‘I think we can be successful as a community’: in conversation with Mayor Bryan Paterson

Mayor of Kingston talks importance of community unity and safety precautions during COVID-19

Image supplied by: Journal File Photo
“My goal is that we can work together

Following the introduction of new safety guidelines in outdoor spaces to reduce the risk of COVID-19, Mayor Bryan Paterson urged students to follow safety precautions and maintain a limited social bubble. 

Though Paterson expressed regret about the closure of Gord Downie Pier and the Breakwater Beach Area because of how the two sites appeal to both students and Kingston residents during the fall season, he said the increased volume of people made it challenging to enforce a two-metre separation between visitors.

“It was something we were trying to keep open for as long as possible, but with more students coming back, it became apparent to our police and by-law officers that there were simply too many people,” Paterson said in an interview with The Journal

“It wasn’t that they were choosing not to physically distance, it was that it was too difficult given the number of people.”

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At the recommendation of Kingston’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kieran Moore, it was concluded that closing the pier for the season was the correct decision. The City hopes to re-open the area next spring. 

Paterson said that while the majority of students have been abiding by community standards, the large house parties and gatherings present a serious public health concern. 

“[This] is when we have had to move to enforcement and issue tickets and fines, to send the message that we need everybody to protect the health of all individuals in the city,” Paterson said. 

According to Paterson, there has been strong continued communication and collaboration between Queen’s and the City of Kingston. 

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He said these conversations have ensured students are aware of which guidelines are in place and how to access information regarding testing, protocol, and health standards from multiple sources. 

“We are trying to work together using a variety of approaches, including social media and other platforms,” Paterson said. 

Regarding the expectations for in-person classes come January, Paterson said the focus is on the current fall semester.

“I think that the difference between now and January may not be all that different. A lot of what we’re grappling with now, with ensuring widespread understanding of the rules now and enforcing guidelines, is something we are going to carry over into January and beyond,” Paterson said. 

Paterson also addressed how social isolation has taken its toll on students and encouraged peers to reach out virtually and interact with others in their social bubble. 

“I am very aware and concerned about the social isolation effects that have come from this pandemic. We have certainly seen a lot of mental health concerns and challenges in the [Kingston] community over the last number of months,” Paterson said.

READ MORE: Kingston Police respond to 255 noise complaints in University district in two weeks

“My message for students is the same as for all residents of Kingston: we can take care of each other and be in each other’s lives, but we have to do it by taking precautions and reducing the spread of COVID-19.” 

Paterson said it’s important that students continue to contribute and support the local economy as in previous years, but that it must be done by wearing a mask inside, frequent hand washing, and staying two metres apart. 

“Whether you’ve lived in Kingston for 50 years, or you’re here for 8 months, you have the same rights and responsibilities. As long as we’re all abiding by these same rules, then I think we can be successful as a community,” Paterson said.

“My goal is that we can work together, that we can build bridges and understand each other, and not pit factions of the community against each other, but at the same time, uphold a community standard that ultimately is about protecting everyone, particularly the more vulnerable residents of Kingston.” 

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City of Kingston, Covid-19

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