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Kingston sees numerous cancellations and closures due to COVID-19 concerns

An illustration of COVID-19, a coronavirus, from the US Center for Disease Control (CDC).

For information on cancelled elementary and secondary schools across the province, see: https://www.kingstonist.com/news/provincial-government-cancelling-two-weeks-of-school-due-to-covid-19/

Although Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health maintains there are no cases of COVID-19 in the region, a number of events have been cancelled in Kingston and the area as a preventative measure.

Despite a number of rumours circulating about reported or possible cases in Kingston, the local health unit maintains there is no truth to these allegations. On Thursday, Mar. 12, 2020, KFL&A Public Health confirmed that there are no cases of COVID-19, also referred to as the coronavirus or the Wuhan coronavirus, in their catchment region.

However, on Wednesday, Mar. 11, 2020, a number of events planned in Kingston began to be cancelled.

Queen’s University

Queen’s University has decided to cancel all public Queen’s alumni and Branch events that have been scheduled through to the end of May of this year, including the QUAA Awards Gala, the Alumni Volunteer Summit, and off-campus events in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver, and the U.K.

Full refunds are being made available to everyone who has purchased a ticket for one of the events. The university says that if you have purchased a ticket, you will automatically receive a refund and a confirmation invoice by email.

“We realize that this is an inconvenience for many of you, and I want to assure you that we only took this step after thoughtful consideration,” said Karen Bertrand, the University’s Vice-Principal, Advancement in a letter to alumni.

“While there are no confirmed cases at Queen’s, our top priority remains the health, safety, and well-being of our community, both on-campus and off. And we are committed to doing everything we can to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and ease anxiety during this time of uncertainty,” Bertrand continued.

In addition to these alumni events, Queen’s has also suspended all in-person academic conferences and events in the Faculty of Health Sciences.

“Given that protection of the healthcare workforce is of paramount importance, extra measures have been recommended by our local public health authority. These measures include the cancellation, until further notice, of all academic conferences and events,” the Faculty of Health Sciences posted on their website on Wednesday.

Peter Jeffery, Director of Communications, University Relations for Queen’s expanded on the announcement.

“This is a fluid situation with lots of rumours. The University is following the guidance of Kingston Public Health and healthcare experts. The Faculty of Health Science is unique given many work in clinical environments. For that reason they have specific policies in place to protect our healthcare professionals so that they are available to provide care to the community,” Jeffery said in an email to Kingstonist. “The university remains open and we continue to monitor the situation. Current information is available on our website.

Then, on Friday, Mar. 13, 2020, the University announced that it would be suspending all undergraduate classes for a week beginning on Monday, Mar. 16, 2020. Full story on that here.

City of Kingston and Utilities Kingston

At the same time, Utilities Kingston cancelled their upcoming annual Safety Days and Wellness Fair, which had been scheduled for March 26 to 27 at Portsmouth Olympic Harbour.

“Utilities Kingston is acting on a recommendation from KFL&A Public Health to cancel our Safety Days event for 2020.  This measure is to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 to our community and our workplace,” Utilities Kingston said in a press release on Wednesday, Mar. 11, 2020. “The reason for their advice is that utility workers and our contractors maintain and operate important community infrastructure: gathering in the same location at one time is not advisable at this time.”

Additionally, The Grand Theatre has suspended all shows in the Regina Rosen Auditorium until further notice. Click here for more information on that story.

Courts

All small courts cases have been suspended and and jury trials have been put on hold until further notice.

Prison visits

Visits to all correctional facilities have been suspended until further notice and all those serving intermittent sentences on weekends have been instructed to report in but will not enter nor be held in the facilities until further notice.

Kingston Transit

Kingston Transit has announced that it will be reducing its routes as part of the City’s efforts to reduce the possible rate of COVID-19 transmission. Effective Tuesday March 17, transit routes will operate on a Saturday schedule Monday through Saturday and maintain its Sunday schedule on Sundays. Real-time apps are not expected to reflect this change and Kingston Transit notes that “additional service changes are possible.”

Kingston Seniors Association

The Kingston Seniors Association is suspending operations for three weeks, beginning on Monday, March 16.

Kingston Health Sciences Centre

The Kingston Health Sciences Centre is putting limits on family presence in their facilities. Starting Saturday, March 14, each hospital patient will be limited to one visitor at a time. This includes those in the Emergency Department, Urgent Care Centre, Cancer Centre, and women admitted to labour and delivery.

Public libraries

All Kingston Frontenac Public Library branches will be closed until Sunday, April 5. All book due dates have been automatically extended until April 14.

Dentist offices

The Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario has issued a message to all dentists in Ontario, strongly recommending that all non-essential and elective services be suspended immediately. Emergency treatment should continue.

CFB Kingston

Under direction from Chief of Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance, there is a complete international travel ban for Canadian Armed Forces members. This impacts day-to-day operations at CFB Kingston. For that full story, click here.

St. Lawrence College

According to St. Lawrence College, all on- and off-campus events planned between now and April 10 are being cancelled or postponed until a later date.

“Certain contracted bookings are being assessed on a case-by-case basis. No new bookings or plans for events hosted on our campuses will take place during this time. This applies to events where members of our external community are invited and to events that are taking place off-campus, at community locations. Decisions regarding future events will be made on a week-by-week-basis,” the College said in a press release on Thursday, Mar. 12, 2020.

“Alternate options for events like Open House and College Conversations will be explored and communicated when a plan is in place. People with concerns about events in the future, like convocation, should make their travel plans considering the possibility of cancellation to be safe. We ask people to be understanding if an external client cancels plans to come to campus,” the release continues. “SLC is acting in the best interests of our students, staff, faculty, and community partners. We appreciate that the situation is evolving quickly, and we will continue to send updates as decisions are confirmed.”

Additionally, on Friday, Mar. 13, 2020, St. Lawrence College announced it was suspending all in-person classes beginning on Monday, Mar. 16, 2020. Read more about that here.

For more information from SLC and COVID-19 preparedness, click here.

Cataraqui Centre

The Cataraqui Centre is reducing its hours as a precaution against the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Full details can be found here.

YMCA of Eastern Ontario

YMCA of Eastern Ontario will be closing for 3 weeks effective Sunday, March 15.

Goodlife Fitness Clubs

All Goodlife Fitness Clubs are closing effective Monday, March 16.

Mandarin Restaurants

All Mandarin restaurants are suspending buffet and dine-in service effective immediately.

Kingston Canadian Film Festival

And the Kingston Canadian Film Festival has cancelled the remainder of its events, too.

“As an event that brings people together, the Kingston Canadian Film Festival has been closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation. While we recognize that there are no cases of COVID-19 in our community, out of an abundance of caution KCFF has made the difficult decision to cancel the remainder of the festival,” the festival said in a release late on Thursday, Mar. 12, 2020.

“All screenings and events scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Mar. 12 or later will not occur. Ensuring the health and safety of our patrons and guests is our primary concern at this time and this includes mitigating risk and worry. We believe it is our responsibility to cancel and that exercising caution is the best course of action. Refunds will be offered. Full details will be made available on the KCFF website by noon on Friday, Mar. 13, 2020.”

Kingston Frontenac Public Libraries

All Kingston Frontenac Public Libraries have cancelled all programs through Sunday, Apr. 5, 2020 including King Con. The libraries have also extended due dates, and cancelled all room bookings, as well as intensifying cleaning at all branches. All branches will remain open at this time, however.

For more information on Public Library cancellations and changes, click here.

Kingston Frontenacs and the OHL

The Ontario Hockey League and, therefore, the Kingston Frontenacs have suspended all games until further notice. For that full story from Tim Cunningham, click here.

Boys and Girls Club of Kingston and Area

The local Boys and Girls Club was also forced to cancel an event that was meant to bring Toronto Raptors’ super fan Nav Bhatia to Kingston on Thursday, Mar. 12, 2020.

“Unfortunately, in light of recent COVID-19 related response by the NBA and the Toronto Raptors, Nav is no longer able to attend the afternoon event as he has recently been in contact with the team and does not want to put anyone at risk,” said Heather Hayhow, Supervisor of Fund Development for the Boys and Girls Club of Kingston and Area.

Bhatia was to be the keynote speaker at the Boys and Girls Club’s annual ‘Making a Difference Speaker Series,’ which he will now do via livestream. Prior to that, he was to meet with Boys and Girls Club staff and members at Holy Cross Secondary School during the afternoon.

The United Way of KFL&A

The United Way of Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) has cancelled the Masquerade event scheduled for Saturday, Mar. 14, 2020, as well.

“While there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Kingston area as of March 12, based on information provided by health authorities, the United Way feels that exercising caution at this time is the best course of action,” the local United Way said in a press release, noting that they hope to reschedule the event. “United Way KFL&A will issue a full refund to those who had planned to attend. We appreciate their support for this event and encourage everyone to take a look at and bid on the silent auction items, generously donated by many community members, if you would still like to make a contribution in some way.”

Loyalist Township Recreation Centres

On Friday, Mar. 13, 2020, Loyalist Township announced it is closing all of its Recreation Centres effective immediately.

“As the Coronavirus/COVID-19 situation evolves, protecting the health and safety of our residents is our top priority. Our Senior Leadership team have been meeting to make decisions on factors that impact operations and resident services. It is important to know that Loyalist Township has emergency plans and processes in place to monitor and address emerging issues like this one,” the municipality said in a statement.

As a precautionary measure, Loyalist Township will be cancelling all programming, rentals, and events and will close the WJ Henderson Recreation Centre, Leisure & Activity Centre and the Amherstview Community Hall to the public.  This will continue until April 6, 2020, and the Township will be in “continued contact with public health officials to evaluate our facilities beyond April 6, 2020.”

“We did not take this decision lightly. We know that our community and recreation centers serve as vital hubs for our residents. However, we also recognize that a high-volume of people pass through our facilities each day, engaging in activities and programs that make social distancing difficult. Although a difficult decision, this precautionary action is in the best interest of protecting the safety of our residents and patrons” said Loyalist Township Mayor, Ric Bresee.

Clients with membership will have an extension added to their membership once our facilities reopen. FIT Passes, program registrants and clients with facility bookings will receive a credit placed on their account.

“We ask clients to remain patient while this administration of these credits takes place,” the Township said.

Anyone with further questions is advised to:

Other community-based measures in Loyalist

  • Fire stations will be closed to the public as of March 16, 2020
  • We are reviewing plans for the Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Mar. 23, 2020
  • Enhanced cleaning measures are taking place within municipal offices
  • Reinforce messages from KFL&A Public Health within Township buildings

“As advised by our local Health Unit — and out of an abundance of caution — we are proactively making arrangements for the protection of our staff. These include an allowance for many of our internal office staff to work from home, while maintaining telephone and communication services for our residents. We acknowledge that this may create delays in some applications and approvals processes. We appreciate the patience and understanding of all as we work to protect our residents and staff,” the Township said. “It is also important to note that our Emergency Services, Utilities, Roads and Ferry staff remain on the job and continue to ensure that these services continue uninterrupted.”

For more information on COVID-19 preparedness from Loyalist Township, click here.

Seedy Saturday

The annual seed swap, sale and social, Seedy Saturday, previously scheduled for Saturday, Mar. 14, 2020, has been cancelled.

“With great regret, KASSI has decided to cancel Kingston Seedy Saturday,” said Dianne Dowling, for Kingston Area Seed System Initiative. “Stay Healthy.”

Places of Worship

Westside Fellowship Christian Reformed Church will be cancelling their 10:00 A.M. service on Sunday, March 15.

The Right Reverend Michael Oulton has directed that all Anglican churches in the Diocese of Ontario suspend their services of worship as of this Sunday (March 15) until further notice.

The Islamic Society of Kingston is closing its Evening & Weekend School from March 14 to March 23.

Edith Rankin Memorial United Church has cancelled services for March 15, March 22, and March 29. The church office will remain open, ministerial staff will be available, and many activities for small groups will continue.

Impact Church has cancelled worship services on Sunday, March 15.

Bethel Church has cancelled services on Sunday, March 15.

Bay Park Baptist has cancelled services on Sunday, March 15.

St Andrews Presbyterian Church on Clergy St has cancelled church services on Sunday, March 15.

Bayridge Alliance Church on Gardiners Rd has cancelled public worship services until further notice.

The St Patrick’s Day Dinner at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, scheduled for Sunday, March 15, has been cancelled.

Wolfe Island United Church has cancelled worship services for the next three Sundays, March 15, 22, and 29.

Rail O Rama

The 31st annual Rail O Rama event scheduled for Saturday, Mar. 14 and Sunday, Mar. 15, 2020 at The Ambassador Hotel and Conference Centre has been cancelled.

St. Georges Choir and Orchestra Concert

The St. George’s Cathedral Chamber Orchestra and Concert Choir scheduled for Saturday, Mar. 14, 2020 is cancelled.

The Merchant Taphouse

“In regards to our world’s public health pandemic, The Merchant Taphouse will be temporarily closing our doors Today, Monday, March 16, 2020. All events, specials and promotions are cancelled until further notice.” – via Facebook

Trillium Gymnastics Club

Trillium Gymnastics has suspended all programs from Saturday, Mar. 14 to Sunday, Apr. 5, 2020.

“At Trillium Gymnastics Club the health and safety of our gymnasts, their families, and volunteers are of utmost importance,” the Club said in a post on Facebook. “Thank you for your patience in this matter. We will continue to make decisions and update regularly as information becomes available.”

Those people currently registered in Trillium programming, including the Club’s March Break camp, will receive email updates from the club.

March Break camps

  • The March Break Hoopskills Basketball Camp has been cancelled
  • Blue Canoe Productions’ Theatrical Camp has been cancelled
  • Trillium Gymnastics Club’s March Break Camp has been cancelled

Message from KFL&A Public Health

Suzette Taggart, Manager of Communications for KFL&A Public Health, explained why health authorities are urging people not to gather for large events.

“There are currently no confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in our area (KFL&A); but this is an evolving situation that event organizers should/need to be aware of when they are considering the risk associated with hosting their even,” Taggart said. “The rationale for the potential health risks of large group gatherings include: increased crowds, restricted points of access or exit increasing high touch areas (e.g. doors, elevators), and not enough room so people can keep a safe distance from each other (recommended to stay 2 metres away from others re: coughing or sneezing and droplet transmission).”

Taggart suggested the following risk considerations for event organizers:

  • Consideration of the population attending the gathering (e.g., may not want to risk seniors (vulnerable population) or critical service providers like health care workers becoming ill)
  • Event activities – physical contact versus being outside (e.g., when outdoors there is generally more room for people and they can stay a distance of at least 2 metres from others)
  • Crowding – indoor or outdoor; social distancing is better when event is held outdoors as you can stay a further distance away from others
  • Event duration – longer event presents more opportunity for transmission/spread (e.g., three-day conference versus an hour meeting)
  • Event resources – are handwashing stations available/ social distancing of at least 2 metres/ no buffet
  • Geographical and demographics considerations – COVID-19 situation in our area – also consider if the people are coming from another area (what is the COVID-19 situation there)
  • Health system capacity – considering COVID-19 testing is impacting health system; consider if the gathering would further burden the system (e.g., St. Patrick’s Day – overconsumption of alcohol; injuries, etc. may increase emergency services and emergency room visits)

“Our recommendation is to avoid large crowds and keep ample space between yourself and others. The organizers of larger events (mass gatherings) should use the list of risks above to assess whether they should have their event or cancel it. We are working together with community partners to provide any direction as requested,” Taggart said.

Message from Dr. David Walker

In light of these recommendations, Dr. David Walker, Special Advisor to the Principal on Planning and Preparation for COVID-19 at Queen’s University, is urging students to exercise caution with St. Patrick’s Day festivities planned in the coming days.

“I’m a realist, and I realize that people get together and celebrate around St. Patrick’s Day, like they do at Homecoming and other times. The message for getting through now is that, although the risk is low, and we don’t have any cases at the moment in Kingston – I mean, we will eventually, but we don’t at the moment – the problem is protecting the health care system,” Walker said.

Walker explained that, in a crowd like those that tend to gather for St. Patrick’s Day parties where a number of people come from other cities to partake in the revelry, there may very well be someone who has COVID-19 in the crowd. Because young people for the most part don’t get very sick with COVID-19, they may have the beginning stages of the illness and be shedding the virus without knowing it. This is an issue for two reasons, he explained.

The first is that, if someone with COVID-19 gets intoxicated to the point that paramedics are called and they are taken to hospital in ambulance, the problem is not for the student so much as it is for the healthcare system. The paramedics and emergency doctors and nurses would have to be quarantined, not to mention those who are waiting to be admitted to hospital, or possibly waiting to return to a nursing home who may pick up the virus.

“The moment this virus gets into nursing homes and into the hospital, we’re in a very serious situation,” Walker said. “So this is different from the average St. Patrick’s Day. Every time St. Patrick’s Day comes along, a number of students end up having to go to emergency. That’s a problem in and of itself, but we have handled it in the past. This would be different because one of them might be carrying this virus, and that would be really serious for all concerned.”

The other issue is that, because young people don’t get very sick after contracting COVID-19, students could become infected and not know it.

“You might get infected without knowing it and go home and see your grandparents, or your parents, or your best friend who is getting cancer treatment,” Walker said.

Queen’s University has put together a page dedicated to informing students about the risks associated with large gatherings on St. Patrick’s Day, which is available here.

And while Walker underlined that, despite various rumours that are circulating on social media, there are no cases that have tested positive on Queen’s campus.

“People get sick all the time, so there are a number of people who have been tested and obviously at any given time in southeast Ontario there are people who have symptoms and are tested and are waiting for results,” he said, “But there is no case on campus. We fully expect that sooner or later there will be, and the University has got vast amounts of people working hard on contingencies for whatever it is that happens.”

Walker indicated that the University may change the way they do things in the future based on advice from Public Health, such as how they handle classes, exams and gatherings, and that Principal Patrick Deane has banned international travel by staff, faculty and students, just because it gets so complicated with people going places all over the world.

But for now, he said, it’s important that people stay informed with the most up-to-date information available – and heed the advice of those in the know. With that in mind, he offered a final sentiment.

“I hope it’s a quiet St. Patrick’s Day,” he said.

Resources

For more information on COVID-19 from KFL&A Public Health, which is updated daily, click here.

For information on preparedness on the part of the City of Kingston, click here.

For more information on the virus and how Queen’s University is preparing and handling the situation, click here.

For more information on COVID-19 from the Ontario Ministry of Health, click here.

Kingstonist will continue to monitor this story and update this article if any further cancellations due to COVID-19 concerns occur.

2 Shares

4 thoughts on “Kingston sees numerous cancellations and closures due to COVID-19 concerns

  • March 12, 2020 at 4:18 pm
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    Perhaps given the risk of crucial medical staff being infected with COVID-19 while treating intoxicated party goers, and the potentially deadly effects this exposure could have on people attending the hospital emergency room for legitimate health care and treatment, perhaps Queen’s University should set up their own facilities to look after inebriated students instead of them attending KGH or HDH when they have consumed too much alcohol. I have often thought that Queen’s should provide accommodation for inebriated students instead of utilizing valuable hospital services that support the surrounding community. It would be a tragedy if someone lost their life due to a cardiac event or other medical condition due to hospital overcrowding and the use of doctors, nurses, and valuable hospital facilities as babysitting services for those who don’t know when to stop consuming alcohol.

  • March 13, 2020 at 10:53 pm
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    It’s too bad Queen’s didn’t ban international travel before reading week when so very many left Canada. Who knows what they came in contact with on the planes, in the airports and at their destinations and brought back to the rest of us.

  • March 15, 2020 at 1:21 am
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    If all the schools are closed, should it not be also mandatory to close all the daycares in Kingston? Some of the children who go to school go to these daycare after school programs and they could be infecting the teachers and other children, basically because the kids are not in school, they will be filling up these programs to accomadate for not being in school. There is no difference between them being at school and at the daycare programs, they are just moving to a different location. We as educators are still in danger of being in larger crowds with children who are constantly coughing in our faces every day!! Please make it mandatory for all licenced daycares in Kingston to close as well!!

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