Stage 2 in Toronto: Theyve waited 3 months for a drink or a bite to eat on the patio

TORONTO—Patios and hair salons were back in business in Ontarios two most populous regions on Wednesday, as the premier announced that parts of the Windsor region will soon join them in Stage 2.

Toronto and Peel moved into the second stage of the provinces reopening plan, with bar and restaurant patios, beauty salons, splash pads, mini golf and museums among the businesses allowed to resume operations.

In Torontos Danforth neighbourhood, Jen Abbotts was among a handful of people having lunch on a streetside patio at the Factory Girl restaurant.

She said she hadnt planned on going out for a meal immediately when patio service resumed, but had an urge to order her favourite pasta dish.

“Ive been craving it for four months, so I think its time to get it,” she said.

Still, she said, it felt strange to be at a restaurant for the first time since the pandemic began.

George Markakos, who owns the restaurant, said its good to move beyond strictly takeout orders, but business is still severely limited, with only 26 of the usual 175 seats available.

“This is nowhere near enough to pay the bills, let alone make some money,” Markakos said, adding the business is still depending largely on government subsidies.

Daimin Bodnar, co-owner of Hemingways Restaurant and Bar in the Yorkville neighbourhood, said they opened the rooftop patio just after midnight for a few hours, and again at 11 a.m.

Though its only operating at about 35 per cent capacity, the restaurant was “consistently full” Wednesday, Bodnar said, and should continue to be over the next several days based on reservations.

“The community and the public are very eager,” he said.

“Theyre fresh-faced, theyre smiling, theyre happy with the precautions that weve taken and, you know, theyve waited three months for a drink or a bite to eat on the patio.”

Toronto Mayor John Tory stopped by the restaurant Wednesday to celebrate what he called “the start of patio season,” posting photos of himself on Twitter talking to patrons while wearing a mask.

In a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Tory thanked front-line health-care workers for helping the city get to Stage 2.

“We are reopening because the vast majority of Toronto residents and businesses did the right thing,” Tory said.

Meanwhile, Premier Doug Ford announced Wednesday that most of the region of Windsor-Essex will be allowed to move into Stage 2 on Thursday, after originally being held back due to COVID-19 outbreaks on farms in the region.

The only exceptions will be the communities of Leamington and Kingsville, which have seen 475 workers test positive on 27 farms. Two migrant workers have died in the region, as has one in Haldimand-Norfolk.

Ford said he has a plan to address the situation on farms, while also allowing COVID-19-positive but asymptomatic workers to continue on the job, with safety protocols in place.

“This is one of (farmers) busiest times of the year,” Ford said. “They need the extra help and unlike other professions, most of it is outdoors and isolated.”

Ontarios chief medical officer of health said testing of migrant workers found a cluster of asymptomatic positive cases. Dr. David Williams is recommending that such workers can continue working, separated from others who arent infected, as well as sleeping away from their coworkers.

A group that advocates for the rights of migrant workers said it was “horrified and enraged” by the decision, which it said shows a complete disregard for the health and safety of workers.

“Ontario has responded to three farm worker deaths by signing a death warrant for more migrant workers,” Syed Hussan, executive director of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, said in a statement.

“COVID-19 positive workers will be forced to keep working as they get sicker, keep infecting others, and more will die.”

The province is also increasing inspections of farms this week, including the migrant workers living conditions—in partnership with the federal government, as Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said the province doesnt have jurisdiction over the workers bunkhouses.

Ford said his plan to control farm outbreaks includes expanding testing and reassuring workers they wont face negative consequences if they test positive.

Workers who have been here previously and have a social insurance number may also be eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, Ford said.

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