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Toronto health officer closes 3 restaurants as result of COVID contact tracing

Toronto's top public health official has ordered the closure of three downtown restaurants after contact-tracing showed some employees with COVID-19, Toronto Public Health said Saturday. Dr.

Toronto's top public health official has ordered the closure of three downtown restaurants after contact-tracing showed some employees with COVID-19, Toronto Public Health said Saturday.

Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto's medical officer of health, issued the order late Friday based on data from contact tracing.

"TPH found a concerning link involving these locations where many people are connected to more than one of the businesses noted," the agency said in a statement.

"In some cases, for example, people infected with COVID-19 were employed at more than one of these locations."

In addition, the health unit said one of the restaurants has served food buffet style, which is prohibited under provincial regulations because of the pandemic.

The department identified the three closed restaurants as MARBL, Casa Mezcal and King Taps, which are all within 10 city blocks of each other on King Street West.

The health unit said it's in the process of ordering the closure of a fourth establishment, but didn't provide details.

In an Instagram post Friday night, MARBL said it was closing for the weekend "due to unforeseen circumstances."

"For those who were planning to join us, we apologize for the inconvenience and we look forward to serving you soon," the post reads.

In a post of its own on Saturday, King Taps said it was "co-operating fully with Toronto Public Health."

"To that end, a deep clean of the restaurant is being conducted and a review of onsite practices and protocols is under way," the post reads.

"Guests who visited on Sept. 6, 9, 10 and 11 may wish to contact Toronto Public Health."

In July, when Toronto was still in Stage 2 of reopening, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario announced an investigation into MARBL after a video emerged on social media showing dozens of patrons crammed into a semi-indoor space.

The video, which also showed staff failing to wear masks, prompted outrage online.

Meanwhile, the Crews and Tangos drag bar and dance hall, in a different part of Toronto's downtown, announced that one of its customers and one of its performers have tested positive for COVID-19.

"We urge all customers of Crews between Sept. 18 and Sept. 20 to go get tested to prevent any further spreading of the virus," the company said in an Instagram post.

"To all of those who made reservations for this weekend, please rest assured, we will be offering refunds."

Also on Saturday, the city issued an alert saying seven people who had been at the Yonge Street Warehouse, another restaurant, between Sept. 10 and 17 had tested positive for COVID-19.

Five are staff and two were patrons, Toronto Public Health said. It encouraged all of the roughly 1,700 people who had been at the restaurant during the relevant period to monitor themselves for symptoms, and said contact tracers had been in touch with those considered at a higher risk of contracting the virus.

The news comes after the Ford government announced Friday that bars and restaurants across Ontario must now shut down by midnight and stop serving alcohol by 11 p.m. in response to a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Thousands of people protested Saturday in London against government COVID-related restrictions — which included a 10 p.m. curfew on bars and restaurants nationwide, along with tougher masking requirements and increased fines for non-compliance.

The Ontario government announced Saturday there were 435 new cases of COVID-19 — making it seven days out of the last nine that the daily total has exceeded 400 cases.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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