Normal life is slowly returning in Hamilton, city says now it's up to the public
The mayor is optimistic people will continue to follow physical distancing measures even with more open trails
The process of returning to normal life is underway as the city of Hamilton begins to relax tight measures set in place because of COVID-19.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger said now it's up to the public to help the city move in the right direction by continuing to stay two metres apart from each other and being cautious.
"I can't imagine that there are too many people left in our community who don't understand why this is an important thing to do," he said in a media briefing on Friday.
"We're on a good path and stopping that path really lies in the hands of the people in our broader community right now."
The city announced the Hamilton Waterfront Trail, between Confederation Park and the Burlington Lift Bridge, will reopen on Saturday and Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA) said its rail trails will also open that day.
This comes on the same day hardware stores and safety supply stores are allowed to open.
While there is a chance the newfound freedom may be too much for some, Eisenberger and Paul Johnson, director of the city's emergency operations centre, expressed optimism in the public, pointing out that parks and green spaces were already open.
"Our ability to be everywhere all the time is diminished ... it's about responding to egregious examples of when we need to step in," Johnson said.
"This is going to be the way we work and way we live in our community for quite some time so it's less about enforcing and more about us remembering what are a very few and fairly simple rules."
Dr. Bart Harvey, associate medical officer of health, recommended those with pre-existing health conditions be cautious when attending parks and trails with other people.
The Escarpment stairs and Albion Falls will stay closed as both have been popular sites since the start of the pandemic and could be difficult to encourage physical distancing at.
"We're going to try and encourage others from other parts of the broader community not to attend as well, which has generally been the problem there," Eisenberger said about Albion Falls.
"We've seen a lot of attendance from people outside of Hamilton ... if they're all from out of town, they could take that back to their town and spread that even further."
On Monday, retail stores with street entrances can open for curbside pickup. Johnson also said the city is pushing ahead with approving construction projects, noting 472 new residential units and almost 100,000 sq. m of non-residential space were approved recently.
But still, while normal life slowly returns, the city said people should still avoid meeting with those who are not in their household.
It may be harder with Mother's Day in mind, but Harvey said people can't let up. They can still try drive-by visit so long as they stay two metres apart, but Harvey stressed they can keep in touch through video messaging and phone calls.
14 new COVID-19 cases
As of Friday morning, Hamilton has 483 confirmed and five probable cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 488. That's 14 new cases since Thursday. The virus has hospitalized 63 people and killed 23 in Hamilton, but 328 have recovered.
There are eight institutional outbreaks and one community outbreak. Public health declares an outbreak even if one resident or staff member tests positive.
There are outbreaks at Regina Gardens, Wentworth Lodge, a Mission Services women's shelter, Heritage Green Nursing Home, St. Elizabeth's Villa, the Barrett Centre for Crisis Support, St. Joseph's Villa, St. Joseph's Healthcare's Charlton and West 5th campuses, the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre, Dundurn Place Care Centre, and St. Peter's Hospital.
Mass testing in long-term care homes is continuing and expected to be complete May 15.
There are 100 cases of COVID-19 in Brant County and Brantford, up by one from Thursday. Five more people have recovered, bringing the total of resolved cases to 85. Four people are in hospital and three have died.
There are outbreaks at Telfer Place in Paris (one resident), Brierwood Gardens in Brantford (one staff) and St. Joseph's Lifecare Centre in Brantford (two staff).
Haldimand and Norfolk counties have two new cases of COVID-19 after not seeing any new cases in the last four days. The total is now 198 cases. Thirty people have died, with no new deaths, but 12 more people have recovered since Thursday, for a total of 70 resolved cases.
There are outbreaks at Anson Place in Hagersville, Parkview Meadows in Townsend and Caressant Care in Courtland.
Halton has five new cases bringing the total to 573. Of those, 65 are probable cases. There are 23 deaths, but 426 recoveries.
In Burlington, there are no new confirmed cases, so the number stands at 110, 15 of which are probable. There are seven deaths and 85 recoveries.
There are four new confirmed cases in Niagara, with 546 as of Friday morning. Fifty-three people have died and 379 have recovered. Just over 16 per cent of its case were hospitalized, with 3.1 per cent in intensive care. Twenty-two per cent have been health-care workers
There are outbreaks at Niagara Health hospitals in Niagara Falls and St. Catharines, and also at Lundy Manor in Niagara Falls, Henley House in St. Catharines and Seasons Welland and Royal Rose Place in Welland.
With files from Samantha Craggs