Officials in Canada’s largest city are calling for strip clubs to be shut down after a second Covid-19 outbreak linked to such an establishment in less than a month.
Over the weekend, Toronto’s public health unit identified seven cases linked to Club Paradise, a venue which had been attended by hundreds of patrons in recent weeks.
The outbreak came less than a month after as many as 550 people were feared to have been exposed to the virus at another club, the Brass Rail, after an employee tested positive for Covid-19.
“You have to ask yourself the question, why do these places have to be open?” Toronto mayor John Tory told CP24 News. Strip clubs have been allowed to operate in the province since July as part of Ontario’s phased reopening of businesses.
Six of the cases at Club Paradise were employees, and one was a patron. But contact tracers have been unable to contact nearly 300 people who attended the club during the period in which employees were infectious.
While Club Paradise maintained a logbook of patrons to aid in contact tracing, public health officials found that many had provided inaccurate or incomplete information.
“Think of the time that’s taken by public health officials trying to track all of these people down, in many cases with quite frankly bogus phone numbers,” said Tory.
The city’s public health said the risk to patrons was considered low, but advised customers to get tested and self isolate. City inspectors had previously found that the club was in compliance with all operating protocols.
Calls to the club went unanswered Monday, but a voicemail message said the venue planned to re-open September 26.
The outbreak comes amid a surge of new coronavirus cases throughout Ontario and an increase in hospitalizations. On Monday, the province recorded 313 new cases – the highest since June.
“We may feel done with the pandemic, but the pandemic’s not done with us,” tweeted Toronto city councillor Josh Matlow. “It makes sense to close strip clubs (for many reasons), support bars & restaurants by allowing warm outdoor patios as long as possible, lower school class sizes & for all of us to follow public health advice.”