Ontario delays decision on whether Toronto, Peel and Windsor can move to Stage 3
TORONTO -- Premier Doug Ford says that public health officials “have asked for a little more time” to analyze the data before deciding whether Toronto can move to Stage 3 of Ontario’s reopening plan.
The province typically provides an update at the start of every week on the status of the regions that have been held back from entering the final stage of its reopening plan.
Ford, however, said during a briefing on Friday afternoon that a decision has been made to push back that update until next Wednesday so that public health officials can have a little more time to study the data.
That means that the three regions still stuck in Stage 2 – Toronto, Peel and Windsor-Essex – will not move to the next stage until at least the end of next week.
The news comes after Ontario reported an alarming 195 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, just as seven more regions officially entered Stage 3. The five-day rolling average of new cases now stands at 160. It stood at 110 at this time last week.
“I know the people are expecting to hear an update on Stage 3 reopening from us on Monday but the health officials have asked for a little more time to analyze the numbers and we have always said we can’t rush this,” Ford said. “We will have an update for you on Wednesday on Stage 3 and the status of the other three regions and I am hopeful that I will have some good news to share.”
Health Minister Christine Elliott has previously said that health officials need about four weeks of data to determine whether a region is ready to advance to the next stage of the reopening plan, a milestone that was reached in Toronto and Peel Region this past Wednesday.
While officials in Toronto and Peel Region have both said that they expect their communities to get the green light to move to Stage 3 imminently, they have also expressed concern about a possible increase in the spread of the virus that could accompany the resumption of indoor dining at bars and restaurants.
In a statement issued on Friday afternoon, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie thanked Ford for continuing to take a “cautious” approach to reopening and choosing to “hit pause” before deciding whether Toronto, Peel Region and Windsor Essex can move to Stage 3.
“It is my hope that the province will use this time to review and respond to the advocacy efforts of GTHA mayors, who have written to the premier asking for additional measures for indoor dining and gyms in large urban centres,” she said. “We know the virus thrives in indoor, close contact social settings and that when restrictions are loosened we inevitably open up our risk of transmission. We want to be careful and not let our guard down as we approach this critical phase in our efforts to neutralize this virus.”
Ford has consistently said that it will be up to local public health officials to implement enhanced rules on things like indoor dining and repeated that sentiment on Friday, noting that he “encourages it.”
Stage 3 represents a much wider restart of the economy with indoor dining allowed to resume in restaurants and numerous other businesses, including gyms and movie theatres, allowed to reopen.
The limit on indoor gatherings also increases from 10 to 50 with the limit on outdoor gatherings going to 100.