Hamilton will likely have more COVID-19 cases, mayor says, but the city is prepared

Hamilton will have more COVID-19 cases, says the mayor, but the city has measures in place to deal with it.

The city has activated an emergency operations centre as of Wednesday

Mike Sanderson, paramedic chief, and Elizabeth Richardson, Hamilton's medical officer of health, say the city is having daily meetings about COVID-19. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Hamilton will have more COVID-19 cases, says the mayor, and he believes the city is as prepared as it can be.

The city dealt with its first case Wednesday, when an oncologist who lives in Burlington and works at Hamilton's Juravinski Cancer Centre tested positive for the virus. On paper, it's a Halton Region case, but Eisenberger says it's a Hamilton issue too.

"Realistically, we can anticipate that there likely will be more," he said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

"Hopefully, the level of response will be appropriate. As we indicated today, everyone's ready, and how we manage that will minimize the impacts going forward."

The city set up an emergency operations centre on Stone Church Road Wednesday morning, said Elizabeth Richardson, Hamilton's medical officer of health. City agencies will have daily meetings there to assess the impact on city services, with a key goal of keeping services running. The centre is part of the city's emergency plan.

Paramedic chief Mike Sanderson said paramedics have already responded to two patients who appeared to have COVID-19 symptoms. Both tested negative.

Paramedics have dealt with SARS, H1N1 and ebola, and are used to the protocol, he said. The service also has plenty of protective equipment.

'Support one another'

In Burlington, the city has set up a rapid response team. It's also increasing the cleaning and disinfecting of common contact points, including elevator buttons, handrails, water-filling stations, steering wheels and door handles. 

"It is important that we all act responsibly and support one another," said Mayor Marianne Meed Ward in a media release.

Officials in both cities are keeping an eye on whether events should be cancelled. In Burlington, the city has cancelled a nine-day Teen Tour Band trip to Myrtle Beach. In Hamilton, the Around the Bay road race is still a go, said director Anna Lewis. 

"We are closely monitoring the situation across our region and will take guidance and direction from Hamilton Public Health Services," she said.

"In the event of any changes to the Bay Race schedule, participants and the public will be informed through our website, direct email, traditional media, and social media."

Tips to avoid COVID-19

The oncologist developed symptoms at work Monday after returning from a trip to Hawaii. Fourteen cancer patients came into contact with her, and officials have reached out to them. All told, 34 people have been contacted, Richardson said. Some are in isolation now.

The oncologist is Ontario's 41st case. Her spouse is a surgeon at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, Richardson said, but isn't displaying symptoms. The spouse is also being tested,with results expected Thursday. The spouse also worked prior to the oncologist developing symptoms.

It takes two to 14 days for symptoms to develop, Richardson said.

Here are some tips from the City of Burlington around how to prevent the spread: 

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If there's no soap and water, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Don't touch your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Don't be in close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you're sick, stay home. 
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue. If you don't have a tissue, cough into your upper sleeve, not your hand.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.


Samantha Craggs is journalist based in Windsor, Ont. She is executive producer of CBC Windsor and previously worked as a reporter and producer in Hamilton, specializing in politics and city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca


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