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Health experts, small business organizations react to extended stay-at-home order

Last Updated May 13, 2021 at 6:01 pm EDT

Health officials and small business organizations are among many reacting to the Ford government’s decision to officially extend the provincewide stay-at-home order by at least two weeks until June 2.

The stay-at-home order mandates that everyone remain at home except for specified purposes, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services (including getting vaccinated), for outdoor exercise, or for work that cannot be done remotely.

In-person shopping and non-essential stores, including malls, will remain closed. Big box stores are strictly limited to selling essential items only.

Infectious disease physician Dr. Isaac Bogoch lauded the decision calling it “the right approach.”

“It will help us vaccinate significantly more people and have greater community-level immunity. It should also make this the last lockdown for Ontario,” wrote Bogoch on social media.

We can (and should) be picky about the nuance and details of the various policies, but in general, a slow and careful approach to reopening will help prevent a large COVID-19 resurgence, mitigate a fourth wave, and keep pressure off of our already overwhelmed healthcare system.”

RELATED: Modelling shows stay-at-home order is working: ‘Cases decreasing earlier, faster than projected’

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) wasn’t so impressed, though.

The CFIB, which represents over 95,000 small business members, called the decision to extend the provincial stay-at-home order “disappointing.”

“Once again, the Ontario government has announced a lockdown extension without any additional financial supports for all shuttered small businesses. What was supposed to be a 28-day closure will have doubled to 56 days by June 3. Only 25 percent of Ontario businesses are at normal revenue levels, while bills continue to pile up,” said the CFIB in a statement.

“The Ontario Small Business Support Grant should be immediately reinstated with a third payment and a broad expansion of eligibility. Every business affected by stay-at-home orders should have access to financial help, including dry cleaners, contractors, and caterers, just to name a few.”

The CFIB says more rapid testing must be introduced at various workplaces across the province as a tool to better protect employees and allow for the reopening of small businesses.

“It is further disappointing that despite significant expansions to rapid testing availability for small businesses, the government continues to favour blanket shutdowns and full closures. Rapid tests should be another tool to get closed businesses open sooner and safely,” the organization added.

“While there is reason for optimism that this really will be the last stay-at-home order extension, we have yet to see a comprehensive reopening plan.”

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) also weighed in, saying it’s calling for more notice when public health measures change as “there is no easy on/off for businesses.”

“… The frustration from business owners has been palpable as they try to decide whether or not to invest in the necessary health and safety supplies, rehiring, inventory and planning required to reopen their operations,” said Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

“The same type of transparency needs to be applied to communications around AstraZeneca. It is still unclear when Ontarians who received a first dose will receive their second shot.”

Ontario announced Wednesday that just over 250,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are expected to arrive in the province next week with officials hinting that they will likely be used for second doses.

The province paused administering first doses due to an increase in VITT; a rare blood clotting syndrome.

As part of Thursday’s extension of the stay-at-home order, the province announced that outdoor amenities will remain closed but will be revisited once the latest lockdown expires by June 2.

Bogoch, one of many health experts to advocate that outdoor activities be allowed, called that decision frustrating.

“These are safe and should be encouraged,” he said.

Dr. David Fisman of the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) echoed Bogoch and his thoughts, saying he “wholeheartedly” agrees with the province’s decision.

“Two more weeks is about right. I do wish they’d open outdoor stuff but it ain’t my call,” Fisman tweeted.

Ontario family physician, Dr. Alison Mikelsons, was more critical of Ford’s approach thus far in managing transmission of the virus at workplaces.

“Doug Ford keeps saying ‘vaccine-resistant variants’ which is only fuelling anti-vaccine sentiments. The vaccines do show protection against the current variants and the companies are working on boosters that confer even more protection if they are required,” Mikelsons wrote on social media.

“This is another example of focusing on the wrong things this pandemic. They continue to say schools were safe, outdoor activities are dangerous, and travel is responsible for this wave which is untrue. What is the main reason for the 3rd wave? WORKPLACES.”

Mikelsons says while non-essential travel must continue to be limited, “the spread that is happening is irregardless of travellers.”

“The spread/third wave happened in workplaces and paid sick days and closing non-essential factories will help way more.”

The scientific director of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, Dr. Peter Juni said earlier this week that outdoor activities like golf, tennis and beach volleyball are low risk.


Local mayors in favour of extended, provincewide order

Toronto mayor John Tory commended the Ford government’s decision ahead of the Victoria Day long weekend.

“I know we all hope that by June 2 we will see drastically reduced case counts, improved hospitalization numbers, tremendous additional progress on vaccinations, and that we will absolutely be able to reopen the closed recreation amenities,” said Mayor Tory.

“The announcement from the province today gives people and businesses clear expectations for the next few weeks including the Victoria Day long weekend. This is something that people, myself and the other GTHA Mayors and Chairs, had been asking for and so I thank the Premier for providing that predictability.”

Mississauga mayor Bonnie Crombie says while the announcement is difficult news for small businesses, case counts need to be further reduced before restrictions can be eased.

I know the news of an extension to the provincewide stay-at-home order is hard for so many of our residents and small businesses, as we have already sacrificed so much,” said Crombie.

“It is my hope, however, that this additional time will allow us to get our case counts under control as we continue to vaccinate everyone 18 and older in the City and across Peel Region.”

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