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Require masks in restaurants, bars to stop coronavirus, Toronto mayor says

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Most Ontario bars get stage 3 reopening go-ahead' Coronavirus: Most Ontario bars get stage 3 reopening go-ahead
WATCH ABOVE: Across Ontario Friday, many regions were able to enter the third stage of the province’s reopening plan – and that includes indoor bars. While some applauded the move, others wanted the Ontario government to reconsider. Shallima Maharaj reports.

TORONTO — Masks should be mandatory inside restaurants and bars in Toronto when indoor dining and drinking is again allowed, Mayor John Tory said on Sunday.

In a letter to Premier Doug Ford, Tory calls for six changes to the province’s Stage 3 reopening order as anti-COVID-19 restrictions are eased.

“I know Premier Ford is just as concerned as I am about a second wave and the disastrous impact that a return to a more stringent lockdown would have on the health of our residents and the restart of the Ontario economy,” Tory says in the letter sent Saturday.

“We have seen in other jurisdictions that further reopening can lead to increased outbreaks of COVID-19 and growing case count numbers. We do not want to go in that direction.”

Read more: ‘Significant risk’: Ontario Medical Association urges government to reconsider indoor reopening of bars

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There have been several incidents in Canada with people refusing business requirements to cover their faces but Tory said in a tweet Sunday that residents would do the right thing and follow what he called important public health advice.

Besides requiring staff and patrons of restaurants and bars to wear masks, the city also wants customers to remain seated except when using washrooms or paying. Currently, people are only required to stay in their seats while they are actually eating or drinking.

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The city also wants earlier closing hours as Quebec has imposed, and capacity restrictions to limit occupancy. The idea is to ensure patrons can easily maintain physical distancing. Right now, there is no occupancy cap provided distancing can be maintained.

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“It only takes one case — perhaps asymptomatic — to infect many people,” the letter states.

All patrons should have to provide contact information — to be kept for 30 days — to allow for tracing as needed, Tory said.

Also Sunday, Ontario reported three new deaths from COVID-19. In all, 2,751 people in the province have died. Another 164 new cases were reported, the second day in a row the case count was above 160. In the previous eight days, the number of new cases had not exceeded 130.

While much of the province moved to Stage 3 on Friday, Toronto and several other areas remain in Stage 2 for now. No date has been set yet for them to change their status.

Read more: Ontario reports 164 new coronavirus cases, 3 deaths; total cases top 37,600

The six recommendations, Tory said, come after consultation with the city’s legal department and health officials.

“We must continue to move forward safely but we also must do everything we can to continue to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Tory said.

Ford did not have any immediate response to the letter but a spokeswoman for Health Minister Christine Elliott said she appreciated the advice from the city.

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The letter also wants establishments to implement COVID-19 screening protocols for staff starting their shifts.

Read more: Bars, parties and farms — some of Canada’s coronavirus hotspots

Experts believe indoor restaurants and bars pose a higher level of risk for the spread of the coronavirus given the likelihood of close and prolonged contact with others in a closed setting.

Tory said he believed businesses would follow the requested measures.

“They will understand this will help protect their customers and employees and help prevent a spike in COVID-19 cases that could ultimately lead to a return to more restrictive measures, including a return to the closure of these same businesses as we have seen in other cities,” Tory said.