A Sneeze - © James Gathany for the CDC

Restos Take Covid-19 Controls Into Their Own Hands

Much has been made lately of the messed-up situation surrounding masking and mingling in an era when some folks are fully vaccinated against COIVID-19, others have just their first shot, and still others have no shots. But this post is not intended to be a discussion of whether we should all get vaccinated…

Resto Mask Face Guard - © 2020 Mel Melcon via Los Angeles TimesResto operators are just as concerned abut the health and safety of their
employees as they are about the well being of their patrons…

Much less is it a debate over whether we should be forced by government to get the jab. It’s meant to look at another dimension of the issue: how the scenario is playing out at ground level; how restaurant operators and customers are dealing with masking, social distancing and other means of keeping themselves safe from COVID – and especially the new, virulent and deadly D-variant.

A Toronto resto takes a stand

Oakwood Hardware Food & Drink asks patrons, via social media, that customers who have not been fully vaccinated ‘chose’ to sit outdoors, on the patio.

“With the volatility of the weather and our limited capacity to have diners indoors, we ask respectfully that if you are not vaccinated, that you choose outdoor dining when available. Notice that I said choose – this is on an honour system and we would hope that people would understand that the well-being of our staff and clientele combined with the precarious nature of lockdowns have us wary.”

Owner and Executive Chef Anne Sorrenti also stresses that she and her entire staff are fully vaccinated.

The lengthy Instagram post goes on to note that, since there is no government-mandated program establishing vaccine passports, each business must create its own policy on masking, social distancing and associated issues.

Sorrenti concludes her announcement by acknowledging that her policy may cost her some business, and she takes full ownership of the decision:

“I do not set these parameters without full awareness that it may impact business adversely with some of you. […] Be that as it may, we require masks indoors and in public spaces when not eating or drinking, contact tracing, and we expect that these minor asks will make us all a little safer.”

A bold stand

I think Sorrento has taken a bold, but responsible stand to protect her employees and her customers. She’s taking the long-term view, that relegating non-vaccinated diners (albeit voluntarily) to the patio will result in healthier – and ultimately happier – staff and clientele. Financially, its the old story of short-term pain for long-term gain. And she’s signalling she’s definitely in the resto game for the long term. I have a lot of respect for her, and I hope her employees and customers appreciate the risks she’s taking.

At the same time, I’m going against the grain, so to speak, supporting the idea of a vaccination passport. And I go further than Sorenti, who suggests a vax passport should be a provincial responsibility. I think a uniform system of identification for fully-vacinated Canadians should be established and maintained by the federal government. That would ensure, for example, that the vaccination status of Ontario residents who work in Quebec would be officially recognised out of province. In the context of Sorrenti’s concerns and those of other resto operators, it would ensure that customers from out of province visiting Ontario’s largest city be immediately, reliably validated for indoor seating.

The practical dimension

The practical pivot point of these discussions is, even fully-vaccinated folks can be infected by and carry the original COVID-19 virus and the new, virulent D-variant, potentially infecting others. I agree with Sorrenti, that they should be protected from unvaccinated diners who may pass those bugs on to them.

I am, above all else, a practical person. I curse at CNN every morning when stories come up about vaccine deniers, COVID deniers, and others who believe the whole pandemic and all its appurtenances are just political trickery. It seems that I’m hearing, more and more in the U.S. media, that a significant number of Americans are ‘putting politics ahead of public health’. And I give thanks that I’m a Canadian, and we have a different culture here that – in spite of its overt similarities to the U.S. – massively supports common sense, masking, and vaccination as the only way to finally beat COVID-19.

I’ve heard American commentators ask repeatedly why other nations, such as Canada and Australia, are so far ahead of the U.S. in their vaccination programs. It’s simple. We’re Canadians, and we approach issues such as the pandemic with a very different attitude than many Americans. And folks like Anne Sorrenti are great examples of why Canadians are fundamentally different from Americans.

~ Maggie J.