October 19, 2020

Winnipeg
-2° C, A few clouds

Full Forecast

Close
Winnipeg Free Press

ABOVE THE FOLD

Subscribe

Packed patios set stage for virus spread

Editorial

It only takes one.

That’s the phrase that should linger in everyone’s minds as Manitoba and many other parts of the world move further along into their reopening phases amid the COVID-19 pandemic which, despite our province’s low test-positivity rate and case numbers, is not over.

It only takes one infected person to create a super-spreader event. In Ohio, a man with COVID-19 went to a church service in June and 91 people ended up getting sick. Of that number, 53 people were at the church service.

On this side of the border, an outbreak of the virus in communities in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba was linked to a funeral for three teenage girls in Alberta.

That’s why, as people begin to gather in public in larger numbers, it is imperative that basic public-health guidelines remain front and centre — chiefly, physical distancing. And that includes on Winnipeg’s restaurant patios.

Over the August long weekend, photos of what appeared to be a packed patio at Chaise Corydon, a business that has twice been ticketed for failing to enforce physical distancing protocol, stirred up a bit of controversy.

Facebook</p><p>A passerby suggested on social media Chaise Corydon wasn’t socially distancing guests, but owner Shea Ritchie said each group was together and separated from other groups.</p>

Facebook

A passerby suggested on social media Chaise Corydon wasn’t socially distancing guests, but owner Shea Ritchie said each group was together and separated from other groups.

In an interview with the Free Press, its owner stated he was allowing patrons to get up and socialize with other tables, and that the onus isn’t on restaurant staff to prevent intermingling.

Except, of course, that it is.

Restaurants have always had rules. Management can declare "no shirt, no shoes, no service," or refuse to serve someone who is being abusive to staff. Bartenders can and should cut off an intoxicated patron.

Of course, it’s also up to patrons to uphold their side of it: don’t let their small children run around and scream; politely point out something wrong with a meal; be mindful of other diners.

But when it comes to matters of health and safety, it is a business owner’s obligation — moral, even if not strictly legal — to safeguard customers. After all, no kitchen allows random people to walk in and stick their fingers in the soup; asking people to keep their distance during a pandemic isn’t unreasonable. And patrons should be respectful in return.

When it comes to matters of health and safety, it is a business owner’s obligation ‐ moral, even if not strictly legal ‐ to safeguard customers.

Remember: it only takes one infected person. Even if you aren’t carrying the virus, flouting the rules means you’re helping to set the stage for that person’s arrival.

Concerned restaurateurs worry that if some eateries continue to take a lax approach to public health — whether motivated by greed, ignorance or a false sense of security because of Manitoba’s low case counts — the province will be forced to re-apply more stringent restrictions.

That would be bad for business. What’s even worse for business — and for the community at large — is having customers contract COVID-19. And one way to prevent that is to apply the sort of common sense that seems shockingly absent on restaurant patios packed with shoulder-to-shoulder customers.

The reality of the pandemic is that, until there’s a widely distributed vaccine, it isn’t going away. And that means learning to live with new guidelines, new habits, new routines.

Are some of them annoying and inconvenient? Undoubtedly. But practices such as hand-washing, social distancing, wearing a mask and staying home if you feel sick are necessary to keep everyone safe — including restaurant workers and patrons.

Now is the time, for restaurant owners and customers alike, to exercise good judgment. Flu season awaits. Kids are going back to school. We don’t need to be afraid, but we must be mindful.

It only takes one.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.

The Winnipeg Free Press invites you to share your opinion on this story in a letter to the editor. A selection of letters to the editor are published daily.

To submit a letter:
• fill out the form on this page, or
• email letters@freepress.mb.ca, or
• mail Letters to the Editor, 1355 Mountain Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R2X 3B6.

Letters must include the writer’s full name, address, and a daytime phone number. Letters are edited for length and clarity.