'Very shocking': Video captures huge crowds, lineups in Niagara Falls
TORONTO -- The City of Niagara Falls in Ontario is introducing a new plan to ensure visitors adhere to public health guidelines after video emerged showing the popular tourist destination teeming with crowds in apparent disregard for physical distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Cole Morningstar recorded the video on Saturday evening after he was out riding his bike and noticed a traffic jam in the tourist area of Clifton Hill.
Because the area has been largely deserted for weeks, Morningstar said he got off his bike and went to investigate.
When he reached the top of the hill, he said he saw a “huge” lineup of people waiting for the ferris wheel and two other long lines for the Niagara Speedway Go Kart track where an employee reportedly tested positive for the virus this week.
“It was very shocking,” Morningstar told CTVNews.ca during a telephone interview on Thursday. “That was like the first busiest day, like a very busy day, down there in a really, really long time. So I feel like they just weren’t prepared for the amount of crowds that showed up that day.”
Morningstar pulled out his camera and began recording as he walked through the large crowds of people enjoying a night out.
In the footage, visitors can be seen lined up in close proximity to each other as they wait for the different attractions while others squeeze between them to navigate their way through the long lines.
Hardly anyone is wearing face masks and of the few that are, some appear to be wearing them incorrectly with their noses uncovered or the masks tucked under their chins.
Morningstar said he was wearing a mask as he walked through the area, but he was still concerned for his own safety.
“There are points in the video where I’m a foot apart, trying to like get through because the lines are so long,” he recalled.
In an effort to draw attention to the crowding in the area, Morningstar shared the video with the YouTube channel Amusement Insiders. Since it was posted on Tuesday, the video has racked up more than 160,000 views and hundreds of comments.
The video also prompted Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati to hold a press conference on Thursday morning where he addressed the crowding on Clifton Hill the weekend before.
“I was definitely concerned. The first thing that came to my mind was I was wondering when that happened, and why it happened, because this summer has been very quiet in terms of crowds,” he told CTVNews.ca during a telephone interview on Thursday.
“Saturday night was the busiest night that we’ve had all year. So it was a very crazy, crazy time.”
Diodati said he immediately met with “major stakeholders” and they came up with a new plan for the area dubbed the “Crush the Curve” ambassador program.
Effective Thursday morning, the program involves local employees dressed in lime green monitoring the tourist area and promoting public health guidelines by handing out hand sanitizer, selling masks at cost, and reminding people to maintain a two-metre distance from each other.
“Our objective is compliance over conviction,” Diodati said. “We're going to try to do an awareness approach and do it in a friendly way… people are tired and there’s fatigue, they call it COVID fatigue, and we need people to be diligent and vigilant.”
Diodati also said they would be adding more markings on the ground to show people where to walk and wait in line, installing more hand sanitizing stations, and creating more space in the area for visitors.
“We know that crushing the curve never ends. It’s an ongoing process and we're prepared to do whatever we have to do. Everything is on the table,” he said.
The mayor added that 40,000 people depend on tourism in the region for their income and the city is still trying to figure out how to strike the right balance in keeping those businesses afloat while maintaining public safety.
“There’s no manual. There’s no ‘COVID for Dummies,’” he said. “We’ve got 40,000 of these people that are counting on us doing the right thing. We’re trying to figure this out. No stone is being left unturned.”