Critical Impacts from COVID-19

Hamilton Reopens - A roadmap to our new realityOur community will be forever changed as a result of the COVID-19 virus. While the impacts have been felt across all areas of the City, some municipal work and parts of our community are feeling pressures far greater than others.

As we move ahead and look forward in our continued response to the COVID-19 emergency and plan for our new reality, these areas require extra consideration, attention and problem solving. There will be a significant change to the way the City delivers these particular services due to the profound impacts that will continue as we manage this pandemic in Hamilton.

Vulnerable Sector Support

Since COVID-19 started to spread in Hamilton, the City has continued providing support for those most vulnerable in our community. This has included partnering with local support organizations to open a temporary emergency homeless shelter, establishing an emergency isolation centre, redeploying staff in order to increase community outreach, securing hotel rooms for overflow of the shelter system, expediting social housing availability and placements, installing hygiene stations in the downtown area, and working with Hamilton Food Share to provide food and other essentials to those in need. The continuing delivery and resourcing of these services requires careful thought and attention as we plan for the reopening of our city.

Recreation

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, recreation facilities were closed and programs were cancelled in March 2020. As we look ahead to our new reality, the City must find creative ways to deliver this key service to our community. Evolving and reimagining programs in order to continue providing residents with opportunities for physical fitness, social connections, community building, mental wellness, and more, will be an important consideration as we plan the reopening strategy.

Long-term Care

The City of Hamilton runs two long-term care facilities. The threat of COVID-19 and its impact on the aging population is significant, especially in settings where many people live together. The focus on infection prevention and control will be critical in the delivery of safe care in these facilities for years to come. Looking ahead to our new reality, we must consider the resourcing and other impacts that COVID-19 will have on the long-term care homes under municipal management, and the others in our community.

Child Care

On March 19, the City partnered with our three licensed home child care agencies to offer emergency home child care to eligible health care and other essential frontline workers during the pandemic, free of charge. These child care agencies worked closely with Public Health to mitigate possible exposure to COVID-19 and prioritized access for children of eligible essential workers who had no alternative child care arrangements. There are considerable capacity and financial concerns as we prepare for reopening centre-based licensed child care programs throughout the City that were closed under the Provincial Order. While requirements for reopening such as screening, personal protective equipment, enhanced cleaning, ratios for educators to children, and other details are still to be determined, it is anticipated that less than half of Hamilton’s childcare spaces will be available once programs begin to gradually reopen. This will have a significant impact on those in Hamilton who rely on child care and poses a substantial challenge for those parents looking to return to work.

Public Health Services

Hundreds of staff working in Public Health Services have been redeployed to respond to the COVID-19 emergency in Hamilton. Whether operating the Public Health Services’ COVID-19 hotline, supporting emergency response, or continuing to manage critical program delivery within Public Health Services, this group has experienced significant pressure as a result of the pandemic. Planning and resourcing for Public Health Services is essential as we plan for our continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Transit

The delivery of public transit will be fundamentally changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the measures put in place to help keep customers and operators safe during the emergency, and to ensure physical distancing on buses, has dramatically decreased the capacity of our transit system. A reduced level of service and significantly lower ridership, combined with customers choosing different ways to move around our city without having to be close to others, means public transit has been changed – potentially forever. As we look to the future, our service plans and strategies for delivering public transit will need to be adjusted to the demands of customers and our community.

Mobility

The ways residents travel and move around our city have changed dramatically since the COVID-19 emergency began. With businesses closed and many people working from home, there has been a significant decline in traffic congestion, fewer people using public transit, a lower demand for parking, and less use of taxis and ride share programs. While the future of how residents will travel in our community as we progress toward our new reality remains uncertain, we anticipate that many people who may have previously chosen public transit or ride share programs may instead choose to walk or cycle if they have access to safe and connected infrastructure – or may use their private vehicles, which could have an impact on congestion. Needs for parking and curb-side space are also expected to change significantly during the recovery period, particularly as the need for more short-term pick-up and drop-off space for restaurants and other businesses continues. As we plan for future phases in the Hamilton Reopens strategy, we must consider mobility and plan for the impacts that potential new travel choices may have on the transportation network in Hamilton.