Schools are reopening. What about small businesses? Many Ontario owners left wondering when it will happen

By Lucas Casaletto

Ontario is reporting 1,563 cases of COVID-19 Thursday, though there might still be some under-estimates because of Toronto’s reporting change.

This all based on nearly 64,500 tests which bring Ontario’s positivity rate below 3 percent after Wednesday 3.3 percent.

The downward trend has seen the Ford government and education minister Stephen Lecce announce that all schools in Ontario, excluding Toronto, Peel, and York Regions, will welcome back its many students on Feb. 8, with the aforementioned GTA school boards opening up after Family Day, on Feb. 16.

RELATED: Education minister Lecce considering cancelling March break for Ontario students

Dan Kelly, head of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), says with a relatively steady descending COVID-19 case count nowhere near where the province’s modelling projected we would be right now, businesses forced to close are wondering when can they reopen.

“Small businesses are hanging by a thread,” Kelly told 680 NEWS on Thursday. “They’re so weak that a strong wind could blow them down right now and every single day that they are prevented from serving a customer means fewer of them are going to make it across the COVID finish line.”

Kelly says small businesses in Ontario need a lot more transparency from the government.

“Small businesses are absolutely desperate not only to reopen but to know when they’re going to be able to reopen,” he added.

“Many were hoping that this would be tied to the announcement around schools opening but unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet.”

According to the CFIB, roughly 20 percent of Ontario businesses are considering permanently closing as a result of the pandemic.

In a recently posted petition, the CFIB urged Premier Doug Ford to reconsider its decision to keep businesses sheltered as part of the province-wide state of emergency and stay at home order.

“Keeping small businesses across the province in lockdown is crushing our local economies,” CFIB said.

“Continuing to keep our stores, our gyms, our salons, and countless other businesses closed means thousands will not survive. Business owners and their families will lose their futures and many will lose their homes. Employees will lose their livelihoods. Our communities will lose their rich diversity.”

They say that Ontario’s government should do the following:

  • Allow all businesses to be allowed to open to in-store operations at 20 percent capacity.
  • Uphold Ontario’s contact tracing capabilities by having businesses:
    • Record the name and contact information of in-person customers;
    • Maintain the records for up to one month after the provincial emergency order end date; and,
    • Disclose the records to a medical officer of health or inspector upon request
  • Encourage pre-booking appointments to avoid long lines outside the store.
  • Require all businesses to sign the POST Promise before opening in-store operations.
  • Encourage customers to shop by curbside pickup or delivery as preferred means.

With files from 680 NEWS reporter Irene Preklet 

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