Ontario unveils steps to reopen. Here's what the 'new normal' will look like
TORONTO -- Ontario has unveiled its three-phase plan to reopen following weeks of shutdown due to the spread of COVID-19.
While no specific dates have been offered up by provincial officials, the plan, dubbed “A Framework for Reopening our Province,” states the parameters of each “gradual stage.”
“This framework provides a roadmap for people and businesses, so they know what to look for as the province moves forward,” a document released on Monday outlining the plan reads.
“Together, Ontario will emerge from this crisis – with a clear path to economic recovery that keeps people safe and healthy.”
PHASE ONE: PROTECT AND SUPPORT
The first of the three phases is already underway. This phase focuses on protecting the health and well-being of individuals and families, as well as supporting frontline health-care workers. It also focuses on emergency orders put in place that shutdown non-essential workplaces, outdoor amenities at parks, recreational areas and public places, as well as put restrictions on social gatherings.
Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19 is part of this phase. The $17-billion plan was released on March 25.
PHASE TWO: RESTART
This phase is broken down into three stages that provide a “careful approach” to loosening emergency measures and therefore reopening Ontario’s economy, the framework states.
During this phase, the government says public health and workplace safety “will remain the top priority,” while balancing the needs of people and businesses.
Each of the following three stages will be monitored by health officials for two to four weeks.
Stage one: Open select workplaces, allow some small gatherings
- Businesses that can “immediately meet or modify operations” to meet public health guidance, for example those that can conduct curbside pickup or delivery
- Opening some outdoor spaces, such as parks, and allowing for “greater number of individuals” to attend some events, such as funerals
- Hospitals begin to offer some non-urgent surgeries and other health-care services
Stage two: Open more workplaces and outdoor spaces, allow some larger gatherings
- May include some service industries and additional office and retail workplaces
Stage three: Further relax restrictions on public gathers, opening all workplaces
- Large public gatherings, such as concerts and sporting events will continue to be restricted for “the foreseeable future”
After each two-to-four-week period, health officials may advise to “reapply or tighten certain public health measures,” "maintain status quo,” or “progress to the next stage.”
“This ongoing gradual assessment of public health measures will continue until the post-pandemic period when a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 is available.”
PHASE THREE: RECOVER
This phase includes Ontario transitioning to its “new normal” and will focus on creating jobs across the province while ensuring that workplaces are following strict health and safety guidelines.
“Remote work arrangement should continue where feasible,” the province states.
‘THIS IS A ROADMAP, NOT A CALENDAR’
Premier Doug Ford spoke about the province’s framework at his daily news conference held at Queen’s Park on Monday afternoon.
The premier repeatedly stated that the plan “is a roadmap, not a calendar.”
“The framework is about how we are reopening, not when we are reopening,” he said.
“Let me be crystal clear, as long as this virus remains a threat to Ontario, we will continue to take every precaution necessary. We will continue to act based on the best advice that is available to us.”
Ford added that no one wants the economy to open up more than he does, but noted that the province cannot take “any unnecessary risks.”
He said he won’t set “hard dates” because “the virus travels at its own speed.”
“If precautions are not taken then one person with this virus can spread it to hundreds of others,” he said. “My friends, our future is in our hands because through our actions, by taking the advice seriously, by doing our part, we will determine when things open up again.”
“The steps we are taking are working, but progress doesn’t mean we can quit now.”
On Monday afternoon, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams was asked about the framework, in which he warned that the province is still in the “pandemic phase" of COVID-19.
"We still have numbers well over 400, we just came down below 600 and 500, so we have a ways to go before we get to start our first two week period," Williams said.
ONTARIO SEES DROP IN NUMBER OF CASES
Last week, provincial health officials presented updated modelling and potential scenarios in the fight against COVID-19. They stated that the wave of new community spread cases of the novel coronavirus in Ontario appeared to have peaked, but the spread in long-term care homes and other congregate living facilities seemed to be growing.
On Monday, the province saw a decrease in the number of new COVID-19 cases reported in a single day for the third day in a row.
“Today, our experts are telling us that we are in the peak,” Ford said Monday afternoon. “How this peak will last remains to be seen.”
Currently, there are 14,856 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ontario, including 892 deaths and 8,525 recoveries.