Over the course of the spring and summer, Covid-19 has torn through Toronto, altering and sometimes even abolishing everything in its path. Along with the whirlwind of chaos, comes a damper on the hospitality industry. With their main mode of income coming from entertainment, serving and taking care of people, the prolonged order of isolation and protection has dashed a red line straight through most of their plans. At the height of Covid-19, a drastic 800,000 food service workers were laid off, and that number has only grown since (Canada Restaurants, 2020). Due to the warm weather Toronto had all summer, restaurants began to spring back to life. Suddenly, people were able to dine outside on outdoor patios, and makeshift outdoor seating was in the works all up and down the downtown streets. However due to the fast approaching cold front and the ever rising case numbers, the restaurant industry has recently been forced to curl back into its box, unfortunately with little information of when it might be able to flourish again.
Recently Adam Panov, a Toronto events producer, co-created what could be an effective solution for what he has observed will be a “detrimental upcoming winter’ for the hospitality industry and the restaurant owners who can’t think of a way to extend their patios throughout the winter”. This stemmed from his visit to a heated up bubble in Toronto last year, an attraction that some restaurants had implemented on a purely recreational and sensation basis. While his initial visit was one with glittering lights strewn across it and most likely no need for concern of masks or hand sanitizer, he later realized that “it was these types of structures that would be able to tackle the issue going forward of keeping people warm, while also keeping each group isolated to help mitigate the risk of virus transmission between different dining parties”. The idea goes, simply put, that with the instalment of the “SnowPods” on the outdoor patios of restaurants, groups already socializing together could dine together, while remaining separate from other groups. Ventilation all throughout the pods would be provided to increase air flow, and electrical UL coded indoor space heaters to keep parties warm. In between dining parties, it would be essential for restaurants to open all ventilation points and use “Sanitization by Design”, a product approved by Public Health Canada to be an effective solution in eradicating Covid-19 particles.
After his realization of the pods’ necessity for the livelihood of restaurants throughout another one of Canada’s classic harsh and frosty winters, he began to move quickly to present his idea to Toronto’s public health officials. After a long drawn out process, even complete with a successful pitch to the premier, Doug Ford himself, their idea was ultimately deemed unsafe as it fell under the category of “indoor dining” due to its lack of openings on both sides. As Adam refuted, “what differentiates us from the regular definition of indoor dining, is that you’re not sitting indoors amongst several indoor tables with other groups of people, you would only be exposed to people already in your social bubble”. While he did receive the initial green light for his pod’s, because of the turbulent nature of Covid-19, developments fluctuate every single day. For this reason, the health panel has now come back with some more questions and concerns resulting in the indefinite holding pattern of the pods’ implementation. In an article recently published in Forbes, the main cause for concern appears to be that the ventilation makes the bubbles perfect for transmission with an even smaller amount of air circulation than indoor dining. In the article, David Fisman, Professor of Epidemiology at University of Toronto and practicing internist said “I think it depends who’s in the bubbles…“If you are meeting friends, … I’d pretty much call that a boutique Covid party! If you’re in there with your household bubble you’re not exposed to anyone you’re not exposed to anyway” said Fisman.
Over the course of this journey, the pods’ implementation has received overarching support and gratitude from the restaurant and hospitality industry as a whole. These pods could be a co-operative compromise between hyper precaution surrounding Covid-19, the sustainability of restaurant jobs, and Torontonian enjoyment throughout this holiday season. As Adam ensured, “at the end of the day we’re just trying to help the hospitality industry out, and we want to do everything we can to prevent people from losing their businesses, and citizens losing their jobs. If there’s a percentage of individual companies that we can help out, then we are going to help them in every way we can by providing them with the means to achieve this”.
Find out more about SnowPods on their website here.