OTTAWA -- With a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases across the province, some health-care leaders are calling for social gathering restrictions to be put back in place.

The Ontario Hospital Association released a letter signed by 38 health professionals which calls for immediate restrictions to be re-imposed on non-essential businesses, such as gyms, dine-in restaurants and bars, nightclubs, and theatres. It also calls on restrictions on other places where people can gather, such as places of worship.

“What we are hoping to do is keep our society as open as possible, one of the foundations of that is keeping the cases low and keeping kids in school,” Dr. Andrew Morris of The Sinai Health and University Health Network said.  “Much like the premier has asked for private home gatherings to be limited to 10 and outdoors to 20, what we are looking for is to also have similar restrictions for businesses.”

The health-care leaders, mostly from hospitals in the Greater Toronto Area, said regions where the speed of transmission was underestimated are “now facing the consequence of increased hospitalization rates, including a rise in intensive care unit (ICU) admissions and more deaths.”

This comes as many businesses continue to struggle.  Statistics Canada says that although the food and drink sector recorded $4.6 billion in sales in July, a 17 per cent increase from June and the third straight month-over-month improvement, but the total numbers are still down nearly 25 per cent compared to last year.

Ontario Premier Doug says it's too soon to impose further restrictions, saying the provincial government is doing everything it can to prevent another economic shutdown.

“We want to avoid shutting down the economy as long as we possibly can,” Ford said.  “I think that would be extremely difficult on a tremendous amount of people.”