Mayor orders that Lowville Park be closed indefinitely

News 100 redBy Staff

March 22, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

In a Statement issued at noon the Mayor expanded on her decision to declare a State of Emergency in the city.

Mayor Meed Ward

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward

Yesterday I declared a State of Emergency for the City of Burlington.

I have received an overwhelmingly positive reaction from our community, along with many valid questions and concerns about what this means for our day to day living, businesses, and parks. I am glad to see this declaration has caused people to more deeply consider their decisions and actions. That was the intended outcome and I know it will help our city through this crisis.

Today, the City of Burlington has made the decision to close Lowville Park to the public, effective Monday, March 23. This is part of the City’s continuing efforts to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus by following the advice of our public health officials to increase social distancing.

Lowville Park has been very busy with visitors using the closed playground and picnic areas. Although many of our visitors have respected social distancing, there are reported concerns with crowding in some areas, parking lot capacity and people entering areas that are marked as closed. The Province prohibited gatherings of 50 people or more when they declared a provincial State of Emergency last week. As a result of similar concerns, Conservation Halton has already closed all their parks to the public.

Rob Peachey, on the left, Manager Parks and Open Spaces for the city, talks through some solutions to managing the very large weekend crowds.

Lowville Park seen from the steps of the schoolhouse

Considering these challenges, Lowville Park will remain closed indefinitely as of Monday. Any vehicles parked in the Lowville Park lot will be towed. We are considering additional park closures on a daily basis. While we want our residents to get outside and stay active, we have to make tough decisions when we do not see the social distancing behaviours our public health officials are recommending.

I know there are many additional questions out there, and to help you better understand what a State of Emergency means to the people of Burlington, to our local businesses, and to our essential services, I have put together the following FAQ.

Why did you declare a State of Emergency?

With the support of Council, senior City staff, our Emergency Control Group, and senior staff at Joseph Brant Hospital, this declaration helps send a message to our community that times are serious and people’s lives are on the line. It aligns us with the Province of Ontario’s declaration earlier last week, and we are seeing many communities across North America do the same to ensure people understand the serious nature of what is going on, to support self-isolation and social distancing, and help to focus our city on essential services and activities.

Can I still go for a walk with my family?

Yes, you can still go for a walk or bike ride and get outside to stay active and get some fresh air, as long as you are doing so with the people from within your own household. As far as other family, friends and neighbours go: no play-dates, no baseball games, no dinner parties or poker nights even with close friends, and no pick-up games of hockey in the street. If you encounter others while out for a walk, employ social distancing techniques and maintain at least a 6-ft distance from everyone except those in your own household and/or immediate family. These steps are critical in minimizing the spread of COVID-19, especially by those with mild or minimal symptoms. Ensure children stay off public playground equipment as it is not disinfected, and we know this virus can live on surfaces for up to 2 days. If you are sick or have been advised to self-isolate due to recent travel, stay home until you are fully recovered or have passed the 14-day self-isolation period with no symptoms.

What is an essential service or business?

An essential service is defined in Federal terms as any service, facility or activity of the Government of Canada that is or will be necessary for the safety or security of the public or a segment of the public.

Examples of government services or activities that may be considered essential include but are not limited to: border safety/security, correctional services, food inspection activities, accident safety investigations, income and social security, marine safety, national security, law enforcement, and search and rescue.

The Province of Ontario’s defined Critical Infrastructure Sectors include food and water, electrical power, gas and oil, financial services, our healthcare system, and transportation networks.

At City Hall, we already closed facilities last week and asked staff to work from home with the exception of services that need to be delivered under one of the following categories:

• Are required to meet certain legislative requirements;
• Support employee and public health, safety and security;
• Enable critical community services and supports, including COVID-19 mitigation and recovery;
• Support services necessary to keep essential services operating;
• Protect and operate vital infrastructure; and
• Fulfill contractual, legal and financial obligations.

It’s common sense. We need law and order, we need emergency services, we need groceries and home maintenance items, we need banks and telecommunication services, we need gas, and we need a supply chain of those products including trucks and drivers to deliver them. Our hospitals and emergency workers need equipment and supplies. We need continuity of government, and we need public safety and security. It’s not as easy as coming up with one definitive list, but we need to use good judgement and give our decisions a second thought.

I still see businesses open that I don’t think are essential – what should I do?

As part of the Orders issued by the Provincial Government on Wednesday, March 17th, 2020, relating to the enforcement the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMPCA), the Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS) are initiating a planned response to ensure community safety and well-being.

Should police receive concerns relating to complaints of violations of any of the aforementioned orders, they will consider a progressive response of dialogue, education, warning, and enforcement (if required). The HRPS will work with the Region’s health department to assist them in conducting their investigations as well. See the attached link for businesses on the list of the Province’s mandated closures.

As part of Burlington’s State of Emergency, and in addition to the Province’s list of mandated closures, I have encouraged all local businesses to voluntarily close except those that deliver essential goods and services. Neither myself nor the City of Burlington has the power to force a business to close. All I can do is ask.

Please keep in mind that it may not be obvious to the general public what each business does – they could provide rental equipment for essential city services or supplies for our local hospital, for example.

They may have a skeleton staff on-site and be able to maintain social distancing inside their building.

Let’s trust people to make the right decisions and remember to be sympathetic of the significant financial impact it will have on them and their employees to close as we encourage them to prioritize the health and well-being of our community at this time.

What about take-out and drive-thru restaurants? Are they still safe?

We know food is an essential. Whether you are picking up food from the grocery store or a take-out restaurant is not significantly different. As I mentioned before, the virus can live on surfaces for 2 days.

The same can be said for picking up essentials from our local food banks, or accepting at-home deliveries from grocers, Wal-Mart or Amazon. We are relying on both types of business to exercise precautions in their food handling and staff hygiene, and to ensure sick employees and customers stay home. The most important thing is to use good judgement, employ social distancing, wash your hands, and stay home if you’re sick.

I saw my neighbour at the grocery store and he just returned from a trip? Is that allowed?

As part of the State of Emergency, I have asked all our residents to stay home unless they are going to work, to a medical or other essential appointment, or to get essential supplies. Further, the Federal Government has mandated that all individuals who are returning from travel outside of Canada self- isolate for a period of 14-days and self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19. That means that recent travelers have additional restrictions and should not be going to work, the grocery store, or other appointments. They must rely on delivery services or ask healthy friends and neighbours to drop off supplies for them. We can help them by offering our support so that they don’t feel the need to go out.

If you are concerned that someone who should be self-isolating is not following those guidelines, or that someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 is not self-quarantined, you can reach out to our local police at 905-825-4777. As I mentioned above, should police receive concerns relating to complaints of violations, they will consider a progressive response of dialogue, education, warning, and enforcement (if required). Please remember that this shouldn’t be a time to shame others or try to catch people doing something wrong. Before reaching out to police, think about alternative ways to support good behaviour. This is a time to constructively spread awareness and offer help to others so that people don’t need to put our community at risk.

How long is this going to last?

Honestly, I don’t know. From what we have seen in other countries, it could be weeks and it could be even longer. The most important thing we can do to help slow the spread of this virus and mitigate the impact it has on our community and our healthcare system is stay home. It only stands to reason that the more we do right now, the better off we will be later.

What else is important to know right now?

The most important thing I want everyone to know right now is to be thoughtful, responsible, and kind. Follow the advice of healthcare experts and local leaders. Avoid the temptation to blame others and treat people the way you would like to be treated. We are all in this together.

This past year I had the pleasure of meeting some of our local WWII veterans as part of the 75th anniversary of D-Day at Juno Beach in France. I heard their stories of sacrifice and understood the bravery and courage it took to fight for our freedoms and safety. It gives me perspective in these challenging times. We are not being asked to leave our families and go overseas to storm a beach. We are being asked to be responsible, to stay home, and be patient. I think it’s the least we can do for each other and our country.

Our top priority remains the health and well-being of our residents. We are committed to keeping you informed in clear and timely manner and encourage you to stay updated via the City’s dedicated website. Additional information on all COVID-19 related matters can be found at the Halton Region website, the Ministry of Health of Ontario’s website, and the Federal Government’s website.

Stay healthy, stay calm, and be kind to one another.

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