TALES FROM HUMBER: A rush of fear surrounds me as Ontario lifts its COVID-19 restrictions

Feb 23, 2022 | OP-ED, Tales From Humber

We are looking into the face of doom.

When Premier Doug Ford announced restaurants would no longer have a limited capacity, I felt too timid to tell my managers that I wanted to quit.

I currently work at a fast-paced restaurant in downtown Toronto. Before the pandemic, the restaurant used to be treated like a club. People were dancing out of their seats, couples used to sit elbow to elbow and celebrities used to dine in as well.

Chaos was normal.

When COVID-19 hit, the restaurant’s atmosphere changed. It was less chaotic and calmer.

Khiana Gutirerrez, host at a downtown Toronto restaurant, is hesitant to work as COVID-19 restrictions are being lifted by the Ontario government.

Khiana Gutirerrez, host at a downtown Toronto restaurant, is hesitant to work as COVID-19 restrictions are being lifted by the Ontario government. Photo credit: Khiana Gutirerrez

The management team controlled the reopening of the restaurant well by implementing Ontario’s guidelines, such as social distancing, mandatory PPE, limited capacity, contact tracing, outdoor dining, and plexiglass. Recently, scanning QR codes in the form of vaccine passports became part of the guidelines.

The restrictions made me feel protected and filtered from customers. I agreed with the QR code system because it was a reliable source of protection from Ontario Public health that verified fully vaccinated customers.

I also believe the QR code system made guests feel comfortable dining in because they are aware only fully vaccinated individuals are allowed in the restaurant. Every single guest goes through the same check-in procedure.

Ontario sits at a 46.598% vaccination rate. That means 46.598% of all people in the province are fully vaccinated with a third dose. That raises concerns about herd immunity, and if people still care about the vaccination rate, and most importantly the new sub-variants around them as they are spreading quickly.

These statistics frighten me because herd immunity is supposed to be at a higher rate, such as 90 per cent. The eradication of measles requires 95% of people in the community have to be vaccinated in order for herd immunity to work.

Maximum capacity limits are equally as important because it constrains the number of people in an enclosed space.

Controlling the environment around me and others was maintainable because the restrictions made allowed me to gate keep people at the door and hold them accountable if they did not have the correct documentation.

I become more nervous and unprepared for what is about to happen as restrictions become more lenient and government officials agree to lift them.

COVID fatigue is upon us and falls perfectly into the hospitality industry as people are impatient and reckless since they have not been out of their homes.

From an insider looking out, I can say people are letting their guard down despite the virus still being a major part of our lives. They complain about wearing their masks inside the restaurant.

This puts my health at risk because I work three times a week, trying my best to uphold government standards to fight COVID. I am fully vaccinated, sanitize high touchpoints, socially distance myself from others and wear my mask appropriately.

I won’t let my guard down, especially during the changes we have gone through because I worked diligently to keep my health a top priority.

I am however frightened for what is about to happen next.