Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that 24 regions in the province could move into the next Stage of reopening on Friday, July 17 at 12:01 am.
Some of the regions not allowed are Toronto, York, Peel, Durham, Halton, Niagara, Lambton, and Windsor-Essex.
“Today’s news is an important step forward. It’s an important step to getting life back to normal,” Ford said.
In Stage 3, gatherings will increase to 50 indoors and 100 outdoors, as dine-in restaurants, bars, gyms, fitness centres, live shows, performing arts centres, casinos, concert venues, recreational facilities, team sports, fundraisers, fairs, festivals or open houses, and tour and guide services can reopen.
Ford added that there are 170 workplace resources to help these businesses reopen.
But, amusement parks are not able to join yet, as well as buffet-style food services, dancing at restaurants and bars, overnight stays at camps for children, private karaoke rooms, prolonged or deliberate contact while playing sports, saunas, steam rooms, bathhouses and oxygen bars and table games at casinos and gaming establishments.
The Chief Medical Officer of Health and public health experts advised these as being “high-risk” places and activities, 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 the virus.
“Our success in reducing the spread of COVID-19 and getting Ontario to a place where we are ready to reopen most of the province is a testament to the hard work of business owners, individuals and families right across the province,” said Ford.
“So many have stepped up and played by the rules, demonstrating that we can restart our economy safely and responsibly. Small actions can make a big difference. Now more than ever, we must continue to follow the public health advice to preserve the progress we have made together.”
Health Minister Christine Elliott said that they believe Ontario will stay in Stage 3 “for the foreseeable future.”
Elliot noted that the COVID-19 cases have been declining with 21 out of 34 health units reporting no new cases.
Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce said that they want schools to return in September full-time in class, but are still preparing for three possible models.
And, childcare centres and home child care providers across Ontario will be able to continue to operate with strict safety and operational requirements in place.
Beginning July 27, childcare centres will be permitted to operate with cohorts of 15 children, which is an increase from the current cohort cap of 10.
Lecce says that this change will allow parents to return to work, and bring the childcare sector to approximately 90% of its operating capacity before the pandemic.
“Providing child care for parents is critical so that, as more Ontarians return to work, they can do so with confidence in knowing that their children are being safely cared for,” said Lecce.
“Child care is an integral enabler to the continued restart of Ontario’s economy, and we remain committed to working to ensure child care remains accessible, affordable and, most importantly, safe as we gradually increase the capacity of Ontario’s child care sector.”
According to the province, the following public health unit regions will be allowed to move into Stage 3 first on July 17:
- Algoma Public Health
- Brant County Health Unit
- Chatham-Kent Public Health
- Eastern Ontario Health Unit
- Grey Bruce Health Unit
- Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit
- Hastings Prince Edward Public Health
- Huron Perth Public Health
- Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health
- Leeds Grenville & Lanark District Health Unit
- Middlesex-London Health Unit
- North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit
- Northwestern Health Unit
- Ottawa Public Health
- Peterborough Public Health
- Porcupine Health Unit
- Public Health Sudbury & Districts
- Region of Waterloo Public Health and Emergency Services
- Renfrew County and District Health Unit
- Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit
- Southwestern Public Health
- Thunder Bay District Health Unit
- Timiskaming Health Unit
- Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health
At the beginning of each week, the province will continue to reassess local trends in public health indicators, including rates of transmission, hospital capacity, progress on testing and contact tracing, to determine if additional public health unit regions can progress to Stage 3.
The Chief Medical Officer of Health and other public health experts will continue to “closely monitor” the evolving situation to advise when public health restrictions can be further loosened or if they need to be tightened.
Ford has taken a regional approach to reopening the province, with the first regions given the green light on June 12, with seven more regions allowed on June 19, and Toronto and Peel region following five days later.
Windsor-Essex was the last region to enter the second stage, due to COVID-19 outbreaks on farms.