More Ontario regions moving to Stage 3; Toronto held back
Regions in Stage 3 can hold indoor gatherings of up to 50 people, outdoor gatherings can include as many as 100
TORONTO — More regions of Ontario will move into the third stage of the province’s COVID-19 recovery plan later this week, the premier announced as municipal leaders signalled they would support more stringent rules for some of the businesses cleared to reopen their doors.
Premier Doug Ford said Durham, Halton, Hamilton, Niagara, Haldimand-Norfolk, Sarnia-Lambton and York region will progress to the next stage on July 24, leaving only Toronto, Peel Region and Windsor-Essex to remain in Stage 2 due to higher COVID-19 case counts. The Stage 3 rules clear the way for restaurants to resume indoor service, as well as for businesses such as gyms, bars and theatres to begin welcoming customers.
“We won’t rest until all of Ontario gets to Stage 3,” Ford said at a news conference. “We won’t stop until every worker in Ontario gets back to work and back on their feet.”
On July 17, 24 of the province’s 34 public health regions advanced to the next stage of economic reopening and ushered in a host of loosened restrictions on public activities.
Regions in Stage 3 can hold indoor gatherings of up to 50 people, while outdoor gatherings can include as many as 100 as long as physical distancing measures are in place.
Restaurants are permitted to resume indoor service as long as tables are spaced two-metres apart to encourage physical distancing.
Ford did not say when the remaining regions would move to Stage 3, but the province has said it needs four weeks of data to determine if case counts have lowered enough to permit moving forward safely.
Toronto, Peel and most of Windsor-Essex are just days away from completing that four-week term, while the towns of Leamington and Kingsville are still weeks from that point.
Meanwhile, the mayors of some of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area’s largest municipalities released a joint statement asking the province to consider adopting additional public health measures for bars, restaurants and fitness facilities.
“We will support common sense measures taken by the Government of Ontario to do everything possible to protect the health and safety of GTHA residents and employees of reopening businesses and reduce the risk of these businesses having to close again,” the statement said.
The mayors did not offer details on the sorts of measures they’d like to see in place.
Over the weekend, Toronto Mayor John Tory asked Ford to make masks mandatory inside restaurants and bars in that city when it eventually moves to Stage 3.
Tory said all it could take to see a spike in cases is one bar not following the rules.
“You could have these instances we’ve seen about superspreaders where people have suddenly infected 500 people directly and indirectly, and those people infect 500 more,” he said.
Ford said his COVID-19 command table is discussing bar rules, but said municipalities have the power to impose their own restrictions on businesses.
Local leaders in Windsor-Essex formally requested the provincial government take charge of the pandemic response on local farms two weeks ago but have yet to hear back.
Ontario reported 135 new cases of COVID-19 and one new death from the virus on July 20.
The total number of cases now stands at 37,739, which includes 2,752 deaths and 33,513 resolved cases.
By Shawn Jeffords
— With files from Jake Kivanc