Ottawa businesses nervous as public health asks Ontario to cut down list of essential businesses

OTTAWA — Operating a business during Ontario’s stay-at-home order has been a tough go for many owners, like Patti Taggart.

She owns Tag Along Toys store in Alta Vista, using curbside pickup and delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Parents call me on a daily basis saying, ‘My children are at home for homeschooling, I need something for them to do after school because online learning is so difficult,'” Taggart said. “They’re buying fun items, puzzles, things to keep their kids occupied.”

Now there’s worry about how many businesses will be allowed to do this as the third wave of COVID-19 continues to hit Ontario.  Public health officials in Ottawa are pushing the province to limit the businesses considered essential allowed to open.

In a memo on Thursday, medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said concern about COVID-19 transmission is not through retail and restaurant curbside pickup, but transmission between coworkers and to protect workers who are at greater risk from large outbreaks.

“If you’re in a big huge warehouse, where there’s a hundred people and you’re doing curbside and you’re in a big box store where you have 25 employees, that should not be allowed,” said Taggart. “If you look around small businesses, it’s one sometimes two staff in there just trying to keep the lights on.”

A few blocks down, Langdon’s Flower Shop said they’ve been stretched thin trying to keep up with orders and stay safe.  

“We don’t have any staff in the shop, it’s just the owners,” said co-owner Diane Langdon. “We are also very concerned about the virus, so we’ve made sure we stayed away from everyone and everything to make sure it’s as safe as we possibly can.”

“What’s viewed as essential?” said Jesse Ferdinand, who just picked up toys from Tag Along Toys store. “It’s a tough question to be had because what everyone views as essential can be different.”

For Taggart, she’s waiting and hoping she’ll be able to keep her business open at some capacity during the stay-at-home orders.

“It’s not a lot for businesses but for some of them it’s what’s keeping them alive,” she said. “If we lose curbside you’re going to probably see more businesses close.”

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