‘There has got to be a better way’: Orillia restaurant owner

Wayne Isaacs and his sister, Jacinth Taylor, looked around their empty Atherley Road restaurant and wondered what the future held. After months of drifting between openings with limited capacity to lockdowns that allow only takeout, Lickel Bickle was feeling licked. “If you can’t pay the rent, what do you do?”  Isaacs said. Opened in October 2020, Lickel Bickle specializes in Jamaican cuisine and Canadian breakfasts. While Isaacs’ Caribbean fare continues to draw customers, to-go breakfasts are a hard sell. “Nobody wants to eat eggs with takeout,” he said. When the restaurant opened, customers were seated at every other table to maintain a safe distance. A 10-person capacity limit that followed meant “we’d have more people waiting outside than we had inside,” Isaacs said. Prior to a lockdown imposed in late December, “we weren’t making any money, but we could pay the bills,” he said. “Since Christmas, we can’t pay the bills.” Aggravating matters, Isaacs had previously spent more than $1,500 on groceries, much of it for breakfasts customers weren’t buying once the lockdown was declared. Even as sales wither, expenses like utilities and lease costs continue to mount, prompting him to sell a car and other personal items to stay afloat. “Last month, we did about $3,000 (in sales) and it cost $12,000 to keep the place going,” he said, adding the business was not eligibl […]

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Cocaine, fentanyl, heroin and meth seized by Orillia OPP

Members of the Orillia OPP made a significant drug bust on Aug. 6, arresting five individuals and seizing quantities of four different illicit substances. At 11 p.m., officers on patrol on Elgin Street observed two suspicious vehicles. According to police, one of the vehicles left the area and proceeded to commit a traffic violation. Officers conducted a traffic stop and, after speaking with the driver, entered into a drug investigation. All occupants were arrested and removed from the vehicle. According to police, a search resulted in the seizure of more than 150 grams of cocaine, along with quantities of heroin, fentanyl and methamphetamine, cash and a knife. As a result, a 34-year-old man, 32-year-old woman, 30-year-old man and 24-year-old woman, all from Orillia, were arrested and charged. The four accused are now facing eight possession and trafficking-related charges. All four were released from custody and are slated to appear in court on Sept. 14. The fifth occupant of the vehicle, a 29-year-old Orillia man, was arrested and charged with possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, unauthorized possession of a weapon and being the occupant of a vehicle knowing there was a prohibited or restricted weapon. The man was held for a bail hearing on Aug. 7 via video link to the Newmarket courthouse.

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Collingwood extends accessible transit services, hires security to handle ‘altercations’ at bus terminal

The Town of Collingwood is extending its accessible transit service for another year. At the March 8 meeting, the development and operations committee voted to stick with its current providers and look at options in 2022. The municipality currently has two partners, the Red Cross, which operates a transit vehicle from 9 a.m., to 6:30 p.m., as well as Ace Cabs, which operates a transit taxi service by request, 24/7. Ace Cabs had indicated last fall it would end the service at the end of September, due to economic circumstances. However, the company has agreed to carry on until the municipality can make alternative arrangements. “This is an important segment of our population and we need to make sure they are getting access to adequate transportation,” said Mayor Brian Saunderson. Kris Wizniak, operations and transit co-ordinator, said the town put out a request for information to see if other companies were interested in bidding for the service. The company Voyago, which provides accessible transit across Ontario, was the only company to offer a bid. Wizniak said the cost would be $195,000 above what’s currently budgeted. Staff recommended the town stick with the Red Cross and renegotiate a deal with Ace Cabs. It’s expected that would cost an additional $15,000. Transit services review ongoing Wizniak said staff will likely revisit accessible transit when the current review of transit services is completed. He said they’ve completed the first roun […]

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Taking it to the street: How a mobile team bringing COVID-19 vaccines to the Danforth is coaxing the last 20 per cent to get their jabs

Jim Marrelli eyes the small, friendly crew clad in bright green and blue T-shirts pushing two metal carts, one with a large grey YETI cooler, down Danforth Avenue on a sweltering August day. No, he hasn’t had his yet, he tells them. He gets off his bike, dips his hands into a pail filled with soapy water hanging off his handlebars, puts on a mask, and takes a seat on a nearby planter. Yes, he would like to get one now. But first he needs to know, “I’m not a sheep, am I?” As the province tries to avoid a fourth wave and politicians debate requiring vaccines to get into venues like bars and restaurants, all eyes are fixed on the 19 per cent of eligible Ontarians who have not yet had a first dose and what it will take to change their minds. A new mobile street team from Michael Garron Hospital and East Toronto Health Partners, is focused on what many consider the hardest part of the rollout, reaching those last people. They started on July 30 and the plan is to alternate on Monday, Wednesday and Friday along Danforth Avenue, Queen Street East and Gerrard Street, says Shabina Rangarej, Manager of COVID-19 Vaccination Program at Michael Garron Hospital. They bring about 30 doses in a cab from the hospital to Coxwell subway station before heading out to nearby businesses, and usually reach at least 18-20 people a day. “We came out of the gate running and that was great but now it’s slow and steady,” says Rangarej of the rollout. “Slow […]

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How 3 Canadian workplaces are planning for return to the office

A number of Canadian workplaces are preparing to launch their back-to-the-office plans for the near future, pending news about the rise in COVID-19 cases and the prevalent Delta variant. While each business or organization is planning for an environment that uniquely suits their needs, the one common denominator is that work life certainly will not be the same as it was pre-pandemic. Here are back-to-the office models for three Canadian workplaces that are either based in or have offices in Ontario. mdf commerce Business type: Technology, Software as a Solution (SaaS) Back-to-the-office model: Hybrid with collaborative spaces Timeline: Mid-September (tentative) At the start of the pandemic, mdf commerce employees were adjusting to work changes through a lens of emergency. But as the months rolled on, not only were employees more comfortable with navigating between home and in-office work in between lockdowns, they were actually starting to enjoy it, Luc Filiatreault, president and CEO of mdf commerce, said. He said the question then became: how would the company do this long term? Mdf commerce’s tentative back-to-work model will be a fair, predictable and flexible hybrid model with decisions made at a team level regarding the days they will book office space and the days team members will work from home. Filiatreault noted that in-office work spaces will be collaborative and shared, rather than assigned, so teams will have to reserve the real estate they need. &ldq […]

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After watching her dad die of COVID-19, this Toronto nurse has a message

Eram Chhogala vividly remembers the day her father was hospitalized with COVID-19. She was working in the emergency room when he arrived. “I kind of felt like my nightmare became reality when I saw him roll into the hospital in the ER,” she said. “I tapped one of the doctors and said, ‘My dad is really sick. He’s really short of breath. I’ve never seen him like this before.’” Chhogala works as a trauma and ER nurse at Scarborough Health Network and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and had spent most of the previous 12 months trying to shelter her parents, with whom she lived, from COVID-19. Chhogala’s job involves intubating and resuscitating COVID-19 patients, so it wasn’t an easy task. What ultimately took Ayub Chhogala’s life was not exposure to the virus through his daughter, but through a co-worker. “Dad was a working, walking, talking guy and he went to work because he loved to work,” Chhogala said. “One day, he said he just wasn’t feeling well. He came home early and said he just needed to rest for a few days and maybe he would feel better.” Ayub, a 73-year-old Mississauga resident, tested positive for COVID-19 and died in hospital from complications of the disease on April 26 following a weeks-long fight to recover. Ayub Chhogala died from complications of COVID-19 shortly after his 73rd birthday, earlier this year. — Eram Chhogala photo Ayub loved his family, his Muslim c […]

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Orillia’s Footprints on Muskoka gets unique touch with its own line of Simcoe wear

Since opening her business, Krista Mansour is one step closer to building an original fashion brand. Mansour owns the Orillia branch of , a privately owned chain of retail stores with two other locations in Bracebridge and Gravenhurst. The Orillia location opened Aug. 2 and sells a range of fashion items, from boots and jackets to hoodies and sweatshirts. But the Orillia location has its own line of Lake Country and Simcoe wear, as Mansour experiments with different designs for her line of clothing. “Everybody can buy a sweatshirt that says the same thing on it. But what we have is unique,” said Mansour. Mansour hired a graphic designer to bring her ideas to life. To her, the store has become a place for tourists looking to get a feel for life in Orillia and the surrounding Simcoe county. “We reach all categories as far as age. We’re just kind of waiting to see how people respond to the sweatshirts,” said Mansour. “I find that a lot of people — a lot of cottagers and people that (go) camping — really like the sweatshirts and T-shirts.”

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What’s Going on Here? Midland Bay Landing promenade construction

Development of Midland Bay Landing has started. A small promenade will be constructed west of Midland Bay Landing Park. JUST THE FACTS: • The promenade, which is meant to give residents and prospective investors a glimpse of the plans for the site, will be nearly 100 metres long. • It will run along the former coal dock and feature the historic two-metre-wide concrete base for the old steel rails and a new four-metre-wide concrete promenade. • Interlocking adjacent stones will be installed, along with viewing benches and a picnic table abutting a 2.5-metre-wide bio-swale with trees, shrubs and solar pedestrian lights. • A separate three-metre-wide asphalt multi-purpose trail will run parallel to the swale. • The construction project will be a demonstration of what will eventually extend along the entire 1,000-metre waterfront on the 40-acre Midland Bay Landing property. • Council has approved a $250,000 budget for the promenade. • Three large panels will be erected on the side of the multi-use trail to show plans of what the overall development will look like. • Construction of the promenade is expected to be completed in September.

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‘We are now transitioning’: Simcoe Muskoka health unit opens pre-registration for COVID-19 vaccination slots

Take a number, but don’t stand too close in line. If you’re in one of a select group of eligible residents, you can now book an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccination through the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit. The agency announced March 12 it is opening pre-registration to ‘highest’, ‘very high’ and ‘high priority’ frontline health-care workers, essential caregivers of residents in long-term care and retirement homes, all Indigenous adults and their household members, and adult recipients of chronic home care, as part of its continued Phase 1 vaccination rollout. “More than 52,000 doses of vaccine have already been administered in Simcoe-Muskoka, offering protection to those most vulnerable, including the residents of all of our long-term-care facilities and retirement homes, as well as many health-care workers, older adults, and Indigenous older adults,” health unit medical officer of health Dr. Charles Gardner said in a statement. “We are now transitioning into the final chapter of Phase 1, another important step in bringing the pandemic under control.” Once a person has pre-registered on the health unit website, they will be placed in a queue to receive a vaccine appointment. When space is available, they will be sent an email invitation from the Ontario government with a code to schedule their appointment on the provincial booking system. This may take days or weeks depending on vaccine supply. […]

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‘I’m scared to go to school’: Orillia youth says she was harassed for having COVID-19 last year

Madison Tonge wants it to stop. The Grade 9 Twin Lakes Secondary School student says she has been harassed by her peers for months because she had COVID-19 in November. Madison, 14, took to social media Thursday, March 11, sharing a video of students allegedly harassing her. She said they prevented her from entering school property. The harassment began earlier in the day. Madison said she left school for a while to get away from it. When she returned, the situation had escalated. “There was like 50 kids running toward me screaming my name,” she said. A mother of one of Madison’s friends witnessed the scene and stopped to help. Madison got into the parent’s vehicle and started filming the scene.  The mom went to speak to the kids and called the police.  “We talked to the cops for a bit and they did absolutely nothing. Same with the principal,” Madison said. She is asking the students to stop. And her mom, Crystal Pye, is asking the school board to provide students with information about COVID-19. Lack of knowledge is the source of the harassment, she said. Madison contracted COVID-19 through her mom, who is a front-line health-care worker. Pye works in a home for adults with autism. The building had a COVID-19 outbreak in November. “And I unfortunately — even though we took precautions and we were wearing the proper (personal protective equipment) — I brought it home and I infected my entire f […]

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