“We are keeping a close eye on that,” said Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, chief medical health officer for the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU). “I am hoping that we get co-operation from everybody.”
Bars and nightclubs are among the businesses that are now allowed to operate as part of Stage 3 in the Phase 2 part of the provincial government’s Ontario Restart plan for economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic situation. All of Eastern Ontario entered Stage 3 over the July 18 weekend and other regions of Ontario entered Stage 3 status starting on the July 25 weekend. Toronto, Windsor and the Peel region were still limited to Stage 2, with its tighter restrictions on business operations.
Stage 3 includes some relaxation of the provincial pandemic restrictions on the public gatherings sizes, both for outdoor events or activities, and indoor for restaurants and bars. The limit for outdoor gatherings is 100 while the indoors limit is 50.
The indoors limit also depends on what the actual indoor capacity was for a bar or restaurant or other such business. If the original indoor capacity for a business was less than 50, then it remains less than 50. It may be even less its original capacity because now the owner has to allow for social distancing demands between customers.
This means that businesses like bars, nightclubs, and movie theatres are allowed to operate but they are responsible for maintaining pandemic public health guidelines like social distancing, having their clientele mask up while indoors, and being able to follow handwashing hygiene to reduce the risk of COVID-19 contagion.
Owner/operators of bars also have to deal with other restrictions specific to their businesses. That includes no buffet-style food service, and no open dance floors for patrons. Bar or club owners can hire performers for dance show entertainment, but patrons are not allowed to get up and dance themselves because it would be difficult to enforce social distancing.
Dr. Roumeliotis is concerned about the risk of spikes in the number of COVID-19 cases for the EOHU region if bar and club owners fail to maintain control of their customers. People who drink too much become less inhibited and more inclined to ignore or forget about social distancing.
“We’ve seen multitudes of (COVID-19) cases related to bars in Québec and other areas,” concluded Dr. Roumeliotis.