As new COVID-19 cases continue to climb in the city, Mayor John Tory is advising couples to consider putting off weddings until “the health situation has resolved itself."
“The best thing to do, as much as it comes as bad news… is just not to have them right now or to have something very tiny and have a big party later,” Tory told CP24 on Friday morning.
New restrictions on gatherings in Toronto, Peel Region, and Ottawa officially came into effect at midnight, which means residents of the three COVID-19 hotspots will now only be permitted to have gatherings of 25 people outdoors and 10 people indoors.
The restrictions do not apply to “staffed businesses,” including restaurants, movie theatres, banquet halls, and gyms and Premier Doug Ford said Thursday that weddings would not be impacted as long as the festivities occur at businesses that are permitted to host larger gatherings.
The new rules come as local public health officials report an increasing number of cases linked to private parties and events.
The province reported 401 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday with 130 of those infections coming from Toronto, 82 from Peel Region, and 61 from Ottawa.
“Our medical officers of health have been very clear in saying these kinds of large events, where you get crowd scenes together involving people who don't live together, pose a risk,” Tory said.
Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa recently confirmed that public health officials are investigating four weddings in the city that are linked to 22 new cases of COVID-19.
Tory noted that any wedding that can be held this year would be “somewhat dull” due to all of the restrictions in place to slow the spread of the virus.
“No music, no dancing, no singing. I mean it really isn't anything that would make for the best of weddings so maybe people are best to just put them off for now,” he said.
New restrictions won't be 'silver bullet'
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch said the new restrictions implemented by the province this week aren't going to be a "silver bullet" when it comes to bringing the number of active cases down in the province.
"I think that they are very helpful. They are really meant to prevent people from gathering together in large groups at things like house parties and private gatherings," he told CP24 on Friday.
"Is this one new rule going to solve all the issues in Ontario? Of course they aren't. But I think this is just helpful incremental change."
He said there are still questions surrounding how the new rules will be implemented.
"It is one thing to make this announcement, it is another issue to implement and make sure people are abiding by it," Bogoch added.
"I'll be interested to hear how this is communicated... throughout the province and to see if and how people abide by this but if they do, I think we'll be in a little bit better shape."
On Thursday, the premier warned that anyone caught organizing "illegal social gatherings" will face a $10,000 fine and those who attend will be handed a $750 ticket.
City won’t attempt to shut down strip clubs
Despite some calls to close strip clubs following a string of cases linked to two Toronto establishments, the province did not take any action to bar those businesses from operating when the new restrictions were announced on Thursday.
“I think the city's power to issue blanket orders about particular kinds of places is limited. The province chose not to act in this area and I think I understand why,” Tory said Friday.
“We have had two very high profile incidents involving strip clubs and while that might be very powerful evidence as to why people should stay away from them... the fact remains this. The medical officers of health have said that as much as they pore over the numbers, there is no one category of places where it is the breeding ground for COVID-19.”
He added that the behaviour of employees and patrons inside those businesses in the real cause for concern.
“In the strip clubs, the speculation is maybe, for example, that you have serving areas or change rooms where you have very confined spaces where people are together and end up somehow transmitting the virus to each other… in certain bars, you have the same kind of thing,” the mayor added.
“It is less about the particular category of places as it is about particular places that choose not to enforce the rules and where the patrons, the customers choose not to follow them.”
In August, Toronto Public Health issued a warning to 550 attendees and staff at the Brass Rail strip club at Yonge and Bloor streets after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.
Earlier this month, public health officials issued another warning after six employees and one patron tested positive for COVID-19 at Club Paradise on Bloor Street West.
“I do believe there is no reason you can possibly think of as to why strip clubs need to be open during a pandemic but I think the notion of trying try regulate them closed is something that is difficult to do,” Tory said.
“I think that the approach that we are taking, which is to look at selective enforcement, that's going to be a better approach or (will) likely be as effective as trying to ban any particular kind of place.”