SOUTH DUNDAS – After six weeks of closures, the Ontario government has issued its reopening plan for the economy.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford made the announcement last Thursday (May 20) ahead of detailing the roll out of the latest reopening framework for the province.
“I know that these measures came with a great price,” Ford said. “Today we are seeing key positive trends in public health.”
Since the measures were enacted, hospitalizations and COVID-19 infections have decreased. Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams rescinded the order halting elective surgeries in hospitals in Ontario, allowing those procedures to resume. Limited elective procedures have resumed at the Cornwall Community Hospital and Winchester District Memorial Hospital already.
Ford said that the province’s vaccination roll out is accelerating at an ever-increasing pace. That has contributed to the May 22 announcement of the recreation reopening, and the three-step reopening plan.
Deputy-Premier and Health Minister Christine Elliott called this “road map” a gradual plan to reopen the province.
“Brighter days are ahead and we believe this Roadmap represents a path out of the pandemic and will encourage Ontarians to get vaccinated and to continue following public health advice,” Elliott said.
The three-step plan will begin once 60 per cent of the adult population (18-plus) has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. As of May 25, that benchmark is 50 per cent.
Step one will focus on outdoor activities with smaller crowds. Outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people can take place and outdoor dining of up to four people per table will resume on restaurant patios. Non-essential retail can also reopen at 15 per cent capacity.
Once at least 70 per cent of adults have had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 20 per cent have had two doses, step two can begin. This will allow gatherings of up to 25 people. Outdoor sports and leagues can resume operation. Personal care services with face masks still in use can start again. And indoor religious services at 15 per cent capacity can also resume. Essential retail can move up to 50 per cent capacity, non-essential retail can move to 25 per cent capacity.
Indoor dining, museums, casinos and other venues can reopen in step three, with capacity limits in place. Seventy to 80 per cent of the population needs to have one dose, and 25 per cent must have two doses for this final step to take place.
Other public health indicators such as reproductive rates, per cent positivity, hospital intensive care unit capacity are also factors. And there are at least 21 days between each step of the reopening.
Elliott said that the week of June 14 is the target for step one to begin.
Meanwhile, the current Stay-at-Home order will expire as of June 2nd, which will loosen some of the other restrictions that have been in place for over a month. The “Emergency Brake” measures that were put in place before the Stay-at-Home order will remain in place until step one begins.
It is expected that the definition of the “Emergency Brake” will be redefined as non-essential retail is allowed to be open during those measures, but are not expected to reopen until “step one” in mid-June.
Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Morrisburg Leader