Sudbury businessman worried about the effectiveness of contact tracing procedures

·5 min read

A Sudbury businessman is not pleased with the latest round of COVID-19 restrictions imposed on the community by the health unit.

Dave Laporte is referring to the new restrictions by Public Health Sudbury and Districts announced last Monday in response to the rising case counts.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Penny Sutcliffe announced that because Sudbury had the highest number of COVID cases of any other health unit in Ontario, she was taking action to roll Sudbury back to the pre-October Step-3 level of the Reopening of Ontario Act (ROA).

Laporte, the owner of Rhythm & Cues, a local billiards hall on Lasalle Boulevard said he is not against stricter measures to deal with the pandemic. However, he believes the actions by public health are misdirected by cracking down on bars, pubs, restaurants and other leisure activities. He said it's not fair to single out that sector.

Bars, pubs and pool halls are just a few of the many establishments targeted by the ROA restrictions. The legislation also puts restrictions on both indoor and outdoor social gatherings, religious services, funerals, weddings, personal care services such as barbershops and hair salons, museums, galleries, science exhibits, amusement parks, fairs, festivals, concerts and cinemas.

That list is similar to the list of places that also require proof of vaccinations in Ontario.

Laporte said his staff is 100 per cent vaccinated and a couple of the workers who refused the vaccination are on unpaid leave. He said his clientele is also vaccinated, and verified, as per provincial rules. Along with that, written records are kept at the pool hall for contact tracing purposes.

"If you walk in the door, your name is on a piece of paper, the time in and the time out. And we've been maintaining that for (almost) two years now," said Laporte.

He said on two earlier occasions where Rhythm & Cues was believed to have had a low-risk contact, no one from the health unit bothered to check with him to see the names on the contact list. He said public health has never asked to see the documents.

"So PHSD publishes that there was a low risk contact between 5:00 and 7:00 p.m., or 7:00 and 9:00 p.m., whatever amount of time the person says that they were there. Okay. And they publish it. The first time we were notified that there was a potential low risk contact. And the second time we weren't even notified. And that was pretty upsetting," said Laporte.

Laporte said from what he has seen he believes public health does not have any solid evidence saying that bars, restaurants, theatres and gyms are the actual cause of the outbreaks.

"We are the low hanging fruit. We are the easiest one because it's almost a universally accepted thing across the province and Canada, that we are the culprits."

Laporte said he also disagreed with the arbitrary nature of the health unit's decision. He said when the federal government or the Ontario government made decisions on business restrictions, there was always some sort of financial support provided for businesses and their employees. He said neither the municipality nor the health unit has the resources to provide support to the business community.

"If social settings like bars and restaurants were driving the spread then we certainly would have seen mass outbreaks at Leafs (hockey) games first where masking is questionable and social distancing is non-existent. As there has been none so far. Why would we assume bars and restaurants are more likely?," Laporte asked.

"Secondly, it is curious how bars and restaurants are named for contacts yet you never hear where the positive case bought their groceries or shopped. The reason they don’t is because they don’t want 300 people at Walmart or YIG thinking they are at risk and jamming up the system," he said.

The latest list of outbreaks published by PHSD on November 12, in order of the most recent incidents, shows the following:

-Manitoulin Panthers U13 Hockey Team, Manitoulin District

-The Rock Harley Davidson shop, Greater Sudbury

-The Grand Nightclub, Greater Sudbury

-Holy Trinity School, Greater Sudbury

-Glencore Nickel Rim South Mine, Greater Sudbury

-Lopes Limited, Greater Sudbury

-Chartwell Westmount on William retirement residence, Greater Sudbury

-March of Dimes, Peel Street, Greater Sudbury

-St. Charles College, Greater Sudbury

-Canadian Mental Health Association - Victoria Street Place, Greater Sudbury

-Vale - North Mine, Greater Sudbury

-Health Sciences North hospital, Greater Sudbury

-Vale - South Mine, Greater Sudbury

-Pioneer Manor - Cedar Home, Greater Sudbury

-Memorial Park homeless camp, Greater Sudbury

Laporte said he believes the business community, especially those in hospitality services, are doing all that can be done to follow the rules because it is so essential for that sector to stay in business. And he said it has to be a long term solution.

"I think we need to start to learn to live with the fact that this is not going away in the next six months. Okay. We are going to minimize it. Slowly, we will strangle it with vaccination. I'm a big big proponent of vaccination. That's the only way out of this thing. Okay. But we have to allow business to do what they have to do," said Laporte, adding that vaccines should be mandatory in the service sector.

"We should be mandating vaccines for our staff. It's as simple as that. That's how you protect your customers and your staff."

Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com

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