Toronto is officially allowed to move into the next stage of reopening this week.
On Monday, Premier Doug Ford made the announcement that the City of Toronto and Peel Region could enter Stage 2 by Wednesday, June 24 at 12:01 am.
The decision was made in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and the local medical officers of health.
It is based on positive local trends of key public health indicators, including lower transmission of COVID-19, ongoing hospital capacity, public health capacity to do rapid case and contact management, and a significant increase in testing.
“Today’s announcement is another sign that we continue to make steady progress,” said Ford.
“We have been working hand-in-hand with our municipal partners and local public health units to safely and gradually reopen the province. We will do everything we can to get our final region, Windsor-Essex, into Stage 2 as soon as possible. That’s why we are ramping up testing and inspections on Ontario’s farms to protect workers and keep our food supply chains strong and healthy.”
Ford said the province is sending mobile testing to the largest farms in province with many in Windsor.
The premier once again told farmers to “cooperate with the province” to go and get tested, and to allow the mobile testing to enter the farms.
Windsor-Essex will remain in Stage 1 and the situation in the region will continue to be assessed on an ongoing basis.
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To ensure the region is able to move forward as soon as it is safe to do so, the province is building on the work completed by Windsor-Essex County Health Unit to date and collaborating with federal and local authorities to support the implementation of a targeted and collaborative response that includes:
- Continuing with proactive targeted testing for agri-food workers, including enhanced on-farm testing
- Conducting more than 200 Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development on-farm inspections and investigations
- Starting new joint inspections of farms with federal authorities to review current working and living conditions of temporary foreign workers with the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development and local public health officials
- Providing $15 million through the Enhanced Agri-food Workplace Protection program, which provides cost-share funding to improve employee and workplace health and safety on farms and in processing facilities. The funding can be used to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE), put up physical barriers, make housing modifications, or provide alternate housing or other measures
- Translating COVID-19 health and safety guidance documents into Spanish and posting them on Ontario.ca/covidsafety. Additional resources, including webinars and helpful posters, are also available, and will help farmers and other agri-food employers provide safe and healthy workplaces
- Providing specific funding to Workplace Safety and Prevention Services to deliver resources and consulting services to help farmers and other agri-food businesses provide safe workplaces
- Continuing to press the federal government to provide new funding to support priority sectors impacted by COVID-19, including the agricultural sector, as the province reopens and charts a path to economic recovery
The Chief Medical Officer of Health has also “strongly recommended” that local medical officers of health use their authority under section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act to issue class orders to ensure that employers of temporary workers take actions to decrease the risk of transmission of COVID-19 on farms.
According to the province, these actions will ensure:
- All foreign workers self-isolate for 14 days from the date of their arrival, with the resources and supports they need to avoid any contacts with others and notification to public health unit if they have any COVID-19 symptoms
- All workers coming from any area where there is community transmission have tested negative for COVID-19 within 48 hours prior to beginning work
- Daily active screening
- Accurate and updated contact information of permanent, temporary and contract employees available to the public health unit within 24 hours and ensuring employees are assigned to the same group to support effective case management and contact tracing
- Physical distancing maintained between workers as best as possible and personal protective equipment to be provided based on risk assessment
- All legislative requirements to protect worker health and safety are followed
On Friday, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen De Villa, said that the city had seen a decline in new coronavirus cases for 14 consecutive days.
“I am encouraged by this good news which is the result of your continued efforts,” she said at the time.
“We will soon be able to join other regions of the province to enter Stage 2.”
To date, 31 regions in the province have entered Stage 2, with just Toronto, Peel, and Windsor-Essex waiting for the go-ahead.
As part of Stage 2, restaurant patios, hair salons, and shopping malls can reopen to residents.
On Monday, Ontario reported for the eighth time in the last nine days, Ontario has reported fewer than 200 cases.