“Not what we should be doing”: few masks, no social distancing at crowded Falls attractions

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The scene in the video looks like a typical summer night in Clifton Hill – before COVID-19.The popular Niagara Falls Tourist Boardwalk is packed with people lining up for attractions, pushing strollers through the crowds, some holding balloons.

A few wear masks, but this is the only sign of the pandemic which has infected more than 800 people in the Niagara region and killed 64.

The response to the video was quick.

Residents have taken to social media to share their shock at the lack of physical distance and other measures to curb the spread of the virus. And, on Thursday, Mayor Jim Diodati announced a new team of ambassadors who will patrol the area offering hand sanitizer, selling masks and reminding people to stay at least two meters away from one of the ‘other.

The program will begin immediately, he said, and each person will be wearing a yellow highlighter shirt with the words “Crush the Curve” on it.

“There will be dozens of them and they will be on both sides of Clifton Hill, from top to bottom,” Diodati said.

The video, uploaded to YouTube by an account called Amusement Insiders, is titled “SHUT DOWN Niagara Falls”.

Brendon Cross, whose email address is associated with the channel, confirmed it was registered on July 18.

“Watching the video was quite disappointing,” said Dr. Mustafa Hirji, Acting Medical Officer of Health for Niagara.

“I think it’s absolutely essential that people see this video and take note that this is not what we should be doing. ”

Crowds at Clifton Hill 1:45

Hirji specifically pointed out large gatherings with a lack of physical distance and noted that “very few people seem to be wearing headgear,” he said.

It is important that people wear masks, stay at least two meters apart and continue to wash their hands, he said. Crowds run the risk of allowing the virus to spread and it is extremely difficult to trace who could have been exposed if there was a positive case.

“It sounds a lot like people who think things are back to normal, that the pandemic is over, we have conquered it, so they can go back to their previous behaviors,” Hirji said.

Ambassadors will wear bright shirts with the words “Crush the Curve”. (Dan Taekema / CBC)

Jim Taber said he saw it for the first time shared on Facebook and that “Wow, this is crazy. ”

The 64-year-old man and his wife retired and moved to Niagara Falls four years ago. They typically visited Clifton Hill at least twice a month, but that has stopped since the start of the pandemic.

“We avoid it pretty much like the plague,” he said.

Stopping the karts

Taber was particularly struck by people “lined up like cattle” to ride Niagara Speedway go-karts.

“You can clearly see that people just aren’t paying attention to distance. No one wears a mask and I find that very disturbing. ”

In fact, the karts were closed on Thursday after a track worker tested positive for COVID-19.

Joel Noden, marketing director for HOCO Limited, said a teenager, who would help check seat belts and straighten spinning karts, was called ill on July 15 after working five shifts at the attraction .

Niagara Speedway Go karts were temporarily closed after a staff member tested positive for the virus on Sunday. (Dan Taekema / CBC)

The company discovered the positive test on Sunday, Noden said, and has since checked security footage to track workers’ movements and order anyone who came in contact with him to self-isolate.

Masks are mandatory for all workers and the track was already cleaning helmets and disinfectant straps, so Noden said he was not worried about customers being exposed.

“When we spoke with the person from the health department, they said the contact was so minimal and the precautions were in place… with the headgear and everything,” he said.

Diodati said he and his family had actually passed Clifton Hill the day the video was shot and were struck by how busy it was.

Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati announces the Ambassadorial Program in front of the Niagara SkyWheel on July 23, 2020 (Dan Taekema / CBC)

Officials are not sure why the surge in visitors has occurred, but the mayor said the falls were lit to celebrate Colombia’s 201 years of independence and that many who came to view the exhibit were are found in attractions thereafter.

The region is heavily dependent on tourism and has struggled during the pandemic, but Diodati said the video reminded him to “be careful what you wish”.

He admitted the city is still working on how best to handle the crowds and noted that the Niagara Regional Council will vote on a mandatory mask bylaw Thursday evening.

In the meantime, he hopes the ambassadors, who will be funded by the local tourism industry, will help protect visitors.

“We will focus on compliance rather than conviction to get the message across that we all have a responsibility to make sure customers are safe, to make sure employees are safe and to keep our business safe. community”. he said.

Clifton Hill is a popular tourist walk in the heart of Niagara Falls that offers a range of attractions and restaurants. (Dan Taekema / CBC)

For his part, Taber said he would continue to wear a mask in public and plan to stay away from Clifton Hill and other local attractions until the virus subsides.

“The falls will be here when it’s over. We will then go down, ”he explained. “But at our age, if we catch COVID, we run the risk of never being able to come down to the falls again. “

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