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Tory calls for stricter measures for bars, restaurants ahead of Stage 3 reopening

Last Updated Jul 19, 2020 at 10:57 am EDT

Bartender Kelsey Drozda makes a drink behind the bar at the Riverside Cafe in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Wednesday, July 15, 2020. (Sean McKeag/The Citizens' Voice via AP)

Toronto mayor John Tory is calling on the province to implement further measures that would apply to bars and restaurants ahead of a planned Stage 3 reopening for the city.

In a letter to Premier Doug Ford, Tory has put forward six recommendations he says will further mitigate the spike in new coronavirus cases that has been seen in several other jurisdictions.

“I believe 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,” writes Tory.

Among the proposals is to have customers remain seated at all times when in bars and restaurants except for when they are entering, exiting, going to the washroom or paying their bill. Screening protocols for staff such as temperature checks and a questionnaire before they begin working and a mandatory face coverings for staff and customers when in a bar or restaurant setting.

As well, the city would like to see additional capacity restrictions on top of what is already allowed to ensure that physical distancing can be maintained by everyone. Tory says as of now there is no cap as long as proper distancing can be maintained.

Tory would also like to see early closure times for bars and restaurants, such as midnight, at least for the initial period when establishments are allowed to reopen with in-dining service.

“The rationale for limiting numbers and for distancing is that there is evidence that about 10% of cases account for about 80% of transmission,” says Tory. “It takes only one case (perhaps asymptomatic) in a bar to infect many people, possibly equivalent to several times Toronto’s average daily total.”

Tory would also like to see the province adopt a Toronto Public Health recommendation that bars and restaurants keep a customer log with the name and contact information in order to better facilitate contact tracing should someone test positive for the virus. While this would raise privacy concerns for some people, Tory says the data would be held for 30 days and then destroyed.

“I know Premier Ford is 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,” says Tory. “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.”

Tory closes by saying he believes bars and restaurants would welcome these additional measures because the alternative is a return to more restrictive measures and possible closures should case numbers spike again.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said she appreciated the Mayor’s recommendations, adding that they will continue to assess public health guidelines before determining if it is safe for the region to enter Stage 3.

The complete text of Mayor Tory’s letter to the Premier can be read below: