Hamilton will publicly name businesses that break COVID-19 rules
City currently names 'public health' concerns, but not businesses it fines
The City of Hamilton has decided to develop a protocol where the names of businesses charged with breaking COVID-19 rules will be made public.
Ward 9 Coun. Brad Clark, who moved the motion, said he was "incredibly frustrated" to learn that a Stoney Creek restaurant had been fined $3,000 for not following COVID-19 protocols, but its name was not shared.
"In my mind, that deterrent factor is much stronger than any other factor that we have," he said at Wednesday's council meeting.
Right now, the only way to learn the name of a business charged with breaking COVID-19 rules, according to the city's planning general manager, is through a freedom of information request.
Clark said this doesn't allow the public the opportunity to decide whether they want to continue supporting a business.
Why outbreaks, but not rule-breakers?
He pointed out that the city names businesses that have outbreaks, which end up facing stigmatization even if they have followed the rules.
"[Some businesses] did everything right, and they still had an outbreak. And they've suffered for it," he said. "And yet we've got businesses who are deliberately [flouting] the laws, and we're not going to release their names to the public."
John-Paul Danko, councillor for Ward 8, echoed Clark's concerns.
"It's not fair to the businesses that are doing everything they can by the book," he said. "I wouldn't eat somewhere that didn't pass the health and safety requirements for food handling, and likewise, I'm not going anywhere near a business that hasn't passed the same requirements for COVID. I think it's really important to give our residents the opportunity to make that choice."
Council directed staff to look at sharing names by request — from the public or from the media — and through an online portal that will be updated.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger said, to date, direction to staff has been to identify public health concerns as opposed to those fined.
Ken Leendertse, the city's director bylaw, said the city will be more aggressive in their enforcement of the rules. He said they are starting "spot checks" on places identified in complaints, and will be doling out more charges.
Since the pandemic started, the city has laid 172 charges. Fifteen of those charged have been businesses, as of Nov. 8.
Hamilton public health said there were 44 new COVID-19 cases in the city on Wednesday, according to city data.
There have been a total of 2,262 confirmed infections in the city, 382 of which are active.
There have been two more deaths recorded for a total of 58. Both people were residents at Chartwell Willowgrove, which has an ongoing outbreak that started on Oct. 22. A woman in her early 90s died on Nov. 9. A man, also in his early 90s, passed away on Nov. 10. Thirty five residents at Chartwell have tested positive, as well as 21 staff for a total of 56 total cases.
There are currently 20 outbreaks, the latest being at Good Shepherd Women's Services. It was declared on Wednesday, with one patron testing positive.
An employee at Fortinos and a worker at Shoppers Drug Mart in Hamilton have also tested positive for COVID-19. The positive results were announced on Wednesday on the online database of their parent company, Loblaw. The worker at Fortinos, which is located at 65 Mall Rd., was last in the store on Nov. 7. The Shoppers Drug Mart employee last worked in the store at 801 Mohawk Road W. on Nov. 5.
A student has also tested positive at Orchard Park Secondary School. The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board received confirmation on Tuesday.
The county of Brant reported 72 active cases on Wednesday.
There have also been 353 confirmed cases of COVID-19 during the pandemic.
Five people with the virus have died, two people remain in hospital, and 276 cases are resolved.
There are three active outbreaks affecting retirement homes.
The outbreak at Brucefield Manor Retirement Home has reported 18 residents and five staff with the virus.
At Riverview Terrace Retirement Home, 10 residents have been infected with the virus, as well as three staff.
One staff member has tested positive at St. Joseph's Lifecare.
Statistics for Halton Region on Wednesday showed 476 active COVID-19 cases in the area.
There has been a total of 2,721 cases, which is 45 more than Tuesday.
Forty-three people have died, and 2,202 cases are resolved.
Burlington reported 88 active cases.
Haldimand and Norfolk reports 24 active cases of the virus.
It has seen 574 positive cases of the virus since the pandemic began.
Thirty-two people have died of the virus, and 513 cases have been resolved.
There have been 1,745 cases of COVID-19 reported in Niagara.
Data on the region's website says that 1,388 of those cases are resolved and 279 are active.
There have been 78 deaths and there are 14 active outbreaks.