COVID and crowded stores — are we paying a price for holiday shopping?

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The November climate is obviously different at LCBO stores where, early in the pandemic, security guards managed lineups outside and customers could only enter when inside numbers allowed.

A clerk not authorized to speak to the media told this newspaper that the posted capacity numbers at the door are often exceeded and the feeling from management was to make shopping as comfortable as possible.

“What they don’t want is long lines of people waiting in the cold.”

A statement from LCBO’s press office says the agency has not relaxed the “safety measures and precautions that matter most”, like cleaning, sanitizing and promoting physical distancing. It did admit, however, to modifications.

“Throughout the pandemic, guided by public health and with the safety of our people, partners and communities in mind, we have continued to modify our processes to ensure the measures we have in place across each area of our business meet or exceed set standards.

“In fact, we have applied a universal capacity standard across our store network which in all cases meets or exceeds the 50 percent capacity requirement.”

Just last week, the Ontario government announced it was drawing on more than 200 provincial offences officers to act as inspectors in business sectors where safety measures have been imposed. The “education and enforcement” blitz is aimed at restaurants, bars, gyms and banquet halls in Ontario hot spots.

The amount of virus-spreading in retail settings is hard to pin down. Data released by Ontario in late October showed wild variations, from one per cent of outbreaks in Ottawa to 19 per cent in Peel and 11 per cent in York region.

Ottawa public health reminds that wearing a mask and physical distancing — in the store and in staff rooms — are critically important at this time of year.

“As we head into the holiday shopping season, we encourage business owners to review their current practices and make any necessary changes to ensure they are creating a safer shopping experience.”

To contact Kelly Egan, please call 613-291-6265 or email