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Novel coronavirus: COVID-19 

With the declaration of a Provincial State of Emergency the City is exercising an abundance of caution and has moved forward with a temporary closure of all City facilities to the public, to limit spread of the virus. This effort comes alongside others underway to limit the spread of the virus, protect staff and most importantly our residents.

Our Path Forward - STC Framework for Recovery

On June 3, 2020, City Council endorsed the STC Framework For Recovery outlining the City's path forward toward post-COVID-19 recovery. The framework outlines dozens of action items that will guide the City in reopening of facilities and restoration of services while protecting the health of the community. For more information check out our recovery portal at engageSTC.ca.

What we are doing

We have declared a state of emergency. The City of St. Catharines is taking COVID-19 seriously, and in following the advice of provincial and federal leaders is making significant changes to services and programming to help protect health and well being of the community. As a precautionary measure to ensure continued containment of the virus the City has enacted enhanced disinfection efforts at City facilities, and will enact a series of closures.

For more information please keep reading, or check out the City's COVID-19 State of Emergency FAQ.

State of Emergency

On April 3, 2020, the City of St. Catharines, along with the Region and other Niagara municipalities declared a state of emergency in anticipation of a surge of local cases of COVID-19 in the coming weeks.

What is a declaration of emergency?

Under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act the Mayor, or their designate, has the authority to declare an emergency in response to a situation, or impending situation, that presents a major danger that could result in serious harm to residents or substantial damage to property.

Why are we declaring an emergency?

We want to highlight how serious the COVID-19 situation is, and the importance of efforts to slow the spread of the virus. The actions the City, and residents, take over the coming weeks will be critical if a rapid increase in cases is to be prevented. Rapid local transmission could overwhelm the health care system and have dramatic impacts on the health of residents and City staff, possibly impacting the delivery of services.

The declaration underscores the continued importance of efforts to flatten the transmission curve, reminding residents that even as faith-based holidays approach and the weather improves they must continue to do their part by following the advice of public health officials, and orders put in place by the Province, to:

  • Self isolate and stay home whenever possible
  • Maintain physical separation of two metres
  • Avoid gatherings of over five people
  • Wash their hands regularly
  • Routinely disinfect surfaces
  • Observe mandatory closures of non-essential businesses and outdoor recreational amenities
  • Follow mandatory 14-day quarantines when returning from travel outside of the province

Declaring an emergency allows us to not only draw attention to how important public cooperation is and how serious the COVID-19 situation could become, but also allows the City to act more quickly in its decision making in response to the virus.

Are we more at risk now that an emergency has been declared?

No, the declaration does not mean the risk is greater, it does however recognize with the beginning of community spread and the efforts on behalf of the City, residents and businesses to reduce the spread are more important than ever. This potential for increased spread in the community meets the criteria of potential immediate risk to declare an emergency.

Does this impact how the City will deliver services?

At this time the City is continuing with its current efforts such as facility closures while continue its ongoing efforts to deliver important services to its residents. Currently there is no impact on these core services. The declaration means, should things rapidly escalate or change, the City will be able to move swiftly to ensure services such as water and transportation are not interrupted.

What does this mean to me?

It means residents must continue to do their part in limiting the spread of the virus, following the suggestions of public health, and orders from the Province of Ontario. Those found violating Provincial orders could face fines.

 Facility Closures

Currently closed City facilities include:

While city facilities are closed to the public, residents can still access City services online, or contact Citizens First by emailing citizensfirst@stcatharines.ca or calling 905-688-5600, Monday to Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Alternative options for those needing to make a payment can be found at www.stcatharines.ca/paymentoptions.

Service Disruptions and Cancellations

As a result of facility closures, and efforts to limit in-person interactions and slow the spread of COVID-19, some City services, programs and activities have been suspended until further notice. Despite these interruptions the City continues to ensure essential services are provided to residents.

City Hall Services by Appointment

Starting on Aug. 10, 2020 residents and visitors will once-again be able to access City Hall for a variety of services following several months of closure due to COVID-19.

The majority of services, including those being offered in-person by appointment, will continue to be offered via remote formats. Access to City Hall will be by appointment only. Residents can now book appointments for dates / times beginning on Aug. 10. With limitations on staffing and building occupancy remote service delivery is still preferred.

For a full list of services available by appointment, and more information, please visit our Citizens First page.

Mandatory Masks By-law

On July 13, 2020, St. Catharines City Council passed By-Law No. 2020-97, requiring that all visitors and staff in enclosed public spaces to wear a face mask or covering at all times.

By-law came into effect on July 17, 2020. For more information please visit our Masks By-law page.

Please note: the Niagara Region has also passed a mandatory mask by-law that applies to the entirety of Niagara, with further stipulations and exemptions including the requirement that children five and older wear a face covering. Visit the Region's mask by-law page for more information.

Emergency Orders Enforcement

Currently under provincial orders certain non-essential businesses are required to remain closed while others must operate under certain safety protocols, and public gatherings of more than five (ten people starting June 12) are prohibited. Residents who are concerned with individuals or groups violating Provincial emergency orders can report them via our online form for investigation, or to Citizens First via phone at 905.688.5600 or by email at CitizensFirst@stcatharines.ca.

Outside of normal business hours, contact Niagara Region’s dispatch line at 905.984.3690 or 1.877.552.5579. Do not call 911.

COVID-19 Orders Noncompliance Complaint Form

 

Victoria Lawn Cemetery

Recognizing the importance for many of visiting the graves of loved ones the City of St. Catharines allows access to Victoria Lawn Cemetery during the COVID-19 State of Emergency.

This access applies to cemetery business only, specifically:

  • Funeral services
  • Burials
  • Visiting of graves

Visitations should be short, and gardening of grave sites will not be permitted. Access is walk in only. Mausoleums are open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

While the cemetery remains accessible for the purposes above the City would like to reiterate that the Victoria Lawn Cemetery should not be used for recreational purposes. Walk-through access is permitted but individuals are asked to be respectful of services and grave-site visitors by avoiding use of the cemetery as a recreational space for activities such as jogging or cycling. 

If visiting a grave please be sure to follow the recommendations of Public Health officials, and Emergency Orders from the Province by:

  • Maintaining a safe physical separation from others of two metres
  • Never gathering in groups of more than five (ten people starting June 12) people

Short-term parking is available; however, visitors should remember to avoid blocking gates or barricades. With limited parking space please be courteous of others when visiting, and allow room for other vehicles to exit.

Emmett Road remains a designated no-parking zone.

For more information on safety measures and restrictions on funeral services during the COVID-19 State of Emergency visit our Cemeteries page.

Garage Sales

The City of St. Catharines strongly discourages hosting of garage sales at this time.

While Provincial Emergency Orders don't prohibit yard sales, the orders do prohibit gatherings and public events of more than five individuals. Furthermore the City, and Niagara Region Public Health advise against non-essential travel and activities. The City understands with warm weather returning many residents will be undertaking a spring clean, and with it may want to partake in hosting a yard sale to dispose of unwanted items. This year might be one to consider forgoing the yard sale, given the COVID-19 transmission risks associated with individuals congregating on the lawn, not only to your household, but to those who attend. A garage sale won't only impact your property, it could impact neighbours, creating concerns for their health and well-being as well.

Instead individuals should consider selling items online through portals such as Kijiji, Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. The Niagara Regional Police offer an Internet Transaction Zone outside the Unit 3 Detachment on Lincoln Street in Welland, providing a safe space for buyers and sellers to meet for online sales.

Individuals who still choose to host a garage sale should endeavor to limit the spread of COVID-19 by:

  • Limiting the total number of individuals in attendance to no more than five (ten people starting June 12), themselves included. This must be done to remain in compliance with Provincial Emergency Orders
  • Ensure the ability to practice physical distancing of at least two metres for all in attendance
  • Provide for hand washing / sanitizing
  • Limit physical touching of items for sale
  • Clearly mark prices to limit the need for personal interactions
  • Consider using electronic payment methods such as e-transfers
  • Request exact change

Bid and Tenders

To assist in the containment of COVID-19 the City will suspend public tender openings until further notice. The City will continue to ensure that unofficial bid results are made available on the City’s Bids and Tenders website. Unofficial results will be made publicly available before the end of business day, on the day of closing. All other processes as outlined in the request for tender document(s) will remain unchanged unless formally amended by addendum.

Building Permits

Permits are being issued for all type of construction with the following limitations and restrictions:

Please be advised that the issuance of this permit is subject to all restrictions and prohibitions under the law. More specifically, this permit does not mean that construction can be carried out in contravention of any Act, Regulation and/or provincial order prohibiting construction deemed non-essential. Please note that you must review the list of construction projects deemed essential and it is recommended that you seek legal opinion to determine whether the project is deemed essential under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA) and its Regulations, as amended, before proceeding with construction in order to avoid contravention of the law. Construction projects deemed non-essential are prohibited. Please further note that Inspections will only be carried out on construction projects deemed essential under the EMCPA and its Regulations, as amended.

Permit applications are being accepted by mail / courier.

Payments

While City Hall remains closed to the public, residents have several payment options for property tax, water bills and parking tickets that can be done from the comfort and safety of their own home.

Water and tax payments can be made via online banking through a resident’s financial provider. Cheques can also be mailed to the City. Details on these methods of payment are available at www.stcatharines.ca/paymentoptions.

All payments can also be made via cheque at the City Hall drop box, located at the James Street entrance. Do not deposit cash via the drop box.

The City also offers pre-authorized payment for water / wastewater and property taxes. Preauthorized debit agreements are available online at www.stcatharines.ca/preauthorizedpayment.

COVID-19 Property Tax Penalty and Interest Relief Program

The City has introduced a Property Tax Penalty and Interest Relief Program for St Catharines residential property owners who have been financially affected as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The program will extend the second interim property tax and final property tax deadlines of June 30 and July 31 and October 30 to November 30, 2020.*

Eligibility:

  • You can only apply for relief for a taxable residential property that is your primary residence.
  • All property taxes must be paid in full up to and including the February 2020 Interim Installment.
  • You have experienced severe demonstrable financial hardship directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic because of temporary or permanent loss of employment or a decrease in income of greater than 70 percent.
  • Applications must be received in our office on or before August 31, 2020, to be considered.

*Applicants are encouraged to make any possible payments towards your tax accounts during this period.

Apply now for COVID-19 Property Tax Penalty and Interest Relief Program.

 

Previously, a payment grace period was introduced for property taxes to support residents and businesses. This is replaced by the COVID-19 Property Tax Penalty and Interest Relief Program mentioned above.

 

During a special meeting on Friday, March 27, Council approved a series of measures aimed at supporting residents and businesses with the costs of municipal taxes and services. The approved measures, which include some previously announced, are as follows:

  • Deferring the April 30 interim tax instalment to June 30; June 30 to July 31; and Sept. 30 to Oct. 30
  • Waiving tax penalty and interest charges until June 30
  • Waiving water and wastewater penalty and interest charges until June 30
  • Waiving accounts receivable penalty and interest charges until June 30
  • Waiving charges for any cheques or pre-authorized payments returned for non-sufficient funds or payments stopped by the payer
  • Amending the 2020 final tax levy instalment dates to July 31 and October 30
  • Deferring the 2020 water and wastewater increase from April 1 to Aug. 
  • Waiving payment for on-street parking, municipal parking lots and garages
  • Suspending any water service disconnections for non-payment of water and wastewater billings until June 30
  • Waiving late fees for 2020 dog licences
  • Waiving late fees for 2020 general business licences

Pre-authorized payments for tax instalments have been deferred until June 30 but monthly pre-authorized payments will continue unless suspended in writing by the payer. The City will continue to process pre-authorized payments for water, unless suspended in writing by the payer.

If you have any further questions related to the deferal of April interim tax instalments check out our Tax Payment Deferal FAQ.

Taxpayers can use the City’s online e-bill portal to access water and tax information. A link to the portal, and information on how to register, is available at www.stcatharines.ca/ebilling.

Residents who have purchased or sold a property can use our online form to ensure their information is up to date and to notify the City of a new water account or account closure.

 

 City operations

Water, sewer, road and core infrastructure maintenance as well as construction that is deemed critical will continue. As well, the City will continue to maintain our buildings, cutting grass in parks and sports field to control weeds, overgrowth and ticks. This will also allow the City to open these facilities more quickly once the emergency is past and ensures no additional costs are incurred to bring parks and fields up to appropriate standards.

The City takes the safety of our employees seriously and regularly consults with the Ministry of Labour and the regional, provincial, and federal public health agencies. The City is safeguarding municipal staff by taking a series of measures to limit contact between employees and the public, and minimize exposure to COVID-19.

For those employees that are at work, we have taken many steps to minimize the risk, including but not limited to:

  •  Staggering shift starting times to minimize the number of staff at dispatch;
  • Increasing the frequency of cleaning our vehicles and facilities;
  • Deploying staff to satellite locations to minimize the number in any one area;
  • Providing hand cleaning stations to all crews;
  • Changing our punch clock operating procedures to a touchless operation;
  • Changing how we do our business to minimize staff interactions.
  • Where possible, separating workplaces using physical distancing guidelines.

Many of the essential services that the City provides require the employees to work in crews to perform the work safely. Guidelines around COVID – 19 do not replace existing health and safety regulations. Work that required crews before this emergency, still requires crews during the emergency.

St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre

The St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre has reopened to the public. However, visitors must arrange an appointment to visit and tour the facility. 

Check out the museum's webpage or Facebook page for more information.

Business Licences

New Business Licences will still be processed if accompanied with a cheque via the James Street drop box at City Hall, and issued once the facility reopens. 

Business Licence renewals can be processed if submitted via the James Street drop box with a cheque, and issued once City Hall reopens.

 Further information

Knowledge of COVID-19, including ways to limit transmission, is important for all residents as the City works to limit the spread of the virus. 

 What is COVID-19?

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

The new (novel) coronavirus is a new virus in this family which we have not previously seen.

Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • New cough
  • Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
  • In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, and rarely, death

How can you limit the spread

There are simple measures every resident can take to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our community, including:

  • Washing hands often with soap and water
  • Using alcohol-based hand sanitizer if hand washing is not possible
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
  • Social distancing: stay home and only leave for food and other essentials, preferably only once per week
  • Covering the nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing with a tissue or arms and sleeves 
  • Avoid touching of the face, eyes, mouth and eyes
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces
  • Staying home if sick
  • Avoid all non-essential international travel, as recommended by Provincial and Federal health authorities 
  • Avoiding sharing of personal items
  • Wear a mask when physical distancing is difficult or not an option

Self isolation

Individuals asked or ordered to self isolate due to recent travel or possible exposure should:

  • Not go to work, child care, or other public areas for 14 days
    • If you develop symptoms within 14 days of your self-isolation period, you must remain in self-isolation for an additional 14 days from the day your symptoms started OR 24 hours after your symptoms have stopped, whichever is longer
  • Separate themselves from others from others
    • Sleep in a separate room
    • Have a bathroom in your home dedicated to only you (if possible)
    • Maintain a distance of two metres from other people
  • Not have guests or visitors over
  • Clean hands often
  • Not use public transportation, ride sharing companies or taxis
  • Cancel non-urgent appointments until the end of the monitoring period
  • Avoid close contact with others, including those in their home as much as possible
  • Make alternate arrangements to support children and other dependents
  • Ask a friend or family member to help get a supply of groceries and other necessities, the isolating individual(s) should not under any circumstances go themselves

Individuals in self-isolation who need to go out for any reason, call the Public Health Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Info Line at 905-688-8248 ext. 7019 or 1-888-505-6074, and a nurse will provide you with detailed instructions to follow.

Travel and COVID-19

If you have traveled outside of Canada and returned on March 13 or after, you are required to self isolate for a 14-day period. See the the information above, and additional resources below for more information on self isolation.

Call ahead to allow health care staff to take appropriate precautions.

 Additional Resources and Information

Please visit the following links for further information related to COVID-19, including testing, case tracking and affected areas:

 

 

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