Business owners and their loyal patrons likely breathed a sigh of relief on Thursday when the province announced that changes to gathering limits would not extend to restaurants, bars, theatres, gyms or retail stores.
Premier Doug Ford announced that gathering limits would be lowered to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors in Peel (Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon), Toronto and Ottawa to help curb the spread of COVID-19, despite some people’s predictions that this week, regions would be sent back to Stage 2.
A rollback to Stage 2, which some residents have been calling for on social media, would necessitate the closure of gyms, movie theatres, many indoor recreational spaces and indoor dining rooms–places public health officials insist new cases are not coming from.
At a Sept. 17 press conference, Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel’s Medical Officer of Health, said that new cases have been linked to travel, workplace exposures, household clusters and social gatherings.
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“People are acquiring the disease at work and bringing it out to dinner with friends, and those friends then bring it home with them and perhaps to a family member who then takes it to work,” Loh said, adding that the majority of new cases are being found in people between 20 and 39 years of age.
Loh also said that employers need to do their part to allow for physical distancing, frequent handwashing and masking in the workplace.
“The vast majority of our residents do the right thing every day. I’m also not saying that the choice to socialize or party is driving everything. It’s also certain that there are some workplaces that are not taking precautions to protect their workers,” Loh said, adding that employers should adhere to public health rules and keep contact tracing logs.
“We have seen the virus spread quickly in settings where people cannot work from home and where crowding and numbers have not been managed with precautions,” Loh said.
“This is common in facilities such as manufacturing or food processing plants, as well as in transport and logistics facilities.”
Loh’s comments came days after Peel Public Health confirmed that 60 recent COVID-19 cases are linked to an outbreak at a manufacturing facility in Mississauga.
Peel Public Health has declined to name the business, citing privacy concerns.
“Peel Public Health would always disclose the name of a workplace if there was a risk to the public or if we needed people to come forward for contact tracing,” Dr. Monica Hau, Associate Medical Officer of Health, said in a statement emailed to insauga.com on Sept. 10.
“No public notification is needed for workplaces where we have the names of all close contacts identified in our investigation. This is consistent with Provincial guidelines for workplace outbreaks. This also supports the privacy of the people who test positive and the businesses that employ them.”
While Brampton has seen its fair share of large gatherings amid the pandemic, in a conference last week, Mayor Patrick Brown said that for the most part, people have been abiding by the rules.
On Sept. 17, Ford promised stiff penalties for anyone who hosts or attends an illegal gathering, adding that a party host could be fined $10,000. He also said guests could face fines up to $750.
The new rules also allow police officers, special constables or First Nations constables or break up any gatherings that violate prescribed gathering limits.
Gatherings of 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors will continue to be permitted in all other parts of the province.