It's getting harder to enforce physical distancing rules in Hamilton, city says

City bylaw officers are still ticketing people for not keeping a physical distance, says the head of the city's emergency operations centre. But it's getting harder to identify and enforce.

45 people in Hamilton are known to have COVID-19 right now

Stickers on the floor advise shoppers to practice physical distancing in Ottawa this month. Hamilton officials say they're still enforcing physical distancing rules, but it's getting harder. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

City bylaw officers are still ticketing people for not keeping a physical distance, says the head of the city's emergency operations centre. But violations are getting harder to identify and enforce.

Since the province has allowed "bubbles" of up to 10 people, bylaw officers have a harder time knowing who's standing too close to someone outside their bubble, says Paul Johnson.

So while the city still has a bylaw in place mandating that people stay two metres from each other, it's harder for bylaw officers to tell who's too close. And as COVID-19 restrictions are eased, he said, bylaw officers have been diverted to other issues. 

"I will tell you that our bylaw officers have been pulled in a lot of directions," Johnson said during a media briefing Tuesday.

"We haven't backed off that. Physical distancing is one of those key elements that is required to stop this spread. It is the biggest concern in terms of reopening, that we will ease off on some of the things we know work well."

That includes keeping a two-metre distance, he said, and wearing masks, which is now mandatory on HSR buses. "We should all, by now, be having masks, getting masks and wearing masks when we can't keep that two-metre distance."

"We are doing what we can and we are responding reactively to calls where people say 'there are too many people hanging out together,' and we're being proactive where we can."

City bylaw officers have laid 170 charges since the pandemic began. Of those, 114 were to people using prohibited areas — mostly waterfalls — and 28 were in gatherings that were too large. The fine is up to $750 per person.

Johnson also said sports fields will open for training only on July 3, and only during daylight hours. With recreation programs, the city will also distribute "Rec at Home" summer kits for people to use with their kids. That will begin on July 6.

The city will also open 14 indoor and outdoor swimming pools during the weeks of July 6 and 13, and HSR will start taking bus fares again on July 1. 

Overall, Hamilton has six more cases since Monday, and 45 people are currently known to have COVID-19. All told, 807 are known to have had the virus (798 confirmed, nine probable), and 719 people have recovered. Forty-three people have died, and 16 people are in hospital.

Here's what's happening in other areas:


One more person has tested positive for COVID-19 in Brant/Brantford since Friday. The total number of cases now is 121, although 112 people have recovered and four have died. That means five residents are currently known to have COVID-19, and they are not in hospital.

Brant/Brantford has seen 120 cases of the virus. Of those, 110 people have recovered and four have died. There are six active cases, but none are being treated in hospital. There is an outbreak at ​Telfer Place Retirement Residence in Paris.


There are 229 people in Haldimand and Norfolk who currently have COVID-19. Of those, 217 are associated with Scotlynn Group in Vittoria — 199 migrant farm workers, and 18 people associated with the farm. 

Thirty-two people have died, including a worker who died over the weekend. The Migrant Rights Network identified the worker as a 55-year-old father of four who's been coming to Canada to work since 2010.

Meanwhile, the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit is appealing a decision from the Health Services Appeal and Review Board, which ruled against its rule of having three quarantined workers per bunkhouse, regardless of the floor space of that bunkhouse. Many farmers say the rule is arbitrary. The health unit says it lacks the resources to inspect each bunkhouses, so the rule is necessary to keep COVID-19 from spreading.

This graph shows the number of Haldimand-Norfolk cases of COVID-19. (Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit)

Norfolk County council issued a statement Tuesday saying it had no sway in the medical officer of health's decision to appeal.

The county also said Monday that an "internal privacy issue" has been corrected that allowed more employees than necessary see the names, health card numbers and results of people who had been tested for COVID-19 before May 19. 

All told, 444 people have tested positive in Norfolk. Of those, 183 have recovered.


Eight more people have been found to have COVID-19 in Halton, increasing the total count to 809 cases (727 confirmed, 79 probable). Of those, 67 currently have the virus, 714 have recovered and 25 have died.

One more person in Burlington is believed to have COVID-19 and is awaiting test results. That brings the city's case count to 167 overall. Of those, seven have died, 136 have recovered and 24 are known to currently have the virus. 

There are outbreaks at CAMA Woodlands (no current positive cases) and Billings Court (one resident) in Burlington. At Billings Court, one resident has died.


Twenty-four people are known to have COVID-19 right now in Niagara, which is one less than Friday.

All told, there have been 743 cases, up from 735 on Friday. Of those, 658 people have recovered, which is seven more than Friday. Sixty-one people have died.

There are outbreaks at Crescent Park Lodge in Fort Erie and Garden City Manor in St. Catharines.


Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She often tweets about Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca


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