The majority of Torontonians who were at a strip club with a COVID-19 outbreak gave fake information, making it all but impossible for officials to conduct contact tracing.
Over two weeks ago, the Brass Rail, a well-known strip club on Toronto’s Yonge Street made international headlines when it became known an employee at the venue tested positive for the coronavirus. Toronto Public Health (TPH) said 441 people went to the strip club during the four days in early August the employee worked while contagious. It has not been confirmed what the employee does at the strip club.
TPH said they were "notifying individuals directly who provided their name and contact information in the establishment’s contact tracing log," said in a statement on August 14.
Contact tracing works via the honour system, which we now know fails when it comes to venues such as strip clubs.
As first reported by City News, of the almost 500 people who were at the strip club during this time only 147 gave proper information to the establishment. Toronto Public Health spokesperson Dr. Christine Navarro confirmed this number to VICE News in a statement. Navarro also stressed, “the important role the public can play… by providing accurate contact information to local businesses and services."
“This information will help public health to quickly follow up with COVID-19 cases and their close contacts and help reduce potential COVID-19 transmission.”
The people who wrote John Doe, Jim Jimmmo, or Buster Douglas on the contact tracing sheet hopefully saw one of the countless news articles on the situation. Many assumed this was going to be the case when the incident first came to light.
“550 people potentially exposed,” Andrew Morris, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Toronto, told the Associated Press. "You know how long it’s going to take them to chase down 550 guys, half of which probably gave fake ID or information?"
The employee contracting the illness came just days after the Brass Rail came back into operation during stage three of Ontario's reopening plan. While this stage allowed people back inside the strip club, it required all employees to wear masks and follow “appropriate social distancing measures.” Canada has had over 127,000 cases of COVID-19, over 40,000 of them in Ontario, and over 9,000 deaths.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, recently said that she expects cases could rebound in the fall as Canada continues to reopen and lockdown fatigue sets in.
“A slow increase in daily case counts can quickly get out of hand,” Tam said on Friday. “If we don't all maintain recommended public health practices, we could quickly move out of the slow burn safe zone into uncontrolled epidemic growth.”
According to the strip club, who posted about the incident on social media, the spread “turned out to be only one isolated case and that case was quickly contained" among their staff. The Brass Rail said they closed for 72 hours, had all their staff tested and hired a professional sanitation crew to make sure the strip club was sparklingly clean.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford addressed the situation in his typical brash style by offering his apologies not to those possibly infected, but their spouses.
“I feel sorry for people when they go to their house and tell them that they were at the Brass Rail,” Ford said on August 14. “That’s who I feel sorry for. Sorry for the spouse, seriously. Man, I wouldn’t want to be on the end of that one.”
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