Live Laugh Love types are really embracing the meaning of “non-essential” in York Region this week as stay-at-home orders lift to make way for new, slightly more permissive rules under the red zone of Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework.
Alarming video footage is circulating today of eager shoppers lined up at a HomeSense store in Thornhill to purchase what I can only assume are cutesy wooden placards bearing phrases like “GIRLBOSS” and “Mommy Needs Wine to Focus.”
That, or cheap designer candles.
Either way, the scene depicted is one of many people in close quarters with shopping carts full of decorative doohickeys, waiting for up to 45 minutes in line to buy wicker baskets and monkey lamps on Day 1 of reopening from a full provincewide shutdown amid a global pandemic.
People in nearby Toronto, which will remain under the strictest form of lockdown in Ontario for at least two more weeks, are not impressed — and no, it’s not because they’re just jealous.
Tweeted by Global News journalist Farah Nasser on Monday evening just after 6:30 p.m., the now-viral clip in question has racked up more than 200,000 views as of Tuesday morning.
Thousands of Twitter users have commented on the clip to decry or make fun of shoppers who rushed out to HomeSense, of all places, on the same day that stay-at-home orders were lifted in the region.
“I can’t come up with a single reason to visit Homesense in normy times much less line up like cattle during a pandemic,” tweeted one observer. “Imagine having more Homesense then Common Sense?” joked another.
Some are now calling HomeSense the new Trinity Bellwoods, referring to how packed the popular west end park became every day after Ontario’s first reopening last spring.
It does raise an interesting question: Should city officials paint social distancing circles on the floors of HomeSense to keep these rowdy shoppers in line?
York Region was moved into the red-control level of Ontario’s framework at 12:01 a.m. on Monday morning, allowing most local businesses to reopen with restrictions in place.
Restaurants and gyms can now accommodate up to 10 people indoors, while non-essential retail stores like HomeSense and its siblings Winners and Marshalls can operate at 50 per cent of their normal capacity.
Some locals, including Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti, would like to see those capacity limits lowered in light of dangerous new viral variants being detected more frequently in and around Toronto.
“Currently, York Region is in Red-Control, which allows retail capacity of 50 per cent,” wrote Toronto-based biostatistician Ryan Imgrund in response to the HomeSense video.
“Scientific studies support a maximum of 20 per cent. Assuming the store below is at full capacity, for every five people you see in the video, subtract three.”
Toronto, Peel and North Bay-Parry Sound are the only Ontario public health regions still under stay-at-home orders, which will remain in place until at least March 8 at the urging of local medical officers of health.
Even when Toronto is given the green light to enter the province’s new-and-improved colour-coded framework, it’s likely that we’ll go into the Grey-Lockdown zone, meaning that little will change aside from non-essential retail stores opening with capacity limits.
Restaurants, bars, gyms, hair salons, non-essential retail stores and more will remain closed or under heavy restrictions in the grey zone as they have been in Toronto since November 23.
This in mind, some York Region residents fear that people in Toronto are already region-hopping again to get their fix of “Rosé All Day” picture frames at HomeSense (which famously does not offer online shopping to promote the “thrill of the hunt” in store.)
Some on Twitter are cautioning Judgey McJudgersons to slow down, however, and to blame government policy instead of people who feel the need to risk their lives for scented candles.
At the very least, it is suggested that we turn the same critical eye toward retailers like Walmart and Costco, both of which have been selling non-essential items in overcrowded big box stores this entire time.