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Ottawa businesses discouraged by latest round of COVID-19 restrictions – CBC.ca

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Some Ottawa business owners say they are disappointed with the latest round of restrictions being imposed on their activities in a bid to slow the transmission of COVID-19.

The province announced Friday new capacity rules on restaurants, bars, nightclubs, gyms and event centres in Ottawa, Toronto and Peel — the three current hotspots for COVID-19 in the province.

Restaurants must limit the number of guests dining indoors to six per table, up to a maximum of 100, while continuing to ensure two-metre distancing between different groups.

“It’s frustrating because always the first finger pointed is at restaurants when we’ve been doing very well in general in Ottawa,” said Dimitri Aramouni, owner and operator of three Mexicali Rosa’s franchises.

“We take a lot of precautions. We sanitize frequently. And [medical officer of health Dr. Vera] Etches and Mayor Jim Watson have both been on record in the past few months, saying that restaurants have been doing very well following procedures.”

Aramouni said he had to call several customers with reservations for groups of 10 or 15 to cancel after Premier Doug Ford made the announcement. The new measures came into effect midnight Saturday.

“It’s going to hurt business for sure,” said Aramouni. “People that were going to come out on date night for two people or four people aren’t going to come out now just because they’re a little worried.”

Weddings cancelled, rescheduled

Stricter capacity limits of 50 people at event spaces, including banquet centres and wedding venues, mean that Tony Zacconi is dealing with some anxious brides and grooms.

“Our phone’s been ringing off the hook,” said Zacconi, owner of Sala San Marco Event and Conference Centre on Preston Street in Little Italy. 

Zacconi said his revenue is already down by almost 90 per cent. But he’s been able to stay afloat through restaurant sales and the odd wedding or corporate event — some of which were already rescheduled from earlier this year.

After Friday’s announcement, Zacconi said he’ll be forced to cancel or rearrange two weddings next weekend that were supposed to take place in different rooms at the same time.

“I’ve got about 20,000 square feet. I’ve four different rooms in there … We have lots of space … It’s like getting married in a warehouse,” said Zacconi. “But now 50 people per facility, it doesn’t make any sense.”

WATCH | Banquet hall owner reacts to premier’s announcement restricting numbers:

Tony Zacconi, owner of Sala San Marco banquet and conference centre, said his hope has been extinguished and the announcement has left a lot of brides and grooms scrambling. 1:05

YMCA reopening plans on pause

Gyms and fitness centres will also face new rules — a maximum of 10 people per exercise class and 50 people inside at one time. 

For larger centres like the YMCA-YWCA, it means postponing its reopening plans.

“We wanted to start to do more classes. We wanted to start to appeal to our wider audience. We want to start up our swimming pools,” said Mike Tait, YMCA-YWCA vice-president of health and fitness aquatics for the national capital region.

“That will now become a problem,” he said.

Despite disappointment among business owners, some top public health officials want to see even tighter measures. Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, asked the province to prohibit indoor dining altogether. 

De Villa’s counterpart in Ottawa agrees with the restrictions, saying they send a serious message.

“I’m encouraged it’s in the right direction,” Etches said. “I am hopeful that the combination of more clear messaging about households … and these actions of the province, it will send that message that this is an important time. This is the time to do what we know works.”

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St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto declares COVID-19 outbreak among ER staff – Sudbury.com

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TORONTO — Another hospital in downtown Toronto has declared an outbreak of COVID-19 among its staff.

Unity Health says there are five active coronavirus cases among emergency room staff at St. Michael’s Hospital.

In a statement Tuesday evening, the health network says “no patient cases have been identified to date” and the risk of patient exposure is low.

However, it recommends anyone who visited the ER at St. Michael’s within the last two weeks to self-monitor.

The hospital is one of four in Toronto that have declared COVID-19 outbreaks in recent days.

The others are St. Joseph’s Health Centre, Toronto Western Hospital and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 21, 2020.

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St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto declares COVID-19 outbreak among ER staff – pentictonherald.ca

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TORONTO – Another hospital in downtown Toronto has declared an outbreak of COVID-19 among its staff.

Unity Health says there are five active coronavirus cases among emergency room staff at St. Michael’s Hospital.

In a statement Tuesday evening, the health network says “no patient cases have been identified to date” and the risk of patient exposure is low.

However, it recommends anyone who visited the ER at St. Michael’s within the last two weeks to self-monitor.

The hospital is one of four in Toronto that have declared COVID-19 outbreaks in recent days.

The others are St. Joseph’s Health Centre, Toronto Western Hospital and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 21, 2020.

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Correctional officer contracts COVID-19 after brief encounters with infected individuals – CTV News

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TORONTO —
A case study of a correctional officer who tested positive for COVID-19 despite having no sustained exposure of at least 15 minutes with any infected individual is providing new evidence that the virus can be transmitted in brief encounters.

The study, released Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, has prompted them to expand their definition of a “close contact.”

On July 28, the study states, six incarcerated or detained individuals who had not yet received their COVID-19 results arrived to a Vermont correctional facility from out of state, and were transported to a quarantine unit. In the process, all six — who were not displaying any COVID-19 symptoms — briefly interacted with a 20-year-old correctional officer.

The six tested positive for COVID-19 on July 29. In the contact tracing process, officials looked at every interaction the six had while they would have been infectious, and determined that the 20-year-old correctional officer was not a close contact who needed to be quarantined, according to the Vermont Department of Health’s rules, since he had never been within two metres of any of them for 15 minutes.

Thus, the correctional officer continued working — until August 4, when, at the end of his shift, he started feeling the symptoms of COVID-19, including a loss of smell and taste, a cough, a headache and shortness of breath, among other symptoms.

He tested positive for COVID-19 on August 11.

In order to find out how the correctional officer had contracted the virus, officials observed video surveillance on July 28 to tally up the time the officer had spent within two metres of any of the six individuals who had COVID-19.

“Although the correctional officer never spent 15 consecutive minutes within 6 feet of an [incarcerated person] with COVID-19, numerous brief (approximately one-minute) encounters that cumulatively exceeded 15 minutes did occur,” the case study stated. “During his eight-hour shift on July 28, the correctional officer was within six feet of an infectious [incarcerated person] an estimated 22 times while the cell door was open, for an estimated 17 total minutes of cumulative exposure.”

The study added that while the six incarcerated or detained people wore cloth face masks during some of these interactions, there were a few interactions in a cell doorway or the recreation room where they did not wear a mask.

The correctional officer was wearing a face mask and eye goggles at all times.

Since the officer had no travel-related exposure or any other known close contact exposures, officials surmised that he’d contracted the virus during one of his interactions on July 28.

A “close contact” according to the CDC is someone who was “within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 2 days before illness onset.”

In the wake of this study, they are adding to the definition anyone who spends 15 minutes cumulatively within six feet (two metres) of an infected person, even if those 15 minutes are the result of numerous brief interactions, and not in one go.

Fifteen minutes has never been the make-or-break length of time that is necessary for an exposure — there is no magic number detailing exactly how long it takes the virus to successfully make the jump from one body to another.

There are numerous factors that contribute to the risk of contracting COVID-19, and the 15-minute mark is merely a benchmark to allow officials to categorize at what point exposure is most likely, in order to know how to prioritize resources for contact tracing.

In Canada, the official COVID Alert app also uses the 15-minute rule, only alerting those who were closer than two metres for more than 15 minutes to a person who tested positive.

The risk of exposure can be minimized or increased by a number of things, including physical proximity, whether they’re in an enclosed space, whether there is adequate ventilation and air flow, as well as whether both individuals are wearing masks, among other factors.

The case study concluded by advising that public health officials consider the extra risk of cumulative exposure due to brief interactions in settings where frequent interaction within two metres of a person is necessary, such as within a correctional facility.

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