During this current COVID-19 crisis, my staff and myself will continue to serve all the constituents of Niagara West by appointment only. We are also available to assist you over the telephone or via email. 905.563.7900 | email@example.com
FUREY: Retail sector makes up less than 0.1% of Ontario cases, new data says
Anthony FureyPublishing date:Dec 02, 2020 • Last Updated 2 days ago • 3 minute read
A nurse talks with people in line at a Covid-19 testing center at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Ontario on Nov. 23, 2020. PHOTO BY AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES /Toronto Sun
Newly released open data from the Ontario government confirms, just in time for the Christmas shopping season, that the entire provincial retail sector has been directly linked to only 106 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
That would account for less than 0.1% of the approximately 116,000 Ontario cases to date. That 106 is also not just shoppers acquiring the virus, but includes retail employees who have been infected by co-workers.
The category for fitness accounts for 206 cases, with bars, restaurants and nightclubs not that much higher, at 227 cases.
Meanwhile, there have been 11,488 cases directly attributed to long-term care homes and 2,366 cases tied to retirement facilities.
It’s data like this that has inspired the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) to call for a cautious reopening of Toronto and Peel Region shops in the lead-up to Christmas. Their plan is for small businesses to be allowed to open with no more than three customers inside at a time.
“I think it’s reasonable,” says Dr. Neil Rau, an infectious diseases specialist, of the CFIB’s request. “We already have grocery stores open.I think it is arbitrary to have closed small retailers.”
Rau also says it’s important the government looks carefully at its planned four-week, strict lockdown of Toronto and Peel Region at the two-week mark, which would be on Dec. 7, to determine if it’s actually been effective.
Although one point of caution with the data is the vast number of cases that can’t be traced back to any activity. While the data breakdown for Nov. 29 reveals 81 new cases announced that day that can be directly traced back to specific locations, it also includes 726 cases simply attributed to community spread.
This means the number of cases traced back to specific settings could be much higher than the official numbers.
A point that’s been made by public health officials before is that it isn’t so much where you go, but what you do while you’re there.
Prolonged indoor close contact is what spreads the virus. Not brief encounters passing someone in a store. This is why the federal COVID alert app doesn’t register a contact unless you’ve been within six feet of someone for 15 minutes or longer.
On Monday, I went to a Shopper’s Drug Mart in Toronto’s east-end to access their Canada Post outlet to mail Christmas cards.
It was the most packed retail outlet I had been in since the pandemic began. There was a crowd of people standing around the postal outlet. The line for the store’s main check-out was not socially distanced.
The store had also noticeably increased their Christmas products, with an entire section of toys that had patrons browsing.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has created restrictions for the retail sector that, by reducing the number of locations consumers can visit, push more people into tighter spaces for longer periods of time.
It’s not just unfair, as many small retailers have complained. It’s a flat-out misguided policy that, to the small degree that retail does spread the virus, could cause more COVID-19 cases to flare up than if we’d just left things as they were.
The Ontario government has shown no hesitation at quickly changing gears in the past. They need to do it again, pronto.
Let’s allow retailers in Ontario to open for the Christmas shopping season with responsible protocols in place.