A city transformed: One week of COVID-19 in Hamilton

It has been one week since Hamilton saw its first COVID-19 case and daily life has transformed as the city, the province and the country have taken significant steps in an effort to avoid more infections.

There are 19 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Hamilton after one week — but it feels like a whole new city

Hamilton is almost an entirely different city just one week after its first case of COVID-19. (Evan Aagaard/CBC)

It has been just one week — seven days — since Hamilton saw its first COVID-19 case and in that time daily life has transformed as the city, the province and the country have taken significant steps in an effort to avoid more infections.

Now, there are 19 confirmed cases in Hamilton and the novel coronavirus is said to be "out in the community" as health officials can no longer link one local case to travel abroad.

Businesses have closed, streets have emptied, the city has shuttered most of its services and across the city people adapt to a new life of social distancing.

Here's a look at how it all unfolded:

Day 1 — Mar. 11

Hamilton area's first COVID-19 case

A poster about COVID-19 is taped on the front doors of the Juravinski Cancer Centre on March 10. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

CBC News learns a Hamilton Health Sciences radiation oncologist is the area's first confirmed positive case of COVID-19. The doctor saw 11 patients before she became symptomatic and sought testing. The doctor lives in Burlington and is officially a Halton case.

Read more here.

Hamilton Health Sciences responds

An oncologist at Hamilton Health Sciences is the city's first confirmed positive case of COVID-19. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Juravinski Cancer Centre is "open for business" and hospital officials say the situation is under control a day after learning a doctor working there had tested positive for COVID-19.

Read more here.

City of Hamilton provides update

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

Read more here.

Day 2 — Mar. 12

Hamilton's first official COVID-19 case

Dr. Bart Harvey and Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger provided an updated on the city's first confirmed case of COVID-19 Thursday. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

A 52-year-old man has tested positive for COVID-19 after returning to Hamilton from a trip to New York City. He's Hamilton's first confirmed case of the new coronavirus — and the second with a connection to the city.

Read more here.

Exposed cancer patients wait in isolation

A radiation oncologist at Hamilton Health Sciences is the city's first confirmed positive case of COVID-19. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

When Lynne Ballantyne, 76, arrived at Juravinski Cancer Centre for her radiation appointment on Wednesday, she was immediately brought into a room and told to wait — then Ballantyne learned she had been directly exposed to COVID-19. She was one of the patients who had been seen by a cancer doctor earlier in the week who had tested positive.

Read more here.

Questions arise about cancer patients in self-isolation

An oncologist at Hamilton Health Sciences is the city's first confirmed positive case of COVID-19. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

The 11 Hamilton area cancer patients who are in isolation after the doctor treating them was diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus are in unknown territory when it comes to the disease.

Read more here.

Ontario public schools shut down

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce announces the closure of schools from March 14 to April 5 as a means to help stop the spread of COVID-19 during a press conference on March 12, 2020. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The Ontario government closes all publicly funded schools across the province for two weeks in addition to the upcoming March Break as an effort to control the spread of COVID-19.

Read more here.

Parents scramble amid nixed classes

The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board will join all public schools in Ontario in extending March break by two weeks. (Christopher Langenzarde/CBC)

Thousands of parents and families in the Hamilton and Niagara region try to adjust at the last minute as news spreads that all of Ontario's publicly funded schools will close for two weeks following March Break due to concerns about COVID-19.

Read more here.

Day 3 — Mar. 13

International travel not recommended

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a COVID-19 news conference at Rideau Cottage in Ottawa. The federal government could cover some (or even most) of the direct COVID-19 related expenditures faced by Alberta, but that would barely nudge the province's daunting longer-term financial trajectory. (Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)

The federal government warns against all international travel and limits inbound flights as part of a series of measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Read more here.

Niagara's first COVID-19 case

An 84-year-old man is the Niagara Region's first confirmed case of COVID-19. Brock University and Niagara College also cancel all face-to-face classes and the City of St. Catharines announces it's closing all its recreational and community facilities to cut down on the spread of the virus.

Read more here.

Hamilton shelters still planning for COVID-19

Local food banks and shelters are planning what to do if COVID-19 reaches pandemic levels in Canada. (Submitted)

Hamilton's social service agencies say they're working out the details around what will happen if someone staying in their shelters has to isolate themselves because of COVID-19.

Read more here.

City-run programs and events suspended

Elizabeth Richardson, medical officer of health, joined Paul Johnson, the city's manager of healthy and safe communities, and Mayor Fred Eisenberger at a COVID-19 media conference Friday. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

All programs and events run by the City of Hamilton are temporarily suspended as part of its expanding COVID-19 emergency response plan.

Read more here.

Local colleges and universities go digital

McMaster University is cancelling all in-person classes and exams as of the end of the day Friday.

McMaster University and Mohawk College suspend all in-person classes as of the end of the day Friday in response to concerns about the spread of COVID-19.

Read more here.

Six Nations discuss COVID-19

From left: fire chief Matthew Miller, Chief Mark Hill, and Lori Davis-Hill, director of public health (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

In a rare move, the elected council of Six Nations of the Grand River joins forces with the confederacy chiefs council to respond to COVID-19.

Read more here.

Day 4 — Mar. 14

4 new COVID-19 cases in Hamilton

There are now 5 cases of COVID-19 in the city. A three-month-old child, a couple in their 60s and one other person account for the new coronavirus cases in Hamilton, according to Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, the city's medical officer of health. And in Halton, a Burlington woman in her 50s has also tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Read more here.

Hamilton libraries, rec centres, arenas close

The city is closing all its libraries and most other city facilities as part of the effort to contain the coronavirus. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

The decision to shutter city services follows consultation with Hamilton's Medical Officer of Health Elizabeth Richardson and is meant to protect vulnerable populations including the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, according to a media release.

Read more here.

Mayor addresses hoarding at grocery stores

Toilet paper, bottled water and canned foods are among the items flying of shelves in Hamilton amid concerns about COVID-19. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

No fighting, no hoarding and "please only take what you need." That's the message from Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger in response to bare shelves at stores across Hamilton — cleared out by people bent on stocking up amid rising concerns around COVID-19.

Read more here.

Day 5 — Mar. 15

Niagara's second COVID-19 case

Dr. Mustafa Hirji, the region's acting medical officer of health told CBC News the woman travelled to Egypt by plane in late February and returned in early March. (Niagara Region Public Health and Emergency Services)

A 55-year-old St. Catharines woman has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, marking the second confirmed case of COVID-19 in the Niagara region.

Read more here.

Nursing homes and hospitals limit visitors

Hamilton hospitals are clamping down on access to visitors as COVID-19 cases pop up in the region. (Colin Côté-Paulette)

Hamilton is following the province's orders to not allow visitors into long-term care facilities as COVID-19 cases continue to pop up in Ontario. Local malls also reduce store hours.

Read more here.

Metrolinx cuts GO services in Hamilton and Niagara

Metrolinx is reducing service on a number of Hamilton routes as COVID-19 cases pop up across the province. (Laura Howells/CBC)

Metrolinx announces reduced GO train and bus services starting Wednesday which almost completely cancel some Hamilton bus routes and affected others. 

Read more here.

Hamilton provincial offences courts close

All cases at Hamilton's provincial offences court house are closed until further notice. (Shutterstock)

In another effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the city of Hamilton stops provincial offences court services until further notice.

Read more here.

Hamilton residents fight COVID-19 with kindness

Hamilton residents are taking to stores and streets to shop on behalf of those who can't as COVID-19 cases pop up around the province.

Thousands of locals join an online group to help deliver items to those who can't afford them or can't get around the city easily.

Read more here.

Day 6 — Mar. 16

5 new COVID-19 cases in Hamilton

Mayor Fred Eisenberger told members of the media on Monday Hamilton now has 10 confirmed coronavirus cases. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

The number of coronavirus cases in Hamilton climbs to 10 after five new cases are announced Monday, but local medical officials warn they expect the number to grow fast.

Read more here.

Hamilton assessment centres open

The City of Hamilton has escalated their response to COVID-19. (Terry Asma/CBC)

A group of Hamilton health organizations say there'll be a testing centre at the Hamilton Health Sciences Urgent Care Clinic at 690 Main St. W., and another at 2757 King St. E., which is the King campus of St. Joseph's Healthcare.

Read more here.

Canada clamps down on borders

Prime Minister Trudeau says Canada will bar entry to anyone who isn’t a citizen or permanent resident to slow the spread of COVID-19 — with a few exceptions, including U.S. citizens. 2:20

Canada bars entry to all travellers who are not Canadian citizens, permanent residents or Americans, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today — one of a set of extraordinary new measures being introduced to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Read more here.

'The time to act is now'

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a news conference on COVID-19 on Sunday in Ottawa. Experts say Canadians need to embrace social distancing in order to prevent a wider outbreak. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Widespread community transmission of COVID-19 is likely underway in Canada, experts say, warning that Canadians need to heed advice from public health officials and do their part to prevent it from getting out of control.

Read more here.

'No gatherings of over 50' 

Premier Doug Ford, along with several cabinet ministers, spoke on Monday morning about measures being considered by the province to stop the spread, as well as new legislation to better protect workers who are forced to stay home. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Ontario's top medical official recommends Monday that bars and restaurants, daycares and places of worship close to help stem the spread of COVID-19, as authorities said community transmission can no longer be ruled out.

Read more here.

Day 7 — Mar. 17

COVID-19 now 'out in the community'

The city of Hamilton has its first confirmed case of COVID-19 that is not related to travel. (Evan Aagaard/CBC)

Hamilton has 15 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus as of Tuesday and its first positive case that is not related to travel. The city also introduced new isolation sites and drop-in centres open for the city's most vulnerable citizens.

Read more here.

Ontario reports 1st COVID-19-related death

Saying we must flatten the curve and slow down the spread of COVID-19, Ontario Premier Doug Ford declares a state of emergency. 9:51

"Stay home, stay informed, stay healthy and stay calm."

That was the message from Ontario's chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, as the province declared a state of emergency on Tuesday in a bid to combat the spread of COVID-19 and prevent the novel coronavirus from overwhelming the health-care system. 

Read more here.

Bar and restaurant owners close shop

Tej Sandhu is closing up Merit Brewery, his James Street North craft brewery after the province declared a state of emergency. (Jennifer LaGrassa/CBC)

Empty stools and empty tables are the scene at Hamilton's favourite businesses in the wake of a wave of closures to fight the spread of COVID-19.

Read more here.

McMaster University shutters residence

McMaster University is asking students living on campus to move out as soon as they can — and now their students are scrambling. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

McMaster University asks all students living on campus to move out as more coronavirus cases appear in Hamilton and across the country.

Read more here.

Street team help the homeless

Tim O'Shea, shown in 2017 with Dr. Christian Kraeker, says some people are being left out in COVID-19 plans. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

A street team are hitting downtown Hamilton Tuesday afternoon to reach out to the homeless and intravenous drug users, a group it says is quickly being left behind in COVID-19 plans.

Read more here.

Hamiltonians abroad look for ways back

The view from the dining hall of Gordon Morrow's hotel in Torremolinos, Spain. (Supplied by Gordon Morrow)

A Hamilton couple in Spain and an Ancaster couple in Chile don't know when they will return home as borders around the world tighten.

Read more here.

Niagara opening COVID-19 assessment centres

People leave a COVID-19 assessment centre March 14 in Ottawa. Niagara is opening its first assessment centre Tuesday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Niagara Health is opening its first COVID-19 assessment centre today, and another is on the way.

Read more here.

Day 8 — Mar. 18

4 new COVID-19 cases in Hamilton

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. (U.S. National Institutes of Health/The Canadian Press)

There are four new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Hamilton, at least four in Halton and one in Brant, according to the latest numbers from the province. The city of Hamilton is also holding a viritual town hall today to discuss the novel coronavirus.

Read more here.

HSR buses now free to ride

The HSR will be free after 6 p.m. on New Year's Eve. (Adam Carter/CBC)

In another response to promote social distancing and tend for the city's most vulnerable, HSR buses will be free to ride, but passengers must enter through the rear doors.

Read more here.

Federal aid and restricted access to U.S.

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A federal economic aid package worth $82 billion was unveiled Wednesday to help Canadian workers and businesses weather the COVID-19 storm — and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada and the U.S. have agreed to temporarily close their shared border to non-essential travel.

Read more here.

Food producers worry about supply chain

New border restrictions amid the COVID-19 outbreak have food producers wondering about the approximately 50,000 migrant workers Canadian farms depend on annually. (Jason Kryk/The Canadian Press)

While the country's top grocers assure Canadians they'll be able to keep up with demand amid the COVID-19 outbreak, food producers are expressing concern over the impact border restrictions could have on Canada's agricultural food production.

Read more here.

About the Author

Bobby Hristova


Bobby Hristova is a reporter/editor with CBC Hamilton. Email: bobby.hristova@cbc.ca

With files from CBC News