Hope among many business owners for a 14-day lockdown in Ottawa is dwindling as trends in the city show rising COVID-19 infections.
“This hit will end a lot of businesses. We just saw a couple studios in the city close down,” said Ashley Mathieu, owner of two Anytime Fitness locations in Ottawa.
“Every blow hurts, but that hurts, that hurts a lot,” added Jeff Frost, owner of the Wellington Diner. “It’s terrible, it’s horrible, the morale is down. The staff that we have left, they're depressed. Nobody’s really making any money.”
Despite an early push by Ottawa’s top doctor and the mayor for the capital to be re-evaluated after 14 days, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches says a recent surge in cases has likely changed that.
“If we stay in this red kind of zone […] expect that full 28 days of the lockdown,” said Dr. Etches, during an interview with CTV News Ottawa on Wednesday.
Ottawa Public Health reported 184 new cases of COVID-19 in the city on Sunday — a new single say record. The city's number of new cases per capita in the past seven days has surged to more than 60 per 100,000 residents, a figure that has risen by 50 per cent since the end of 2020.
“Now that the numbers have gone up and now that we’re looking at a longer lockdown, the businesses that were in very shaky condition going into the Christmas rush are in even worse shape now,” said Dennis Van Staalduinen, Executive Director of the Wellington West BIA.
Frost says he fears many businesses won’t be reopening.
“This industry is taking blow after blow, and at what point do we just pull out? At what point do we just hang in there and lose everything?” Frost said.
The fitness industry is struggling, too. The post-holiday shutdown comes at a time when gyms would normally be busier than ever.
“It’s peak time for us, business-wise, but we all know that January and February are the darkest months and the highest for depression, and so having our doors open and available for people to come in is now not there,” said Mathieu.
This comes as health experts are predicting January will be the worst month yet in the pandemic.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti told CTV News Channel on Friday that January could see a 'double whammy' of spikes in cases related to the Christmas and New Year's holidays.
"We do know that there was a significant amount of transmission that occurred around Christmas time, and unfortunately with New Year's being just about a week [after], you're at your most infectious. And at that point you can get almost this -- for lack of a better phrase -- double whammy, and I do think January unfortunately is going to be a bit of a bumpy ride for us in health care," Chakrabarti said.
There are 764 people in Ottawa with active infections of COVID-19, according to the most recent data from Ottawa Public Health, which is more than 1.5 times the number of active cases reported on New Year's Eve.
With files from CTV's Brooklyn Neustaeter.