Ontario allows Toronto and Peel Region to advance to Stage 3 on Friday
TORONTO -- Toronto and Peel Region will move ahead to Stage 3 of Ontario's reopening plan on Friday.
The provincial government made the announcement on Wednesday morning.
"The decision was made in consulation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and local medical officers of health," a news release issued by the Ontario government said.
"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 conduct rapid case and contact management, and a significant increase in testing."
The two areas will officially enter Stage 3 at 12:01 a.m. on Friday.
Windsor-Essex will now be the only region in Ontario remaining in Stage 2.
"Ontario will continue to monitor local trends of key public health indicators in the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit region and move it into Stage 3 when it is safe to do so," the government said.
The three regions waiting to move forward to Stage 3 were held back because of their daily COVID-19 case counts.
In Stage 3, indoor dining can resume at bars and restaurants and the size of gatherings can increase to 50 indoors and 100 outdoors.
Physical distancing is still required during any gathering with people from outside an individual's social circle. The province is not increasing the number of people a person can gather with without physical distancing measures in place.
Toronto Mayor John Tory said Wednesday morning that moving to Stage 3 is the "result of a lot of hard work by Torontonians and our frontline workers."
On Tuesday, Toronto, Canada's largest city, reported just one new case of COVID-19.
"It seems like a long way from the scary days of the winter when we were having our meetings at the beginning of the pandemic and hearing numbers that were almost incomprehensible, in terms of case counts and also projections as to how many people could lose their lives or become ill," Tory said.
"You could go down to zero and I hope that happens but after that we've just got to stay vigilant. COVID-19 doesn't go away just because we are in Stage 3."
What still can't open in Stage 3?
The government has banned a number of high-risk businesses and activities from resuming in Stage 3, including amusement parks, water parks, buffet-style food services, dancing in restaurants and bars, overnight stays at camps for children, private karaoke rooms, prolonged or deliberate contact while playing sports, saunas, steam rooms, bath houses and oxygen bars.
Nightclubs are still banned from reopening, except for the purpose of serving food or drinks.
Casinos will be allowed to reopen but table games are banned.
Meanwhile, all restaurants, bars, concession stands, and other food and drink establishments are allowed to reopen for indoor dining in Stage 3.
Gyms and fitness studios can also reopen with safety protocols in place. Organized sports can also resume, with the exception of contact sports. Playgrounds, community centres and libraries will also reopen.
The province will also allow personal support services to resume that involve a customers' face, such as facials and some piercings.
Peel Region businesses and residents react to Stage 3 reopening
Reaction to the province’s Stage 3 reopening announcement was mixed among Peel Region businesses and residents.
After being shut down for months and trying to run online classes, Total Body Fitness in Brampton can finally welcome members back on Friday.
“It’s two-fold, it’s like yes, we’ve been waiting for this moment for so long,” said co-owner Penny King. “You know on the other end, there are issues we’re still worrying about.”
For example, the family-run business doesn’t know if people working out will have trouble breathing or get too hot while wearing a mask.
Still, they’ve gone to great lengths to prepare for the reopening, installing a new air filtration system and spending thousands of dollars in new cleaning supplies, including an ‘electric sanitizer spray,’ to keep the space safe.
“Online I always tell my clients, the thing before I leave, I tell them how much I miss them, I love them and I can’t wait to see them,” said trainer and co-owner Ian King.
Further north in Brampton, in the quadrant between Tobram Road, Sandalwood Parkway East, Sunny Meadow Boulevard and Countryside Drive lies one of the neighbourhoods in Peel with the highest incidence rates of COVID-19. And some families in the area say they are wary about entering stage 3.
“You don’t know if somebody’s sick or you’re going to get infected from someone, because of my son, I’m just worried,” said Sarabjid Kaur on her way to the market with her son and mother.
“I think it’s not a good move. We have already not been practicing social distancing and any of that. Some people don’t wear masks to the store at this point ,” said another resident Mehtaab Singh Tut.
Arabhy Tharumalingam works as a nurse and said she trusts the health officials guiding the region into Stage 3.
“As long as we maintain social distancing, wearing our masks and proper hand hygiene, I think we’re ready,” she said.
Tharumalingam said her biggest concern is people not wearing masks and having big parties with hundreds of people.
Earlier in the pandemic Peel’s top doctor linked high case numbers to some workplaces and households.
At Brampton’s COVID-19 media availability, he said the disease tends to resolved after 10 to 14 days
“Many of the cases that were being reported during that time where were monitoring the community have resolved. And as our cases declined, we are starting to see a move away from those places,” said Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Lawrence Loh.
Mississauga has seen a declining trend when it comes to infections. Wednesday Mayor Bonnie Crombie said the city had an average of just five new daily cases over the past week.
“Mississauga is ready to move forward and there is no turning back. This is a significant milestone, but one that we cannot take lightly,” said Crombie.