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Whitby deals with new lockdown as businesses and individuals battle isolation

Posted: January 21, 2021

(January 20, 2021)

By: Tim Kelly,

Whitby resident Lori Lopes, an active Facebook user and administrator of 581-member strong Whitby Voters Facebook page, knows the impact of a lockdown.

Lopes, who is also a front-line health-care worker as a nurse, closely follows both health advice through the Ontario Hospital Association and also what her Facebook posters on Whitby Voters are saying.

And she has seen trends.

She said as the COVID-19 pandemic went on during last spring’s lockdown stretched out she noticed on Whitby Voters, “I had to start blocking people. It did kind of descend into a dark place with conspiracy theories like, ‘It’s a plandemic’ and the ‘antimasker’ stuff. It just got to be too much and I decided enough’s enough.”

She worries the current stay-at-home order, while necessary, will only exacerbate mental health and social problems by further isolating people.

“I monitored a meeting of the Ontario Health Coalition on Zoom last week that talked about the rates of child abuse and suicide,” said Lopes.

“I know a few people who have been affected by it. People aren’t getting to their doctors like they used to and they are isolated. If you are online all the time, you can fall into the rabbit hole of reading conspiracy theories,” she said.

For John Allen of 12welve Bistro in Whitby, this latest emergency stay-at-home order is like an “uppercut” a boxer faces after taking gut punches, regrouping and making headway.

He said research shows 1.2 million people in Canada work in the restaurant business (food service sector) but that 10,000 restaurants in Canada have closed during the pandemic. It’s not clear how many have closed in Whitby.

Allen is encouraging customers to continue to order or pick up from restaurants, buy gift cards or use social media to support local restaurants.

He said this second lockdown is quite different from what happened last spring.

“Before, nobody knew what we were really getting into and they really relied on picking up and ordering takeout. Now, you have people who aren’t running to restaurants as much or ordering takeout as quickly as they did in the spring,” Allen said.

He thinks several reasons account for the change, among them, the tainting of third-party delivery services like Skip the Dishes, DoorDash and Uber for high markup rates on their charges.

“We were telling people to stay away from Skip and Uber and DoorDash when they take 30 per cent. But the little guys (restaurants) don’t have their own delivery services and need those companies so they can make some revenues. Those delivery service rates have come down a bit,” he said.

He also worries about the new variant of COVID-19, which spreads easier than the original variant of COVID-19.

“If someone on your current staff, and we’re down to the bare bones on staff as it is, comes down with this, we gotta shut the whole team down, because they’ve all been exposed,” he said. So Allen has to have a second staff team on standby just in case.

He also sees small businesses starting up GoFundMe pages to stay in business.

“Is that what it’s come to now? We’re counting on our customers to save our businesses by making cash donations?” he said.

The stay-at-home order also hit the Town of Whitby’s plan to open up two open air natural skating rinks this month.

The rinks, which town staff were in the process of starting to construct, were cancelled, when it became impractical to continue given the new rules required that outside gatherings be limited to groups of only five people.

“After reviewing the provincial legislation and in support of the province’s message to stay-at-home to help stop the spread of COVID-19, the town has made the difficult decision not to move ahead with the two weather-dependent rinks at this time,” the town said in a statement earlier this week.