Calls for social distancing ignored as more Hamiltonians walk outside with others

As the government calls upon residents to stay in and avoid contact, more people are going out for walks and hikes — around other groups of people.

Hamilton has 27 cases of COVID-19 as of Sunday at noon, two of which are community spread

As the city asks people to stay inside, it seems more are going outside to get away from being cooped out inside all day. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Life in Hamilton has slowed down since COVID-19 ushered in a time of social distancing — and maybe too much so for Craig Sanderson.

"The gyms are all closed, everything is closed, I just wanted to get out and get some fresh air," he told CBC News after climbing the Chedoke Stairs on Sunday.

He spent the past weeks staying away from others. And he said he'll only become more cautious with time.

But did his fears of being infected stop him from staying inside and avoiding any unnecessary contact with the outside world?

"Today? No. Down the road? For sure."

Some groups are able to keep a distance from one another, but it is only inevitable, they will pass by someone — and usually people on both sides of the stairs draw deep breaths. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Sanderson walked with Tina and Kelton Mayner, who were among dozens of others marching up and down the Chedoke Stairs on Sunday

He admits "it's not smart" to be out as the government pleas with the public to stay inside and avoid others. Sanderson said the stair climb was an exception to his recent social distancing efforts and supports the moves to shutter public interactions.

Tina and Kelton also couldn't help getting out. And Tina said they aren't the only ones.

"I see way more people active out on the street, walking, doing anything," she said.

"Even driving your car, you see people on the side of the road out and walking ... give them social media for two weeks straight and everyone is bored of it."

Social distancing has been encouraged by the city, the province and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but residents in Hamilton continue to go out in public and visit spots like the Chedoke Stairs as the rest of the city closes down. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Hamilton has 27 cases of COVID-19 as of Sunday at noon, two of which are linked to community spread. The mayor and others have urged people to get used to social distancing — staying indoors and avoiding any unnecessary contact with others may need to occur for months.

Conservation Halton recently closed its parks after a "massive spike" in people and "poor behaviour" amid the calls for more separation.

But in Hamilton, residents of all ages trekked the roughly 300 steps this weekend. Most gasped for air as they inched closer to the summit. Some held the handrails as they ascended and descended. 

"None of us were following the six foot rule ... sometimes you're passing people, you're letting people go around you, I guess everyone here isn't very afraid," said Lauren Davis, who was climbing the stairs with her friends.

"I won't stop until the government says I'm on lockdown."

Nik Mahlman and his brother Anthony drove from Drumbo, Ont., almost an hour away, to climb the Chedoke stairs. (Bobby Hristova/CBC News)

Nik Mahlman, 17, and his family drove from almost an hour from Drumbo, Ont., to climb the stairs.

"Technically, no we weren't social distancing, but we're out for the fresh air after being trapped in the house for two weeks," he said.

While there are concerns youth who aren't feeling symptoms may expose others like seniors with weaker immune systems to the novel coronavirus, Davis said the onus is on both generations.

"I could be an asymptomatic carrier, so I'm going to do my part to not go to my grandma's house and I hope my grandma, in part because she knows I could be an asymptomatic carrier ... would not be going outside for walks where it could be crowded," she said.

"There are going to be people, unfortunately, that aren't going to listen to safety protocols so if you are vulnerable, you need to take the extra steps."


Bobby Hristova


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