Business owners defy shutdown as health experts warn of the dangers

The province's third shutdown has some business owners taking a firm stand, outright refusing to close their doors, with every customer counting towards survival.

"We are going to be open for full dine-in service, as well as takeout service. And we will be having our patio set up as well," says P_zza owner Stefano Agostino.

The Ontario government implemented a 28-day shutdown for the entire province that came into effect Saturday amid souring COVID cases.

Despite the restrictions, which force restaurants and eateries to close to in-person dining and offer takeout or delivery only, Agostino says he's firm on remaining open. "It's a decision of livelihood. We need to survive, and we need to operate at our fullest capacity to be able to survive at this point."

While Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman sympathizes with businesses, he says action will have to be taken if people break the rules.

"Ultimately, there has to be enforcement of public health laws," he says. "I know that will be intensely frustrating to businesses who can operate safely, and looking at our local caseload, it's not as bad as the GTA, but the province makes the laws and, unfortunately, local law enforcement has to enforce them."

Lehman says he can't condone defying provincial restrictions, adding, "there can't be two sets of rules."

Meanwhile, an Alliston doctor pleads with the public to start following public health guidelines, saying the third wave is "as dangerous as we're saying it is."

Dr. Barry Nathanson, Stevenson Memorial Hospital's chief of staff, says he was frustrated to see lineups of people at shopping malls over the weekend. He says residents need to take the deadly virus seriously. "It's not something to be trifled with."

With hospitals reaching capacity as ICUs fill with COVID patients, Nathanson says the virus has taken a toll. "It has been a huge emotional and practical grind seeing so many people, and otherwise healthy people, walk into emergency departments and, unfortunately, they go out to the morgue."

In Orillia, Soldiers' Memorial Hospital's president and CEO Carmine Stumpo says hospitals across the region are preparing to have more intensive care beds as more residents become infected. "What we're seeing happening in the GTA is now happening in Simcoe County in the southern end and will continue to move."

Still, Agostino says shutdown or no shutdown, he intends to welcome customers. "You're going to see a lot more businesses stay open during this."

With files from CTV's Rob Cooper and Mike Arsalides