Transcript: How Does Virus Spread in Apartment Buildings? | May 21, 2021

Jeyan sits in the studio. He's is in his thirties, with short black hair and a trimmed beard. He's wearing a blue suit, white shirt, and striped blue tie.

A caption on screen reads "How does virus spread in apartment buildings? Jeyan Jeganathan. @JeyanTVO. @theagenda."

Jeyan says DURING THE THIRD WAVE OF COVID-19, HAMILTON, ONTARIO HAS SEEN AT LEAST THREE OUTBREAKS IN APARTMENT TOWERS. JUSTIN CHANDLER COVERS THE HAMILTON-NIAGARA REGION FOR OUR ONTARIO HUBS, AND HE JOINS US FROM THE HAMMER ON WHAT'S DRIVING THE SPREAD IN THOSE SETTINGS.

Justin is in his twenties, clean-shaven, with short brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit and a blue sweater.

Jeyan continues GOOD TO SEE YOU, JUSTIN.

Justin says HEY, JEYAN. THANKS.

Jeyan says ALL RIGHT. SO LET'S GET TO IT. CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE SITUATION IN HAMILTON WHEN IT COMES TO APARTMENT OUTBREAKS SPECIFICALLY?

A screenshot from the TVO website pops up showing an article. It reads "tvo.org/OntarioHubs. Coronavirus. What's driving apartment building outbreaks? By Justin Chandler."

The caption changes to "Justin Chandler. Hamilton-Niagara Ontario Hub Journalist."

Justin says WELL, UNTIL VERY RECENTLY, MAY 4TH TO BE EXACT, WE DIDN'T ACTUALLY KNOW THAT THERE WERE ANY APARTMENT OUTBREAKS IN HAMILTON. OF COURSE, CASES HAPPENED IN APARTMENTS. THEY HAPPEN EVERYWHERE. SO THERE WAS ALWAYS THE ASSUMPTION THAT THEY COULD HAPPEN. BUT IT WASN'T UNTIL THAT DAY THAT HAMILTON PUBLIC HEALTH IDENTIFIED AN OUTBREAK AT THE REBECCA TOWERS, AND THE FOLLOWING WEEK, THEY IDENTIFIED TWO MORE, ONE AT THE VILLAGE APARTMENTS AND ONE AT THE WELLINGTON PLACE APARTMENTS. SO NOW WE'VE GOT THREE APARTMENT OUTBREAKS IN THE CITY AND AS OF US RECORDING THIS OVER 220 PEOPLE HAVE BEEN INFECTED AND ONE PERSON HAS DIED IN THESE OUTBREAKS.

Jeyan says NOW, IT SEEMS PRETTY OBVIOUS WITH APARTMENT BUILDINGS WHEN YOU COMPARE IT TO, YOU KNOW, A STANDALONE HOME, THE CHALLENGES IN ISOLATING AND PHYSICAL DISTANCING. BUT WHAT ARE PUBLIC HEALTH OFFICIALS SAYING ABOUT THESE OUTBREAKS? WHAT DO THEY BELIEVE IS ATTRIBUTED TO IT?

The caption changes to "Justin Chandler, @mr_lois_lane."

Justin says EVER SINCE THE START WITH THE REBECCA CASE HAMILTON PUBLIC HEALTH HAS BEEN CONSISTENT IN SAYING THAT THEY BELIEVE SOCIALIZATION BETWEEN RESIDENTS IS THE CAUSE OF THIS. AND THEY SAID THAT'S NOT NECESSARILY PEOPLE GOING OVER FOR A GAB, BUT MAYBE PEOPLE GOING TO DELIVER GROCERIES TO SOMEBODY OR TRYING TO HELP SOMEONE OUT WITH CHILD CARE. BUT THE RESIDENTS SAY THIS CAN'T EXPLAIN EVERYTHING. THEY DISAGREE THAT THAT'S WHAT THEY THINK HAS BEEN CAUSING THIS AND THEY BELIEVE PUBLIC HEALTH NEEDS TO LOOK AT TWO OTHER PLACES. THE FIRST OF THOSE THAT THEY IDENTIFY IS THAT ONLY ONE OF THE ELEVATORS IN THE BUILDING HAS BEEN WORKING FOR THE PAST SEVERAL MONTHS. SO THERE HAVE BEEN PEOPLE IN THIS 17-STOREY BUILDING, EVERYBODY HAS BEEN USING ONE ELEVATOR AND THEY SAY THAT'S LED TO CROWDING. THE OTHER THING TENANTS HAVE SAID IS THEY WORRY ABOUT AIR FLOW. THEY BELIEVE THERE'S INADEQUATE VENTILATION, WHICH PUBLIC HEALTH HAS NOT AGREED WITH BUT IS GETTING THE BUILDING TO INSPECT, AND THEY SAY THAT POTENTIALLY CoVID-19 GETS AIRBORNE AND TRANSMITS BETWEEN UNITS. AS FAR AS THE OTHER TWO BUILDINGS, WE'RE NOT REALLY SURE YET, BUT THERE ARE INVESTIGATIONS TAKING PLACE.

Jeyan says OKAY. SO WITH RESPECT TO VENTILATION, I ACTUALLY WANT TO PULL UP A CLIP OF DAVID ELMSTROM, AN ENGINEER SPEAKING TO HAMILTON CITY COUNCIL EARLIER THIS YEAR.

A clip plays on screen with the caption "May 17, 2021. David Elfstrom."
In the clip, David Elfstrom speaks on screen. He's in his fifties, clean-shaven, with short, receding gray hair.

He says UNITS ARE NOT SEALED SO AIR DOES MOVE BETWEEN UNITS AND WE KNOW THIS FROM MANY INDOOR AIR QUALITY STUDIES, ESPECIALLY IN THE OLDER BUILDINGS. POINT 3, THESE CONTAMINANTS BUILD UP AND SPREAD TO OTHER UNITS. STALE, CONTAMINATED AIR IS EXHAUSTED FROM THE KITCHEN AND THE BATHROOMS. IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE. MAKEUP AIR SHOULD BE SUPPLIED FROM THE CORRIDORS UNDER THE DOOR. IF THE EXHAUST IS WEAK, THOSE CONTAMINANTS BUILD UP AND IT MAKES IT VERY HIGHLY LIKELY THAT THERE WILL BE TRANSMISSION WITHIN THE PARTICULAR UNIT FROM PERSON TO PERSON.

The clip ends.

Jeyan says HAS THERE BEEN ANY PROOF THAT THE PROBLEMS AT REBECCA TOWERS IS DUE TO POOR OUTDATED VENTILATION SYSTEMS? JUST WATCHING THAT CLIP, I IMAGINE TENANTS MAY START TO... YOU KNOW, WOULD BE CONCERNED HEARING THINGS LIKE THAT.

Justin says WELL, CERTAINLY. I'M A TENANT AND AS SOON AS I INTERVIEWED DAVID FOR MY PIECE, I WENT AROUND AND I CHECKED ALL THE VENTILATION IN MY APARTMENT TO MAKE SURE THAT AIR WAS FLOWING WHERE IT'S SUPPOSED TO FLOW. AND I THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE CONCERNED ABOUT THIS. BUT IT'S SOMETHING WHERE THERE HAVEN'T REALLY BEEN IDENTIFIED CASES IN ONTARIO, AT LEAST NOT ACCORDING TO PUBLIC HEALTH ONTARIO, AND HAMILTON PUBLIC HEALTH HAS ALSO SAID THAT THEY'VE NOT BEEN ABLE TO IDENTIFY ANY CASES WHERE THIS HAS HAPPENED. HOWEVER, HAMILTON'S MEDICAL OFFICER OF HEALTH, DR. RICHARDSON, NOTED THAT THERE ARE CASES WHERE IT HAS HAPPENED. AND WE KNOW THAT CoVID IS AIRBORNE AND IT'S A POSSIBILITY. SHE ALSO SAID IT'S HARD TO IDENTIFY. SO THAT LEAVES SOME QUESTIONS. THERE'S ALSO RESEARCH BY PUBLIC HEALTH ONTARIO AND BY THE NATIONAL COLLABORATING CENTRE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH WHICH SHOW THAT AIRFLOW TRANSMISSION IS POSSIBLE, AND GOOD HEATING VENTILATION, AIR-CONDITIONING SYSTEMS CAN HELP PREVENT ANY SORT OF CoVID TRANSMISSION BY KEEPING AIR MOVING. THEY ALSO SAY THINGS LIKE OPENING YOUR WINDOWS CAN HELP. SO WE KNOW THAT VENTILATION IS IMPORTANT. WE KNOW THAT AIRFLOW IS A POSSIBILITY. IT'S JUST HARD TO SAY EXACTLY WHERE IT'S HAPPENED. BUT EVEN IF YOU TALK TO AN EPIDEMIOLOGIST LIKE DR. ISAAC BOGOCH, HE'S AN INFECTIOUS DISEASES PHYSICIAN AND A MEMBER OF THE VACCINE TASK FORCE, HE SAYS IF YOU'RE LOOKING AT AN OUTBREAK IN AN APARTMENT BUILDING YOU SHOULD BE LOOKING AT HUMAN BEHAVIOUR AND YOU SHOULD BE LOOKING AT AIR. IT KEEPS COMING UP BUT IT'S NOT SOMETHING PEOPLE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO PUT THEIR FINGER ON AND SAY DEFINITIVELY THIS IS WHERE IT'S HAPPENED BUT THERE ARE STILL INVESTIGATIONS HAPPENING.

Jeyan says PUBLIC HEALTH UNITS HAVE BEEN DEALING WITH APARTMENT OUTBREAKS ELSEWHERE IN ONTARIO. HAVE THEY LEARNED ANYTHING FROM DEALING WITH THOSE SPECIFIC SITUATIONS?

Justin says WELL, I TALKED TO PUBLIC HEALTH IN NORTH BAY, PARRY SOUND. THEY'RE CURRENTLY DOING AN INVESTIGATION. SO IT'S NOT DONE YET. BUT THEY SAID THAT SOME OF THE THINGS THAT THEY LEARNED SO FAR HAVE BEEN THAT IT'S IMPORTANT WHEN DEALING WITH AN OUTBREAK, AS THEY WERE BACK IN MARCH, TO ENSURE THAT BUILDING MANAGEMENT IS BEING CONSULTED, RESIDENTS ARE BEING CONSULTED, THEY SAID IT'S IMPORTANT TO LOOK AT DIFFERENT ASPECTS LIKE MOVEMENT IN THE BUILDING, AIRFLOW IN THE BUILDING, WHERE PEOPLE ARE CONGREGATING, HOW THEY'RE MOVING AROUND, AND ALSO THEY SAID THAT VACCINES ARE SOMETHING THAT CAN BE HELPFUL AND IF POSSIBLE IT CAN BE GOOD TO BRING THOSE TO PEOPLE IN THE INFECTED BUILDING.

Jeyan says JUSTIN, YOU SPOKE TO EMILY POWER, A REBECCA TOWERS TENANT COMMITTEE MEMBER. SHE HAD THIS TO SAY AT THE HAMILTON CITY COUNCIL MEETING ON MAY 17TH...

A quote appears on screen, under the title "Advocating for Hamilton residents." The quote reads "Working class people are the backbone of the city. We are the people who have sustained the city throughout this terrible pandemic, doing important work. And we feel that we deserve to have the vaccine brought to us to save our lives."
Quoted from Emily Power, speaking to Hamilton City Council. May 17, 2021.

Jeyan says WHAT'S INTERESTING TO NOTE IS THESE BUILDINGS ARE NOT IN PROVINCIALLY OR MUNICIPALLY DESIGNATED HOT-SPOTS OR HIGH PRIORITY AREAS. IS THERE A PLAN NOW TO GET RESIDENTS VACCINATED?

Justin says YES. SO PUBLIC HEALTH HAS BEEN WORKING TO BRING HOMEBOUND RESIDENTS, SO PEOPLE WHO THEY SAY CAN'T GET OUT TO GO TO A VACCINATION CLINIC FOR VARIOUS REASONS, TO BRING THEM THEIR VACCINE. THEY SAY THAT THEY HAVE VACCINE AMBASSADORS WORKING AT THE BUILDINGS TO TRY TO ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO GET VACCINES AND TO LET THEM KNOW ABOUT CLINICS, AND THEY'VE ALSO WORKED TO DESIGNATE SPOTS AT MASS VACCINATION CLINICS NEARBY SO THAT PEOPLE CAN COME AND THEY'LL HAVE, LET'S SAY, AN HOUR ON A WEDNESDAY NIGHT OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT SO THAT PEOPLE FROM THESE AFFECTED BUILDINGS WILL HAVE THE DEDICATED TIME THAT THEY CAN GO AND MAKE SURE THAT THEY GET THEIR SHOTS. THE TENANT COMMITTEE IN THE REBECCA TOWERS, FOR EXAMPLE, SAYS THAT'S NOT ENOUGH. THEY'VE BEEN PUSHING FOR ONSITE VACCINATION CLINICS. BUT PUBLIC HEALTH SAYS THAT'S VERY RESOURCE INTENSIVE AND IT'S NOT SOMETHING THEY WANT TO DO.

Jeyan says I AM CURIOUS TO KNOW, DURING THIS SITUATION, DURING THIS OUTBREAK, HAVE PEOPLE LEFT THE BUILDING OR ARE THERE CONCERNS THAT, HEY, THIS IS NOT BEING MANAGED WELL, I NEED TO GET OUT?

Justin says I'M NOT SURE ABOUT THAT. I DON'T KNOW IF IT'S CAUSED PEOPLE TO FLEE. I KNOW THAT PEOPLE ARE DEFINITELY WORRIED ABOUT IT. AND IT'S REALLY... THE WHOLE NEIGHBOURHOOD IS CONCERNED. EMILY POWER, FOR EXAMPLE, DOESN'T LIVE IN THE REBECCA TOWERS, BUT SHE IS SOMEONE IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD AND SHE IS TRYING TO WORK WITH PEOPLE IN THE COMMUNITY THERE. AND AS YOU SAID, THIS IS NOT A DESIGNATED HOT SPOT. AND THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR HAS FOUND THAT IT'S ACTUALLY THE AREA IN THE CITY WITH THE SECOND LOWEST VACCINATION RATE. THERE'S A HIGH PREPONDERANCE OF ESSENTIAL WORKERS, PUBLIC HEALTH HAS NOTED. SO REALLY PEOPLE IN THAT WHOLE COMMUNITY ARE THE PEOPLE WHO ARE HELPING KEEP OUR WAREHOUSES RUNNING, FOR EXAMPLE. THEY ARE PEOPLE WHO ARE WORKING TO KEEP SOCIETY RUNNING. AND I THINK THAT WHETHER OR NOT THEY WANT TO NOW LEAVE THEIR APARTMENTS, THEY DEFINITELY FEEL LIKE THEY'VE BEEN WORKING HARD, THEY'VE BEEN TRYING TO DO THEIR BEST AND A LOT OF THEM PERHAPS THINK THAT SOCIETY HAS BEEN LETTING THEM DOWN.

The caption changes to "Producer: Carla Lucchetta, @carrletta."

Jeyan says JUSTIN, I WANT TO THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS. WE'LL SEE YOU ON THE NEXT ONE.

An animated slate reads "Ontario Hubs. Ontario Hubs are made possible by The Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust and Goldie Feldman."

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