'That fear is always there': Saskatoon restaurants taking extra precautions as variant cases rise
SASKATOON -- Greg Clark says patio season is off to a good start at Hudsons, but the rise of COVID-19 variants in Saskatoon is a cause for concern.
“That fear is always there and it’s in our minds, it’s in our staff’s minds and I know it’s in our customers’ minds,” said Clark, who is the operating partner at Hudsons.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is warning about an increased risk of variants in the Saskatoon area.
As of Wednesday, the city has 328 Variant of Concern cases.
The SHA is also alerting people about an increased risk of exposure at Sports on Tap on Lorne Avenue.
As of Tuesday, 10 positive cases among staff and customers have been linked to the outbreak, according to the SHA.
Anyone who was at the restaurant on April 5, 9 or 10 must immediately self-isolate and arrange for a COVID-19 test.
It is causing other restaurants in Saskatoon to be extra vigilant.
“We’re very focused on distancing when it comes to our staff, customers. Very strict on any kind of mingling throughout the establishment with other tables. I feel very comfortable with those policies that we’ve been doing,” Clark said.
While Clark said it would be hard to go through another lockdown, he and his staff are ready to do whatever the province requires.
“I’m optimistic that the steps that they’re currently taking are going to help fix sort of what’s occurring, but I mean at the end of the day, if the province feels that that’s the safest measure, then we’ll follow suit and continue to push forward like we’ve done for the last 12 months.”
Dale MacKay, chef and co-owner of Grassroots Restaurant Group, which operates restaurants in Saskatoon and Regina, said his establishments are also taking extra steps.
“We feel like, as operators, we’re doing as much as we possibly can to keep our guests and our staff safe. And that means our staff have been really good about keeping their bubble extremely tight and being as responsible as possible,” he said.
MacKay said the province should look at doing a widespread lockdown rather than only instructing select businesses to close down.
However, he said the true key to curbing the spread is amping up the vaccine rollout.
“My personal hope is that the province just focuses a ton of efforts on getting everyone vaccinated as quickly as possible. That’s, in my opinion, that’s the way that we’re going to get out of this,” MacKay said.
Dr. Cory Neudorf, a public health physician and professor in the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan, said more and more variant cases are being linked to businesses where people haven’t yet been vaccinated.
“Workers are getting exposed to this new variant more because now there are more people coming into these places where they work and some of the barriers that are put in place might not be adhered to quite as closely and therefore, you’re starting to see more people get sick at work and spread among co-workers.”
Neudorf said restrictions like the ones in Regina should be in effect in Saskatoon.
One of those is shutting down restaurants and bars and only allowing them to do takeout and delivery.
“Telling people not only should you not go to those essential places, but you actually don’t have a choice anymore because that’s not open. But we’re going to support the workers and businesses during that time, so that when we do reopen when the vaccine programs had a chance to work, we can reopen more fully, more quickly and a lot more safely,” he told CTV News.
The province said it is not considering further restrictions in Saskatoon at this time, but said it will if cases continue to trend upwards.
Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said it’s also up to people to be selective about where they’re going out.
“We all must use the lowest risk way to get something to eat or buy something we want locally, which includes curbside pickup and takeout,” he said at the COVID-19 press conference on Tuesday.