Today, the Ontario government said another seven regions are ready to advance to Stage 3. The province continues to be on the right track and making steady progress with its gradual reopening. The seven public health units will enter Stage 3 on Friday July 24, 2020. The decision that these health units are ready to enter Stage 3 was made in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and was made after four weeks of being in Stage 2 and data showing positive trends of key public health indicators. These regions will join the twenty-four public health units already in Stage 3. Details on the Stage 3 re-opening framework can be found in the Framework for Reopening our Province: Stage 3.
The province continues to remind the public that the public health advice (practising physical distancing with those outside your household or social circle, wearing a face covering when physical distancing is a challenge or where mandatory to do so, staying home when ill and washing hands frequently) that allowed us to reach this point is even more critical as more of the economy opens up. The government also continues to promote the idea that residents should support their local businesses and buy “Made in Ontario” products to help the economy grow.
Premier Ford encouraged the regions remaining in Stage 2 to be patient and indicated that they would get there shortly.
Regions Entering Stage 3 Reopening:
The regions under the following public health units are permitted to move into Stage 3 on Friday, July 24 at 12:01 a.m.:
Regions Remaining in Stage 2:
The following regions will remain in Stage 2, as additional time is required to assess and monitor any impacts and readiness to move into Stage 3:
What it Means
The additional seven health units entering Stage 3 means that thousands more businesses are able to open and more workers can return to work. It shows that the regional approach is effective at balancing the needs of the economy while continuing to put public health needs first. The Premier addressed the calls for stricter requirements for Stage 3 by saying that Local Medical Officers of Health could impose more stringent requirements if they feel they are necessary in their region.
Of interest, Toronto Mayor John Tory was fairly vocal over the weekend, calling on the provincial government to enact more stringent public health requirements, especially in bars. The Ontario Medical Association also raised a red flag about the dangers of reopening bars, warning that the gains that have been made could be jeopardized as people congregate in close quarters. Premier Ford appears to have taken this under advisement; while politically it would be difficult to require regions or the entire province to go backward, he is all too aware of the dangers of reopening too early, by looking south of the border. As we wrote back in March, there is no pandemic playbook to be referred to here. As well, the body of knowledge about the virus itself evolves every day.
While moving most of the province to Stage 3 carries a degree of risk, the provincial COVID numbers suggest that the Ford government’s approach outside of long term care has largely worked so far; we hope that trend will continue.