A new website aims to help Ontarians safely navigate the rest of the COVID-19 pandemic by providing them with a list of businesses that have fully vaccinated staff or require customers to show proof of vaccination.
Brandon Mattalo, a Toronto lawyer who works mostly in commercial litigation on a freelance basis, created the website, SafeTO-Do. It went live last week. A Twitter account, @safetodo, announces new additions to the website.
Mattalo said the idea came from a desire to help residents and businesses.
"I think people are cautiously optimistic entering into this third stage in Ontario. I think they appreciate having this information," he said on Sunday.
"People have different risk tolerances. I just wanted to make the information available so people can make decisions within their own individual risk tolerances," he added.
"I think people want this information. And I just thought centralizing it in an easy-to-look-at format and to look through would be useful to people. There isn't really guidance on what businesses should do."
Mattalo said the idea for the website arose because he wanted to find a gym that had vaccination requirements for staff and customers. Gyms opened on Friday when Ontario entered Step 3 of the province's reopening plan.
The website launched after GoodLife Fitness announced this week it would not require proof of vaccination from its staff and members.
'It wasn't meant to be anything political'
Mattalo, however, says he has received his share of negativity online in response to his newly launched website.
He said he has received messages from those opposed to the use of face masks to prevent transmission of the virus, those opposed to the use of vaccination to develop immunity against infectious disease, and those opposed to the concept of a vaccination passport, a document that is proof that the holder has received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Those opposed to lockdown measures in Ontario also send him messages.
Some people who messaged him threatened to target the businesses on list, saying they would not patronize them and would give them bad online reviews.
"It wasn't meant to be anything political," he said. "At first, there seemed to be a lot of negativity to it. But then it's kind of died down now. I think it was a lot of online trolls type of stuff. It's a lot more positive now."
Restaurant experiences backlash to vaccine policy plan
Jacob Wharton-Shukster, owner of Restaurant Chantecler, a French restaurant and butcher shop in Toronto, said he is considering asking customers who wish to sit one of six indoor bar seats in his establishment to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination. His business is one of 19 listed on the website.
A comment he made on Twitter about the plan prompted "a few positive comments but mostly really aggressive, negative comments."
Wharton-Shukster said he replied to the comments in a measured and balanced fashion but the responses to his replies were "not in good faith."
He said it's the responsibility of the Ontario government to provide public health guidance to businesses about whether or not they should require staff and customers to provide proof of vaccination.
"The government's inaction has caused us to have to enact policy ourselves. They have passed the political football on from government, with whom the responsibility should lie, to the individual and to the business owners, which is incredibly unfair," he said.
"That has placed us in a situation where we have to bear the burden and the brunt of force from the very vocal minority of folks who are against vaccination and against public health."
Wharton-Shukster said it's "frightening" to have his business threatened.
Businesses can clarify or remove information on website
The SafeTO-Do website says: "This is a list of places in Ontario that have vaccine policies for customers and/or announcements about their staff's vaccination status, so you can make an informed decision about where you feel safe visiting."
The website lists the city in which a business is located, its type of business, name, notes about its vaccination status, policy and customer requirements, website address and a link to an online announcement that the business has made about its vaccination policies.
Business owners listed on the website are able to make suggestions, clarify the information presented, or have their names removed by sending Twitter messages to the website.