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LETTER: Small businesses not the problem, it's the big box stores, says reader

'Dr. Gardner is in a difficult place and has to make difficult decisions on how to handle this pandemic in Simcoe-Muskoka. But his focus is on the wrong players,' says Angus resident
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MidlandToday welcomes letters to the editor at [email protected] Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter is in a response to a story titled 'Gardner responds to community backlash over incoming lockdown measures' published on Feb. 28.

I saw an article this morning on the website which relayed Dr. Charles Gardner’s response to the backlash over Simcoe-Muskoka entering the grey-zone in the fight against COVID.

Frankly, I would love to hear which restaurants in this region have had positive cases. Were they small business, owner-operated, private establishments, where every single precaution has been taken? Or are they franchises and corporate stores of the big guys, such as McDonald’s, Tim Hortons, and the like? The only cases I’ve read or heard about have been in the latter category.

Yes, I agree with Dr. Gardner, that to allow all retail to open is a step forward for many small businesses. But that is the same as comparing apples to oranges, when you compare it to restaurants, gyms, small salons, etc.

Take, for example, The Farmhouse Restaurant on the lakeshore in Barrie. As their head chef told me at the start of the first lockdown way back when, he washes his hands more times in a day than a doctor does, and ensures under health regulations that all surfaces and areas are cleaned diligently.

He couldn’t understand how a small business, where those things  table distancing and screenings/contact tracing  didn’t seem to matter… they were being locked down.

We now know that community spread, and gatherings beyond the allowed, are the key factors in the spread. It’s not the restaurants, the small shops, or even the gyms where this is occurring.

It’s the people standing around chatting when they run into each other of the parking lot of a big box store, or even inside where they think wearing a mask means they can stand a foot apart.

It’s the three guys who gathered at a neighbour’s house yesterday to work on his snowmobile trailer… none were masked.

It’s the parties and gatherings, where people don’t care, that is the problem and the cause of the spread.

It’s the big grocery stores and big box stores that definitely let in more patrons than allowed under the zones… I have experienced this personally every time I need to put food or medicine on our table.

In a time when so many of our population, myself included, are experiencing mental health illness and pandemic fatigue, being able to go to a restaurant allowed to have 30 per cent capacity, with screening (including not letting people in who come from other hot zones) and tables distanced would help me so much!

 We don’t eat out a lot in our house, because we love to cook all types of cuisine. But, we need to see other humans, and be in an atmosphere that is positive and upbeat, for just a little while… I need that more than ever, as does almost every friend and relative I’ve talked to about it. People who aren’t walkers but rather gym patrons need that outlet for their mental health now.

The endorphins alone contribute to better mental health. And again, seeing other humans for those working from home, or not working at all because they are locked down, is critical now. I would wager a bet that if these two sectors were relaxed, there would be fewer suicides occurring as people struggle to get through this nightmare.

I implore Dr. Gardner to really look at this. He might have a three- or four-figure income that negates any worries he has about his financial security, but small business and restaurant owners, for the most part, do not have that luxury.

Some of our mayors, MPs, MPPs and ministers are trying very hard to move us back into the red-zone, or at least allow restaurants to open.

And that’s the right thing to do!

Dr. Gardner is in a difficult place and has to make difficult decisions on how to handle this pandemic in Simcoe-Muskoka. But his focus is on the wrong players.

Thank you.

Sherrall Brownlie