Premier Doug Ford confirmed Thursday that he’s discussing the possibility of moving into Step 2 of Ontario’s reopening plan earlier than scheduled.
The move to Step 2 is currently planned for July 2, but Ford is speaking with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams about whether indicators are encouraging enough to ease restrictions sooner.
“We’ll be sitting down with the health table and Science Table. No one wants to open this economy more than I do,” he said at a news conference Thursday. “I want to make sure we do it cautiously; I want the stamp of approval from all the doctors.”
Step 2 of the reopening plan means hair salons and other personal care businesses can open, outdoor gatherings can have up to 25 people, and indoor gatherings can have up to five people.
Other things allowed in Step 2 include overnight camps for kids, outdoor amusement parks, outdoor sports games, and outdoor cinemas and live music events.
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Ford encouraged Ontarians to “hang in there” while waiting for a haircut, adding the five women in his family have been “lobbying me hard” about manicures, pedicures, and other salon services.
“Folks, I just can’t wait,” he said, speaking of his excitement to bring back more activities.
But Williams didn’t seem enthusiastic about an earlier transition to Step 2 during his own news conference Tuesday afternoon. He stressed the importance of waiting 21 days between steps and at least two weeks from meeting the vaccination milestones to allow people time to build up immunity.
“These numbers are better than they were. They’re still high. We’ve still got a ways to come down,” he said. “Let’s stay the course. We haven’t been in Step 1 for a full week yet.”
The Delta variant is currently present in every health region in Ontario, and Williams cautioned that four to five flare-ups could send case infections surging again. If outbreaks occur in areas with low vaccination rates, that will send a new flow of patients to hospitals.
“We don’t want the fourth wave to even get a foothold,” Williams said.
Entering Step 2 requires 70% of adults have a first dose and 20% be fully vaccinated. Ontario is almost there — according to the province’s website 75% of Ontarians have at least one dose and 18% are fully vaccinated.
In the meantime new COVID-19 infections are dropping, with the seven-day moving average falling to 443 new cases per day this week.