The Ontario government announced that the province is taking the next step in the gradual reopening of the province. Twenty-four public health units will enter Stage 3 on Friday July 17, 2020. Details on the Stage 3 re-opening framework were provided by Premier Doug Ford, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott, Minister of Finance Rod Phillips and Minister of Education Stephen Lecce.
The reopening will again take a regional approach and is only possible because of the declining number of COVID-19 cases in the provinces and the declining number of hospitalizations. Stage 3 is a further step toward economic recovery because it will see 99% of businesses in those regions able to open. These regions will see dine in restaurants, bars, gyms and studios, live shows and cinemas, casinos, teams sports, recreational spaces and activities and tour & guide services to open subject to proper health and safety measures, as well as increased limits on gathering sizes. The provincial Framework for Reopening our Province: Stage 3 outlines the details. Stage 3, however, does not see an expansion of social circle; it is maintained at a maximum of 10 people.
Regions in Stage 3 will have expanded gathering limits:
Public gathering limits apply to indoor and outdoor events and social gatherings such as parties, fairs, fundraisers, wedding receptions, funeral receptions, festivals, community events or gatherings, real estate open houses, concerts, live shows and movie theatres, convention centres and other meeting or event spaces, and sports and recreational fitness activities. People at their place of work, including performers and crews, do not count towards gathering limits.
Regardless of whether a region has entered Stage 3, the Chief Medical Officer of Health, public health experts and other officials have advised that the following high-risk places and activities are not yet safe to open, due to the likelihood of large crowds congregating, difficulties with physical distancing, or challenges maintaining the proper cleaning and sanitation required to prevent the spread of COVID-19:
The province has developed a process to work collaboratively with business and sectors that are either not able to reopen in Stage 3, or who are experiencing significant challenges opening with restrictions in Stage 3, to submit a reopening plan and work with the province and Chief Medical Officer of Health.
The regions under the following public health units are permitted to move into Stage 3 on Friday, July 17 at 12:01 a.m.:
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:
Decisions about which regions will enter Stage 3 and when will be made in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and will be informed by key public health indicators. The province will continue to reassess local trends in public heath indicators to determine additional public health unit regions that can progress to Stage 3. Regions meeting the criteria will be announced each Monday. Regional openings will likely follow a similar order to that seen in Stage 2 because the Chief Medical Officer of Health would like to see four complete weeks of data since the region entered Stage 2 before they progress to Stage 3.
The Chief Medical Officer of Health will closely monitor the situation and will monitor for spikes in cases and the need to for restrictions to be tightened. The province continues to remind and advise Ontarians to keep up with public health measures including continuing to practise physical distancing and wearing a face covering when doing so is difficult, washing hands frequently and practising good hygiene. In addition, the Chief Medical Officer of Health will advise when public health restrictions like public gathering limits can be loosened further.
The province also announced that beginning on July 27, 2020 all child care centres in the province will be permitted to increase their operating capacity, to operate with cohorts of 15 children. This is another step forward in providing stable and safe child care for parents and families getting back to work. With this change the child care sector will operate at approximately 90 per cent of its pre-COVID-19 operating capacity.