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Kingston infectious disease expert concerned about indoor public gatherings allowed in Stage 3

Click to play video 'Infectious disease expert urges caution a businesses prepare to open for Stage 3' Infectious disease expert urges caution a businesses prepare to open for Stage 3
WATCH: Indoor settings a concern says infectious disease expert as businesses prepare to open for Stage 3 – Jul 16, 2020

A local infectious disease expert says it may be difficult to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in certain establishments when the province’s Stage 3 sets in Friday.

Dr. Gerald Evans, chair of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Kingston General Hospital, says the public needs to be vigilant as Stage 3 gets underway.

“We know that indoor spaces are much more likely to result in transmission of this virus than if you’re in an outdoor space.”

Despite these concerns, many businesses in Kingston are readying themselves for reopening.

JAKK Tuesdays sports pub in Kingston, is gearing up for Ontario’s Stage 3, which will allow bars and restaurants have clients inside their businesses.

Owner Kelly Hale is in the middle of renovating his pub to allow customers to feel safer while dining inside the restaurant.

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“We’re looking at some ideas today.” Hale told Global Kingston.

“Maybe put up some barriers. A bit more people inside, a bit more capacity as we move forward.”

Read more: Kingston businesses react to Ontario’s Stage 3 reopening plan, loosening restrictions

Although municipal gyms will not be opening in Kingston, private gyms will be allowed to open in Stage 3.

Signs for spacing are already evident just outside the main doors at GoodLife fitness in Kingston’s downtown.

The national chain has already opened in a number of provinces in Canada.

Carleton Braithwaite, GoodLife’s national operations manager, says so far the changes they’ve implemented in other provinces have been well-received by their members.

Perhaps the most notable change is the company’s block-booking system that can be done online or through GoodLife’s app.

Braithwaite says the booking system allows the to synchronize the number of the people working out at anyone time and allows staff to do enhanced cleaning after every block.

“Following a workout block a club is closed for half an hour for us to do what we call a club reset. It just allows us to disinfect and clean high touch points and make sure the club is ready and safe for that next workout block. ”

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Click to play video 'Analysis: Is Ontario ready to enter Stage 3?' Analysis: Is Ontario ready to enter Stage 3?
Analysis: Is Ontario ready to enter Stage 3? – Jul 15, 2020

The YMCA in Kingston won’t be opening their pool, gymnasium and work out facilities until September 1.

Eastern Ontario YMCA CEO Rob Adams says the extra time is needed to get the approvals to open again and gives staff time to return and be trained.

“We’re hoping that after 6 weeks maybe capacity size will be allowed because right now it’s only fifty but maybe by waiting six weeks that capacity may be increased.”

Read more: Coronavirus: 2 more Kingston, Ont., nail salons ticketed for breaching public health guidelines

Evans says some indoor spaces are more problematic than others.

“Some indoor spaces in particular worry me and those are basically bars and to some extent restaurants.”

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He says it’s less about being indoors and more about social behavior particularly when people are drinking and eating.

You can’t wear a mask when engaged in those activities, Evans says.

“Alcohol has a way of dis-inhibiting humans and perhaps makes you a little less diligent about the sorts of practices we’d like people to strictly adhere to.”

Those practices include frequent handwashing, physical distancing and not touching your face.

Evans says businesses will have to clean washrooms frequently in places where alcohol is served because it is a diuretic, adding that provinces and countries that have experienced COVID-19 outbreaks have linked many of them to bars.

“We’re now finding out that in Montreal, some visits to bars have now resulted in … 45 infections.”

Click to play video 'Montreal COVID-19 infections triple in the last week' Montreal COVID-19 infections triple in the last week
Montreal COVID-19 infections triple in the last week – Jul 14, 2020

Evans says perhaps one of the most critical factors in gathering in indoor settings is time.

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“Short encounters, very little risk. The longer that encounter, especially if it can be measured in hours in an indoor environment — very risky.”

Evans says they won’t be able to gauge how successful and safe Stage 3 in Ontario is for several weeks because it takes that length of time for potential COVID-19 transmissions to begin to appear.