face masks toronto

Toronto mayor wants masks to be mandatory inside bars and restaurants during Stage 3

With much of Ontario now in Stage 3 of the province's economic reopening plan, Toronto is gearing up for its own resumption of indoor bar and restaurant service — albeit with some apprehension.

Mayor John Tory has formally asked Premier Doug Ford to consider a host of changes to his government's Stage 3 regulations in the hopes of mitigating a second, potentially even more devastating wave of COVID-19.

Like the Ontario Medical Association did on Friday, Tory sent a letter to Ford over the weekend warning that allowing people back into bars could see Toronto follow in the footsteps of several other Canadian, European, Asian and American cities where major outbreaks have resulted in the rollback of reopening plans.

"I know you are just as concerned as I am about a second wave and the disastrous impact that a return to a more stringent lockdown would have on the health of our residents and the restart of the Ontario economy," wrote Tory in his letter to Ford.

"We have seen in other jurisdictions that further reopening can lead to increased outbreaks of COVID-19 and growing case count numbers. We do not want to go in that direction."

Indeed, the governors of California, Florida and Texas were all forced to reimplement lockdown measures state-wide late last month as the result of case spikes linked to crowded bars and clubs, where the 2019 coronavirus is said to thrive.

Tory cited outbreaks such as these in his letter when arguing for a more moderated reopening of food and drink establishments, at the very least within Toronto.

"According to our health officials, these establishments present a high level of risk of transmission of the COVID-19 virus: all of the factors known to be associated with high risk are present—close, prolonged contact with many other people in a closed environment," wrote the mayor.

"It takes only one case (perhaps asymptomatic) in a bar to infect many people, possibly equivalent to several times Toronto's average daily total."

Based on the advice of Toronto Public Health, City Legal and Municipal Licensing and Standards, Tory is recommending the following six changes to the province's Stage 3 reopening regulations:

  • The provisions that apply to food and drink establishments (Schedule 2, section 1(1)2 in O. Reg 364/20) should be amended to require that patrons be seated at all times unless entering, exiting, travelling to and from the washroom, or paying. The present requirement applies only while people are actually eating or drinking.
  • The amended Stage 3 order should include the following requirement: operators of food and drink establishments where patrons will be seated shall;
    a. Maintain a client log with a name and contact information for one person, minimum, in each party along with the date, check in and check out times, and table number
    b. Store these logs for a period of 30 days, after which the information can be destroyed
    c. Permit local public health units to access this information when tracing contacts of someone with COVID-19 who was a patron at the restaurant/bar or otherwise for public health purposes pursuant to the Health Protection and Promotion Act
  • In addition to the current capacity limits set out in Schedule 1, section 3 of O Reg 364/20, food and drink establishments should be subject to additional capacity restrictions that limit occupancy to ensure that physical distancing can be easily maintained by all patrons. There is a precedent for this in O. Reg. 52/20 pertaining to wedding and funeral services.
  • The amended Stage 3 order should implement early closure times (e.g. midnight last call) for food and drink establishments for at least an initial period of time, similar to what was done in Quebec.
  • The amended Stage 3 order should require operators of food and drink establishments to implement COVID-19 screening protocols for staff, such as completion of a screening questionnaire, prior to the commencement of their shifts.
  • Mandatory face covering requirements for staff and patrons should be clearly outlined in the amended Stage 3 order.

Tory explained in his letter that, while "many of these measures are already Toronto Public Health guidelines and recommendations," it would be helpful for the province to legally mandate them in order to ensure compliance.

Toronto has yet to enter Stage 3, but is expected to do so in short order based on the rollout of Stage 2, which saw Canada's largest city lag behind most other public health regions by only five days.

It is Tory's hope that the above recommendations can be turned into regulations before the city enters Stage 3, as he believes "it is easier to add them ahead of time so that businesses and residents can adopt them immediately, rather than having to add further down the road should outbreaks start to occur."

Ford himself has yet to offer a public response, but his Minister of Health, Christine Elliott, did state on Sunday that the province "appreciate[s] the City of Toronto's recommendations."

Elliott says that she and Ford "will continue to work directly with Mayor John Tory and city officials as we constantly assess public health guidelines and evaluate when may the region may be ready to safely enter Stage 3."

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