Business owners wary as Simcoe Muskoka health officials warn of further restrictions
On Friday, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit warned the region that if the rate of COVID-19 transmission continues to increase, further restrictions could be imposed on businesses and organizations.
The letter was sent to Simcoe County, the District of Muskoka and the cities of Orillia and Barrie following the increasing community transmission of COVID-19.
The health unit said that the letter is intended to reinforce the importance of practicing all public health measures to help reverse the increasing spread of the virus in the area.
"We continue to see dramatic increases in the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 throughout Simcoe Muskoka, and these letters are a reminder that everyone in the community is required to protect each other from COVID-19 and to maintain and support our scarce health and public health resources," said Dr. Charles Gardner, SMDHU's Medical Officer of Health.
Dr. Gardner went on to say that collectively if public health measures are followed, the rate of transmission can be reversed or stabilized to ensure a safe holiday season.
If not, the health unit warned that capacity limits, which were lifted in October by the province, could be reinstated.
On Sunday, several business owners in Orillia told CTV News the pandemic has been challenging, both financially and emotionally. Still, they are doing everything they can to help ensure further restrictions aren't imposed.
"We have to follow the rules and make sure everyone else is, so everyone feels safe. With these new variants coming out, we don't know what's going to happen," said Angela Brown, the owner of One Twenty Five Breakfast Club in downtown Orillia.
The uncertainty has many business owners staying vigilant with their COVID-19 safety measures. That includes; regularly sanitizing, placing two-metre makers on the floor to ensure social distancing, and wearing masks at all times.
"As long as it keeps everyone safe— I hope it does— we'll continue to do it as long as we have to," said Sandi Wilkie, the co-owner of Wilkie's Bakery.
The recent letters sent to municipalities in the region have the Orillia Chamber of Commerce reinforcing the message to local businesses about the importance of following health protocols to help ensure the safety of the community and the stability of the local economy.
"It can be extremely stressful at times trying to deal with safety measures, but it's a necessary thing," said Bill Ecklund, the president of the Orillia District Chamber of Commerce.
On Sunday, Ecklund and the executive director Allan Lafontaine said they support the health unit's advice that businesses should be diligent and update their safety plan for staff and customers.
Lafontaine said last year the Chamber conducted a consumer survey that showed consumer confidence was highest when there was a clear COVID-19 safety protocol in place.
In case of further restrictions, the Chamber asks businesses to continue updating their websites for online ordering and plan a long-term strategy with curbside pickup to ensure business continuity.
The health unit released several ways to help avoid this from happening. Firstly, it says getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the community, whether it's your first, second or booster shot. The second measure the health unit mentioned is wearing a mask that covers your mouth, nose and chin while you're indoors.
The health unit advises that people who are not fully vaccinated keep gatherings to only those within their household unless physical distancing is practised and face coverings are worn. For those who are fully vaccinated, the health unit said they should keep their gatherings to a small number of people outside their home.