Seven more regions will move into stage 3 on July 24
Ontario will allow most of the Greater Toronto area to move into stage 3 of the reopening plan on July 24 at 12:01 am. But the city of Toronto will have to wait longer.
On Monday, Premier Doug Ford announced that Durham, Halton, York, Hamilton, Niagara, Haldiman-Norfolk and Lambton will move into stage 3 on Friday.
Toronto, Peel and Windsor-Essex will remain in stage 2.
“For the other regions who entered stage 2 later in the process, please be patient,” Ford said at a Queen’s Park news conference. “We’ll get there very shortly.”
Ontario reported 135 new COVID-19 cases today. Of those cases, 82 were in Toronto, Peel and Windsor-Essex. There were also 20 new cases in Ottawa.
Toronto and Peel entered stage 2 later than the rest of the province on June 24. Windsor-Essex moved into stage 2 a day later, save for two areas.
On July 17, 24 regions entered stage 3. Dine-in restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theatres, casinos, playgrounds, tour guide services and personal care services like facials and ear piercings are allowed to restart after Ontario ordered them closed in mid-March.
All businesses must ensure health and safety measures, including cleaning protocols and Plexiglas shields, are in place.
In stage 3, gathering limits are 100 people outdoors and 50 people indoors. The limits do not apply to o beaches, parks, restaurants and bars, but physical distancing measures may limit capacity.
The province decides what areas will move into stage 3 based on positive trends of key public health indicators.
The criteria includes lower or low transmission of COVID-19, ongoing hospital capacity, public health capacity to conduct rapid case and contact management and increased testing.
However, Ford added that local jurisdictions are free to add their own rules.
Over the weekend, Toronto Mayor John Tory urged the province to strengthen rules around dine-in restaurants.
Tory sent six recommendations to the province days after the Ontario Medical Association urged Ford to reconsider reopening bars.
Health Minister Christine Elliott says the government is watching trends in reopened regions and will “make changes if necessary.”
She added that the province is working with Tory and Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Eileen de Villa “to develop a set of protocols that’s going to keep the people in the city of Toronto safe and healthy.”
Ford added that different cities have different concerns when reopening. “We can’t compare Toronto or the GTA to Kenora or other smaller rural areas,” Ford said.
At a city hall press conference on Monday, de Villa said the province should make changes to the stage 3 order that apply to restaurants and bars in Toronto.
“We are concerned with what we are seeing in other cities that have resumed indoor service in bars and restaurants,” de Villa said. “Cities who were a few weeks ahead of us in their outbreaks and have since reopened are now seeing increases in COVID-19 activity linked to reopening of restaurants and bars.
“In some cases, cities that had had very low or no COVID-19 activity are now seeing increases in cases linked to these settings,” she added. “We must accept some risks with reopening but the critical point is to make informed decisions that balance the risk with potential benefits.”
De Villa said Toronto confirmed 107 new infections over the past three days.
Despite fluctuations, the city’s numbers are “moving in the right direction,” she said.
Editor’s note: this story has been updated.