Retailers, restaurants prepare for transition to red zone Tuesday
BARRIE -- Restaurants, retail stores, fitness centres and ski hills are all gearing up to reopen, with limitations, on Tuesday as Simcoe Muskoka moves into the red zone under Ontario's colour-coded COVID-19 framework.
Residents can return to their favourite restaurants and bars, but seating will be limited. A maximum of ten people can be seated inside, and a maximum of four people can be seated together. Alcohol can also only be served between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.
Annette Lymbertos, the owner of Linda's Eating Place & Coffee Shop in Midhurst, says the past year has been a struggle for her roadside diner.
"It's very difficult. With takeout, most people don't think about breakfast."
She says being able to pull out a chair for someone means everything for her bottom line, and it's a much-needed chance to reconnect.
"It's where they come to catch up with the gossip of the neighbourhood," she said. "It's just a part of the lifeblood of this community."
Those hoping to head back to the gym will have to exercise some patience, as capacity is limited to ten people in indoor areas with weights and exercise machines, ten people in indoor classes, and 25 people in outdoor classes.
The limited capacity is part of the reason why HotBod Fitness owner Christy Toms is planning to reopen with a hybrid model, offering in-person classes and virtual programming for those who aren't comfortable returning yet.
"You're excited to open, but you're also worried about the financial output of money, to bring in very few people because you're at a limited capacity," said Toms.
Toms is still waiting to hear if she qualifies for a provincial grant to help keep the gym heated and lit.
As Simcoe Muskoka moves into the red zone, non-essential retail shops are also allowed to reopen but only at 50 percent capacity. Public gatherings will be limited to five people indoors and 25 people outdoors. Religious services, including weddings and funerals, where physical distancing can be maintained, are now limited to 30 per cent capacity of indoor venues and 100 people outdoors.
The Simcoe Muskoka region has seen a gradual downward trend in COVID-19 infections in recent weeks but is also grappling with the presence of a UK variant.
According to a recent study, Simcoe Muskoka has the most variants cases in the province, with confirmed cases in three institutions.
Simcoe Muskoka's Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Charles Gardner, recently urged residents to take a "stay at home approach" as the economy reopens.