit.

An out of service elevator, insufficient cleaning and security staff, poor ventilation, a lack of respect for vulnerable tenants and the city’s failure to reveal the outbreak in March are just some of the accusations the group made during their demonstration.

“Medallions decision to shut down a functioning elevator during a pandemic for renovations, largely cosmetic in nature we believe, leaving us with one elevator for a 17-storey building with hundreds of residents,” Power said.

The tenants are demanding the building’s operators return the elevator to service with capacity limits, a larger cleaning staff with more frequent cleanings, more ventilation, security at entrances, hand-sanitizer stations and a 24-hour laundry room.

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Residents from 235 Rebecca Street are suggesting an out of service elevator in the building contributed to the spread of COVID-19. A group of tenants said in a rally on May 7, 2021 there has been only one working elevator since January. Tenants Committee at 235 Rebecca Street

Of the city, the tenants are requesting a mobile vaccine clinic at the building.

 

Several tenants shared stories of hardship amid the presser in Friday, including 51-year-old Serena Pollack, who says the says the outbreak has stalled physiotherapy appointments for a hurt shoulder.

“I have an appointment with my doctor on Monday, which I have to find out if I’m even going to be able to go there,”  said Pollack.

Read more: Hamilton high-rise outbreak shows need to follow COVID-19 protocols while supporting neighbours: MOH

As of Friday, the surge at the complex involves one death and infections among 65 residents and three staff members. The city said there were 28 active cases.

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In their initial release on Tuesday, the city said “close contact between apartment residents” was the primary cause of the outbreak.

“These cases are spread across 17 different units on 10 separate floors,” the city said in its statement.

Paramedics have been conducting further tests on residents since Thursday.

The city has already said it will be looking into a number of additional measures for the building over the next week including capacity limits on the elevators and in shared laundry amenities.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Medallion Corporation, which manages Rebecca Towers, told Global News in an e-mail that COVID-19 issues at the complex are a matter for exclusively for public health.

Read more: Hamilton public health issues compliance orders to two care homes with COVID-19 outbreaks

“Conclusions about the current COVID-19 situation at 235 Rebecca are best left to public health officials, and as such, we intend to cooperate fully with these officials and will continue to follow their direct guidance and advice,” said Danny Roth of Brandon Communications.

Roth went on to say that work on the down elevator was “essential and couldn’t be avoided” and expects it to be concluded by end of May. He also said many of the tenants’ other claims were unfounded.

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“Finally, any criticism of the cleanliness of the building, or, disparagement of our ongoing management efforts are without merit,” Roth said.

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