TORONTO — Small businesses facing the prospect of keeping their doors closed for at least two more weeks expressed doubt on Saturday as to whether to ramp up their operations amid uncertainty over the province’s tentative COVID-19 reopening plan.
Some entrepreneurs in the Toronto area, which is expected to remain under strict lockdown even as other regions of the province begin to ease public health restrictions, said they’re struggling to determine whether it’s worth taking on the financial and emotional risks of reopening for business without more clarity from the provincial government.
Premier Doug Ford is expected to announce on Monday that the state of emergency declared last month will be allowed to expire as scheduled on Feb. 9, according to a senior government source with knowledge of the decision. A stay-at-home order will likely remain in effect as the government transitions regions back to a colour-coded restrictions system over three weeks, said the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly.
Toronto, Peel Region and York Region are expected to be the last to make that transition on the week of Feb. 22, but the source said any sudden increase in cases could delay that plan.
George Bozikis, who runs Hendriks Restaurant & Bar in downtown Toronto, said he cannot afford preparations to re-open on Feb. 22 if there is a chance the date could be pushed back.
Each time his location reopens, he says he must spend about $20,000 to get the 290-seat restaurant up and running in any capacity. The spending includes $10,000 on perishable food, much of which goes to waste if the restaurant must abruptly close again.
“Turning a profit isn’t even a question anymore. It’s, ‘Will we make enough money after we open to survive,’” Bozikis said in a telephone interview.
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The government source has said Ontario will have an “emergency brake” in place to allow the government to quickly move a region into lockdown if it “experiences a rapid acceleration in COVID-19 transmission or if the health-care system becomes overwhelmed.”
Bozikis and other business owners said they fear the proposed plan doesn’t offer the ray of hope they’ve been seeking over the course of the pandemic. They said anything short of widespread vaccination, a mass return to office buildings and malls or a long-term “yellow” or “green” stage reopening plan may not restore a sense of safety for them or their livelihoods.
Alan Liu, who runs Toronto Thai eatery Salad King, said stopping and starting is the hardest part of keeping his business afloat at the moment.
“Our biggest concern is to make sure we open safely?. A premature start that may result in a closure and a few weeks would be incredibly challenging,” he said.
Liu says he’s hesitant to reopen anything other than the restaurant’s takeout business without more assurances from the province, noting the cycle of rehiring and laying off staff takes an emotional toll on all concerned.
Liu feels pressure to make staffing decisions quickly so that employees can make childcare arrangements and qualify for benefits as soon as possible.
“Number one for us, as business owners, is predictability. Jumping the gun and opening too early is not necessarily what’s best for the business,” Liu said.
Chris Rampen, co-owner of Bu’na coffee shop and Nunu Ethiopian, said health risks lie at the heart of his reluctance to fully reopen the business.
“At least from what the experts are telling us, we have to be extremely careful in the next little while, given these new variants that appear to be extremely contagious,” he said.
His fears resonate with Erin Gamelin, owner of Toronto pubs Louis Cifer Brew Works and Stout Irish Pub, as does frustration around the government’s approach to handling the pandemic.
Gamelin said many policies seem unpredictable and arbitrary, such as allowing big box stores and schools to remain open and setting the same cap on gatherings for both large and small restaurants.
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“Closing down smaller businesses becomes a credibility issue when it doesn’t make logical sense,” she said. “Because there has been a lack of consistency of their decision-making and policy, I think that the general public has lost confidence in those decisions that they’re making.”
Ontario reported 1,388 cases of COVID-19 and 45 new deaths linked to the virus on Saturday.
The province said 1,021 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, with 325 in intensive care and 228 of those patients on a ventilator.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said there are 455 new cases in Toronto, 288 in Peel and 131 in York Region.
Steven Del Duca, Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, said on Saturday that Ford’s economic recovery plan must include financial support for small businesses in regions that can’t re-open.
“Doug Ford plans to announce the re-opening of Ontario’s economy … after weeks of putting Big Box lobbyists and Amazon first while local entrepreneurs suffered,” Del Duca said in a statement. “If he’s going to re-open the economy, he needs to let small businesses lead Ontario’s economic recovery.”
— With files from Shawn Jeffords
© 2021 The Canadian Press
Toronto to shorten COVID-19 vaccine clinic hours over summer – iHeartRadio.ca
Toronto will be shortening hours at the city-run immunization clinics during the summer.
According to Toronto Public Health, the new hours of operation will begin on Monday and will impact all of the six active clinics offering the COVID-19 vaccine. In a notification posted to social media, officials said the changes will “meet the needs of Toronto residents throughout the summer.”
These are the new hours:
- At Metro Hall and Crossroads Plaza the clinics will be open between noon to 6 p.m. Monday to Thursday, and between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.
- At Cloverdale Mall, Mitchell Field Community Centre and 1940 Eglinton Avenue, the clinics will be open noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.
- At Thorncliffe Park Community Hub, the clinic will be open between noon to 6 p.m., as well as between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.
All clinics are offering first, second and third doses, as well as fourth doses for select eligible groups.
NEW: Starting tomorrow, we will be shifting our hours of operation for our city-run clinics to meet the needs of Toronto residents throughout the summer. See ⬇️ for more information or visit our website here: https://t.co/zowJ7oWnma pic.twitter.com/1ZoDsCNJJr
— Toronto Public Health (@TOPublicHealth)
July 3, 2022
Residents can book an appointment using the provincial booking portal or call centre.
Students in Grades 7 to 12 can also book appointments at these clinics for school-based vaccinations such as those for Hepatitis B, HPV and Meningococcal diseases.
About 51.7 per cent of all eligible Toronto residents have received three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Ontario's COVID signs point to the start of a summer wave – Toronto.com
Signs are emerging that point to the beginnings of a summer wave of COVID-19 in Ontario, the head of the province’s science advisory table is warning.
Dr. Fahad Razak, scientific director of the science table, points to a rising COVID wastewater signal, increasing test positivity and a surge of public health units experiencing exponential growth in cases.
There has been a gradual increase in the provincewide wastewater signal since the beginning of June along with test positivity that has been going up for the past three to four weeks. Then there’s the fact, he says, that about 40 per cent of public health units now have a reproduction number greater than one — all amounting to evidence the province has entered another wave.
“Putting all of this together, I think we’re seeing the beginning of a wave,” Razak said. “But it does not look like it has the intensity in terms of amplitude or pace of what we saw with the start of the Omicron wave. How fast it will rise and what the peak will be are unclear.
“Based on everything that we’re seeing, both in Ontario and globally, this is likely to be a less severe wave than what we’ve experienced in the past with less direct pressure on the health-care system.”
Razak’s red flag comes as the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended this week that additional boosters be given to a larger portion of the population in the fall. Other regions are also seeing a rise in hospitalizations driven by Omicron subvariants, including Quebec, which recently experienced a surge in community transmission and cases in health-care workers.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization reports that infections are growing in 110 countries driven by the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, resulting in an overall 20 per cent increase in global cases.
Several infectious disease experts say fourth doses should be offered to all residents now ahead of a possible fall wave, while others say only those who are deemed at higher risk should be getting a second booster.
“If you’re someone who is higher-risk or is in a situation where you’re being exposed to a lot because you’re on TTC twice a day, in and out of work or something like that, it would be very reasonable to go and get that fourth shot now,” Razak said. “On the other hand, if you are otherwise low-risk and you have very little day-to-day exposure, it is reasonable to wait to get that booster dose until you’re closer to the fall or there’s more concretely a rise happening.”
At a press conference Thursday, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said up-to-date vaccinations are the “foundation of our protection” and that those who had two doses and a booster shot had hospitalization rates that were five times lower than unvaccinated people during the Omicron wave in April and May.
She also reiterated NACI’s recommendations that those at risk of severe illness receive a fourth shot now, as boosters “increase protection by activating your immune response to restore protection that may have decreased over time.”
Dr. Gerald Evans, the chair of the division of infectious diseases at Queen’s University, said it’s uncertain whether fourth doses will be effective enough against BA.4 and BA.5 for the larger population. Those subvariants have an alteration within its genomes, making it more difficult for antibodies to bind to the spike proteins, which in turn makes these variants more likely to have immune-evading properties, he explained.
Pfizer and Moderna are developing vaccines that will specifically target Omicron, known as bivalent vaccines, which will likely be available in the fall. Both companies say they’ve tested their vaccines and they appear to be highly effective against Omicron, and plan to submit their data to governments in the next few months.
“I do totally agree that we should be rolling out boosters in the fall,” said Evans. He predicts a wave will occur in the late fall or early winter, and another will follow in the late winter or early spring because that’s how the COVID-19 virus has behaved previously, similar to other illnesses in the coronavirus category, he said.
NACI also announced in a release Wednesday that everyone aged 12 to 65 may be offered another dose in the fall, regardless of the number of previous doses, but that recommendation is “discretionary” and not categorized as a strong recommendation.
Those groups include all residents over 65; people 12 and older who have underlying medical conditions; Indigenous adults; racialized and marginalized communities that have been harder hit by the virus throughout the pandemic; migrant workers; residents of shelters, correctional facilities and group homes.
Recommendations will be provided on the type of COVID-19 booster dose that should be offered as evidence emerges on bivalent vaccines.
NACI said in its press release that “cases of COVID-19, including associated hospitalizations and deaths, are currently declining in Canada. However, the likelihood, timing, and severity of a future wave of COVID-19 is uncertain.”
Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, said he is afraid the increasing signals Ontario is experiencing could mean we are approaching endemicity.
“My belief is that when we took masks off on the TTC, we started to harmonize different wastewater signals across the GTA. In other words, mixing people together on the TTC is not going to cause the signal at one wastewater treatment plant to go down, it’s going to cause the other ones to come up to match,” he said.
“If you think about that logically, that kind of synchronization, that’s a path to endemicity. Not a wave that comes and then subsides, but a new normal where the line is flat but it is at a very elevated level.”
He added that the elevations in wastewater signals, as well as cases in public health units, reflect the dropping of mask mandates earlier this month.
“But it’s not just that. It’s the mindset that goes with it. We see more and more people who ought to know better engaging in crazy, risky behaviour,” Furness said. “If I can be on the TTC and I don’t need to have a mask, then I can go out to dinner because that’s obviously less dangerous and if that’s the case, I can definitely go see a movie.
“It’s causing self-destructive logic to take hold.”
Olivia Bowden is a Toronto-based staff reporter for the Star. Reach her via email: email@example.com
Kenyon Wallace is a Toronto-based investigative reporter for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @KenyonWallace or reach him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hamilton records first case of rare monkeypox virus: public health – Global News
Hamilton Public Health (HPH) has its first reported case of the monkeypox virus, according to the city’s medical officer of health.
Officials say the infected person is currently isolating at home and all contacts have been notified by the health unit.
It’s believed the resident was most likely infected during a recent visit to Toronto.
“At this time the risk to the general public remains very low, as we have not detected the virus circulating in Hamilton, and the virus does not spread easily,” medical officer of health Dr. Elizabeth Richardson said in a release on Monday.
“Hamiltonians should not be concerned going about their routine daily activities.”
As of late last week, more than 5,000 monkeypox cases have been reported from 51 countries worldwide that don’t normally report the disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The number of infections in Europe represents about 90 per cent of the global total, with 31 countries in the WHO’s European region having identified cases.
Monkeypox, a viral illness causing flu-like symptoms and skin lesions, has been spreading largely in men who have sex with men outside the countries where it is common.
As of Wednesday, 276 cases of monkeypox have been reported in Canada, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).
Four cases have been identified in British Columbia, five in Alberta, 67 in Ontario and 202 in Quebec.
The World Health Organization’s Europe chief warned Friday that monkeypox cases in the region have tripled in the last two weeks and urged countries to do more to ensure the previously rare disease does not become entrenched on the continent.
African health authorities said they are treating the expanding monkeypox outbreak as an emergency, calling on rich countries to share limited supplies of vaccines to avoid equity problems seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.
WHO Europe chief Dr. Hans Kluge said in a statement that increased efforts were needed despite the UN health agency’s decision last week that the escalating outbreak did not yet warrant being declared a global health emergency.
“Urgent and co-ordinated action is imperative if we are to turn a corner in the race to reverse the ongoing spread of this disease,” Kluge said.
Hamilton Public Health Services hosted a pop-up monkeypox vaccination clinic on Thursday for at-risk community members by appointment only.
More than 60 doses of the monkeypox vaccine were administered to at-risk community members aged 18-plus.
The city has not confirmed whether any future clinics will be facilitated.
— with files from The Associated Press
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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