Ottawa businesses demand data from province to justify closures
OTTAWA -- An open letter signed by a coalition that represents more than 6,200 businesses in the capital is demanding the Ontario government produce the data that justifies new the COVID-19 restrictions that were put in place on the weekend.
Effective Saturday, Oct. 10, Ottawa was placed under a modified Stage 2 regime by provincial officials, which prohibits indoor food and drink services in restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments in Ottawa, including nightclubs and food court areas in malls.
Indoor gyms and fitness centres, casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments, cinemas, performing arts centres and venues, spectator areas in racing venues and interactive exhibits or exhibits with high risk of personal contact in museums, galleries, zoos, science centres and landmarks were also ordered closed for at least 28 days.
In an open letter, Mark Kaluski, chair of the Ottawa Coalition of Business Improvement Areas (OCOBIA) called for a meeting with Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Health Minister Christine Elliott and Economic Development Minister Vic Fedeli to discuss the justification for the closures.
"We request an immediate meeting to discuss and justify the closure measures as they relate to the spread of COVID-19, the data points used to make this decision, the contact tracing results, the decision-making protocols, and plans for future measures should the number of new cases continue to grow," the letter reads, in part. "We will also request that messaging and fines for those who break quarantine rules and eschew public health measures be severe and swift."
The coalition says that while it agrees that planking the curve of COVID-19 transmission is a paramount concern, they do not believe the businesses they represent have been the source of rising infections.
"To date, no known transmission of COVID-19 has been publicly ascribed to employee-to-customer or customer-to-customer transfer in Ottawa. Publicly-released information has consistently suggested that the recent increase of person-to-person transmission has occurred largely at social gatherings and other undistanced activities," the letter reads.
There are currently three active COVID-19 outbreaks in Ottawa at unidentified workplaces. Ottawa Public Health has routinely attributed much of the rise in COVID-19 cases to private gatherings. According to data from Ottawa Public Health, of the 1,247 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the last 14 days, 857 are listed as having no information as to a point of exposure and 84 have no known source. 260 cases are linked to COVID-19 outbreaks in the city and 264 are linked to close contact.
The OCOBIA says closing businesses puts the burden of the pandemic on their shoulders.
"These restrictions create a perception that businesses are unsafe and this will only further undermine efforts to instill customer confidence, even as our members follow public health recommended protocols with absolute compliance," Kaluski wrote.
A petition representing fitness studios and gyms in Ottawa, Toronto and Peel Region—the province's three "hot spots" for COVID-19 transmission—calls on Premier Ford to reopen gyms, adding that exercise is not only helpful for physical health but mental health as well.
The petition has been signed nearly 7,500 times as of Tuesday morning.
Council to move motion calling on premier to reconsider lockdown
An Ottawa city councillor will be moving at motion at Wednesday's city council meeting on Wednesday calling on the premier to reconsider the 28-day lockdown.
West Carleton--March Coun. Eli El-Chantiry criticized the premier on Saturday for the short notice given to businesses in the capital before the shut down came into effect.
Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA's "Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron", El-Chantiry said he supports to BIAs.
"Where is the evidence to show restaurants are the cause for the extra spreading," he said. "All these places, they did everything they can all summer long in preparation for this season to be shut down for 28 days. I have to tell you, a number of them will not survive."
El-Chantiry said he supports public health measures to keep people safe, including enforcement and fines for businesses that do not follow the rules, but he says he wants to see proof that restaurants, bars, and gyms in Ottawa are contributing to COVID-19 infections.
"If evidence comes to us saying the restaurants and bars and gyms are the cause, of course we're going to support the decision," he said. "I want my community to be safe but I'd like to be able to defend that decision and say there's evidence telling us that's what the cause of the increase of cases is coming from."
El-Chantiry says he will be moving a motion at council on Wednesday to support the OCOBIA.
"If they have evidence based on this, that's fine, they should share it with local public health and advise us," he said. "To go 28 days, I think that decision should be revisited."
Mayor Jim Watson told "Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron" he would support El-Chantiry's motion.
"This is not a criticism of the province but, at the same time, we want to make sure we're not being lumped in with Toronto's challenges," he said.
Read the full letter from the OCOBIA