Hamilton Spectator: ‘This pandemic has already hit tenants the hardest’: Hamilton looks to control COVID in highrises

Posted June 15, 2021

Stopping COVID spread in Hamilton highrise apartments by enforcing infection control is one step closer.

The city’s board of health voted Monday to have staff report back on how to mandate — versus the current recommend — measures in buildings that are more than 12 storeys.

“It’s 15 months later and our residents are still living in a sense of anxiety and feeling very unsafe in their homes,” said Coun. Nrinder Nann. “We have these mandatory requirements as it relates to the retail sector, the restaurant sector.”

The move comes after three highrise outbreaks in May: 235 Rebecca St. where 110 were infected, Wellington Place Apartments where 45 tested positive and the Village Apartments where 74 were infected.

Coun. Brad Clark said controlling spread is particularly important with the Delta variant soon to become the predominant strain. Delta is estimated to be 50 per cent more transmissible than the Alpha variant responsible for the outbreaks.

“Should we not be concerned that if that variant takes hold in apartments that there’s going to be issues,” he said.

While most cities also only recommend measures, the board heard that Toronto enforces them. The measures in Hamilton include staff wearing masks, signs regarding distancing and handwashing, hand sanitizer made available, disinfection of high contact surfaces twice a day, a posted cleaning schedule and free masks in common areas.

“These aren’t tough tasks for the many good operators,” said Coun. Jason

“We are simply asking for basic measures to be made mandatory in order to keep tenants safe,” she said.

Tenant and community organization ACORN says compliance is an issue when rules aren’t mandatory.

Farr, who brought forward the motion. “Unfortunately it’s the bad operators that are out there.”

The board heard from tenants about the lack of infection control at separate highrises on Hughson Street.

“I don’t want to see an outbreak at my building,” said Kathy Johnson. “This pandemic has already hit tenants the hardest.”

Claudette Gadoury says tenants have nowhere to go for help when there is no enforcement.

“I’d like to say we need it to change before it’s too late,” Rebecca Guzzo, secretary and treasurer of the Mountain ACORN branch told the board. “However, in May we saw ... an outbreak that didn’t need to happen ... so let’s prevent it from happening to another building.”

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Article by Joanna Frketich for the Hamilton Spectator

 

 

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