COVID-19: CafeTO patios could return as early as May; Ontario reports 2,655 new cases

Coronavirus news from Toronto and Ontario for January 20, 2021

Top COVID-19 stories and news

Toronto businesses call on Doug Ford to limit what big box stores can sell

Ontario cancels livestream concerts

Shame and blame will not save you from COVID-19

The updated list of Ontario lockdown restrictions

The full list of rules for Ontario’s stay-at-home order

Toronto police issue tickets for large gatherings

2:45 pm Toronto Police Chief James Ramer says officers issued several tickets for large gatherings across the city overnight.

In a tweet, he said police received numerous calls about noisy parties. “Officers attended, dispersed, & issued tickets to those in non-compliance w/ Stay-At-Home orders,” he said. “We will continue to respond to these complaints & enforce as needed to ensure the health & safety of our city.”

CafeTO patios could return as early as May: Tory

11:22 am A city staff report is recommending Toronto bring back the popular CafeTO patio program that helped keep restaurants and bars afloat last summer.

“People loved it, plain and simple,” Mayor John Tory said during a city hall press briefing on Wednesday morning, adding that “planning is well underway” to bring back the curb-lane and sidewalk patios.

Recommendations to expand the program are part of a report to be considered an executive committee on meeting January 27. If approved, it will go to council for approval.

Tory said 801 restaurants in 62 business improvement areas (BIAs) – or main streets – plus 96 restaurants outside of BIAs took part last year. Under the program, there were 44 public parklets, 439 curb lane closures and 9,638 metres that became outdoor dining space for restaurants.

The report recommends improve accessibility, improving traffic management, allowing operators to build decks and platforms and making registration smoother and set up faster. Registrations open in February and fees will be waived once again, Tory said.

The first curb-lane patios could open in May, pending the lifting of pandemic restrictions on outdoor dining. That’s nearly two months earlier than the start date of last year’s program.

The city did a survey and found CafeTo was wildly popular with both restaurant and bar operators, as well as customers. The city conducted a survey of nearly 2,800 people that found:

  • 95 per cent of respondents want to bring back CaféTO in 2021;
  • 90 per cent of those surveyed were very satisfied or satisfied with their patio experience;
  • 66 per cent of operators said their restaurant would not have been financially viable without CaféTO.

Tory also said ActiveTO, which saw major roads like Lake Shore West shut down to vehicle traffic for cyclists and pedestrians, will also return this summer. However, pre-planned construction projects will likely mean changes to which streets are closed off.

The mayor also hopes to expand ActiveTO to other parts of Toronto.

Ontario reports 2,655 new cases of COVID-19, 89 deaths

11 am Ontario reported 2,655 new COVID-19 cases and 89 deaths on January 20.

Of today’s deaths, 42 were residents of long-term care homes.

Wednesday’s count is up significantly from the 1,913 cases confirmed yesterday.

However, testing is also up. Labs in the province completed 54,307 tests in the past 24 hours, making for a 4.9 per cent positivity rate – down from six per cent a week ago.

The seven-day average for new cases is now 2,849, also down from this time last week.

“Locally, there are 925 new cases in Toronto, 473 in Peel, 226 in York Region, 179 in Windsor-Essex County and 129 in Niagara,” Health Minister Christine Elliott tweeted.

Another 3,714 cases are considered resolved. To date, there have been
242,277 cases of COVID-19 in Ontario since the outbreak began. Of those, 209,183 are resolved and 5,479 people have died.

As of 8 pm last night, the province had administered 237,918 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Ontario expands workplace inspections after big-box blitz

9:56 am After last weekend’s big-box store blitz, the province is stepping up workplace inspectors under the new COVID-19 emergency rules.

Around 300 ministry of labour inspectors will head out to a wider variety of retail businesses, restaurants open for takeout, gas stations and farming operations, among others. The box store blitz will also expand to other regions of the province.

Provincial labour minister Monte McNaughton said inspectors, bylaw officers and police visited 242 big-box stores in the GTA and Hamilton over the weekend and found only 69 per cent were following COVID protocol.

Inspectors hit 76 large stores with 53 orders and 25 tickets, including fines ranging from $750-$1,000. The corporations, as well as managers and supervisors, were fined, he said.

The numbers are slightly worse than what McNaughton tweeted earlier in the week.

The minister said that infractions included not following physical distancing or masking rules, and not installing plexiglass between customers and staff.

“A whole host of infractions occurred,” he said. “There are a number of investigations from the weekend that are ongoing and we’ll have more to say about that in the weeks ahead.”

Ministry inspectors have shut down 61 unsafe workplaces and job sites in past week, he added.

Halton, Durham students could find out if in-class learning will return

9:40 am Students in GTA regions Halton and Durham will find out if they will return to classrooms on Monday.

Premier Doug Ford said last week that Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health would recommend whether schools outside hot spots Windsor-Essex, Peel, Toronto, York and Hamilton would reopen.

If given the greenlight, in-person learning could resume next week. As part of the state of emergency, the province suspended in-person learning in Toronto, Peel, York, Hamilton and Windsor-Essex until February 10.

Students in Northern Ontario returned to class on January 11.

Small businesses call on Doug Ford to limit what big box stores can sell

9:30 am Business improvement associations and Toronto city councillor Brad Bradford have released an open letter calling on the province to limit what big-box stores can sell to essential items like groceries. It also asks for those that do sell essential items to close off sections or aisles where non-essentials are displayed.

“As a community we support the increased efforts to tackle the virus, however, we are also concerned about their effectiveness to contain the spread and inconsistent impacts for small, locally-owned businesses,” the letter says. “Under the latest emergency orders essential retailers – particularly big box stores – are able to sell non-essential items in-store, and after-hours. This puts small businesses at a disadvantage and is a public health concern as it may encourage non-essential travel.”

Read the full story here.

Samuel Engelking

New COVID-19 cases in Ontario on January 20

The following regions reported five or more new cases of COVID-19:

Toronto = 925

Peel = 473

York Region = 226

Windsor-Essex = 179

Niagara = 129

Region of Waterloo = 101

Ottawa = 86

Hamilton = 75

Simcoe Muskoka = 71

Durham = 70

Middlesex-London = 65

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph = 56

Halton = 51

Southwestern = 20

Thunder Bay = 17

Haldimand-Norfolk = 16

Eastern Ontario = 16

Porcupine = 14

Lambton = 12

Chatham-Kent = 13

Huron Perth = 11

Peterborough = 9

Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge = 7


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