ontario covid

Numbers show that stores and restaurants aren't the drivers of COVID spread in Ontario

Based on the ongoing restrictions and closures imposed on bars, restaurants and other small businesses in Ontario — most recently the loss of patios to the full provincial shutdown that commenced on Saturday — one could understandably believe that such settings must be huge contributors to COVID-19 spread.

But provincial data continues to prove what many experts have long been saying: that struggling businesses like these and even people gathering socially are not the primary cause of rising case numbers, and thus shouldn't be the focus of Premier Doug Ford and his team's measures.

Salons in Toronto begged to be able to continue operations after they were shuttered in November, launching a campaign to show how few cases they had seen during their weeks of taking clients over the summer.

Participants cited zero infections among thousands of visits, and yet businesses offering personal care services in Toronto and Peel have yet to reopen since the fall, with the promise that they would be permitted to resume services again on April 12 now null and void following the enactment of the emergency brake provincewide over the weekend.

And it has been demonstrated that outdoor, socially distanced activities such as dining on a patio or a group fitness class outside are safe when proper measures are heeded.

So which settings are the culprits, then?

Toronto Public Health data analyzed by the Star indicates that a staggering 69 per cent of workplace outbreaks in the city since the onset of the pandemic have been in warehouses, distribution facilities, construction sites, food processing plants and even offices.

And indeed, there have been a ton of reports of outbreaks in meat packing plants, Amazon facilities, among migrant workers and more over the last year, yet these operations continue to be deemed essential and continue to carry on without more heavy-handed restrictions that would help curb transmission.

There is also the fact that nearly two-thirds of the population of the GTA is still considered "essential" — many of whom go to work when sick due to lack of proper paid sick leave, and who are members of the poorest and hardest hit demographics and neighbourhoods.

Those who work in hospitality, personal care, entertainment and other now-devastated sectors are understandably incensed at the fact that their workplaces are being targeted and forced to constantly flip flop when they are confident they can safely operate with firm measures in place.

Others are taking to social media to question the province's latest decision in now-viral videos that are clearly resonating with the public, which is generally confused by and frustrated with this latest shutdown.

And others still are simply asking that Ford and his health officials look at the data and make their public policy decisions accordingly rather than reverting to the same old lockdown measures that appear to be doing little but harming the businesses that make our city what it is.

They are also asking them to look at the true problem: the aforementioned settings with the most outbreaks, as well as things like our bungled vaccine rollout, lack of rapid testing and contact tracing, and more.

Shuttered businesses, their staff, and the rest of us will have to wait to see what comes of this latest 28-day shutdown, and hope that it doesn't end up being extended with the same old rules at the expense of so many.

Lead photo by

Fareen Karim

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