Doug Ford says he'll speak with Ontario's health table about moving to Step 2 early
TORONTO -- Premier Doug Ford said he will meet with the province's top doctor to make a decision about whether Ontario can make an earlier move to Step 2.
Ford made the comment on Wednesday after being asked about the province's success in dramatically lowering the number of daily COVID-19 cases.
"I'll be sitting down with the health table and Dr. Williams, and we'll make that decision," Ford said about potentially moving into Step 2 early. "But no one in this province wants to open up quicker than I do."
Ford said he "can't wait" for Ontario to open up further and said "everyone had worked really, really hard."
Ontario reported 296 new COVID-19 infections on Tuesday, the lowest single-day total logged in the province since September. On Wednesday, Ontario reported 384 new cases.
Hospitalizations and intensive care admissions have also steadily continued to decline in Ontario.
Ontario entered Step 1 on June 11, which allowed for things like outdoor dining to resume.
When Ford announced the three-step plan in May, they said the province must stay in each stage for at least 21 days. The government said this length of time helps to ensure that cases don't spike from easing restrictions.
That means Step 2 is currently scheduled for July 2.
To enter this step, 70 per cent of adults need to be vaccinated with one dose and 20 per cent vaccinated with two doses.
To date, 75 per cent of Ontarians have received their first dose, while 18 per cent have had both doses.
Step 2 will allow for indoor gatherings of up to five people, along with outdoor gatherings of 25 people.
Outdoor sports and leagues can resume, along with personal care services, where a face covering can be worn.
Indoor religious services can also resume at 25 per cent capacity.
Essential retail restrictions will be eased, with essential retailers allowed 50 per cent capacity and non-essential 25 per cent.
Outdoor amusement and water parks can also reopen. Outdoor cinemas, performing arts, live music, events and attractions can also being to operate again.
Meanwhile, Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown is calling on the province to reopen personal care services, including hair salons and barbershops, ahead of schedule amid an increase in vaccination rates and the improving “COVID case picture” in Ontario.
Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday morning, Brown said he would be sending a letter to the premier on behalf of impacted businesses.
"Given the fact that the COVID case picture has improved dramatically, lock downs across the province have led to an underground market when it comes to personal care services and you have to call a spade a spade," Brown said.
"The reality is there's haircuts happening out there. It's in backyards, it's in garages. You've created an underground economy and given the COVID case declines, I believe there is a pathway to safely reopen in advance of July 2."
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) has repeatedly called on the province to move up its reopening timeline.
Last week CFIB President Dan Kelly said personal care services and gyms should be able to reopen immediately.
"At this rate, many provinces will be back to normal business operations before Ontarians can even get a haircut. We need to pick up the pace now, or many businesses won’t even make it to reopening," he said in a statement released last Tuesday.
"Most of these low-risk business activities have been open for weeks or months in other provinces, or, like retail in B.C., never closed at all during the pandemic."