Toronto, Peel and Windsor-Essex public health units will not be entering Stage 3 of the province's COVID-19 recovery plan this week, Premier Doug Ford announced on Monday.
The other seven public health units, including the City of Hamilton, still in Stage 2 got a green light from Ford today to proceed into the next stage of reopening.
This means that by the end of the week, 31 of Ontario's 34 public health units will have moved into Stage 3, which allows for activities such as indoor dining in restaurants, live performing arts shows and the reopening of movie theatres and playgrounds.
The regions who received approval to move to Stage 3 this week are:
'Please be patient,' Ford urges those still in Stage 2
Ford asked those living in the remaining areas, including Toronto, to exercise patience as they wait to move to the next stage.
"For the other regions who entered Stage 2 later in the process, please be patient, we'll get there very shortly," Ford said at a news conference.
You can watch some of Ford's remarks in the video below:
"We've been working with Mayor [John] Tory and mayors in Peel and Windsor regions, along with their public health units, to assess the situation and find a way forward," he said.
"We know as a province that we can't ease up, we can't give this virus an absolute inch and part of the process is learning from other jurisdictions," Ford added.
Twenty-four health units entered into Stage 3 last Friday.
New COVID-19 contact-tracing app possibly going public this week
Meanwhile, Ford said that while he looks forward to the federal government's COVID-19 contact tracing app, which is set to be released soon, it would not affect Ontario's reopening schedule.
"What I understand, the app, possibly will be coming out Friday, I hear that from the federal government, but I don't think that will have anything to do with moving forward for Peel and Windsor and Toronto," he said.
"But I look forward to getting [the] app."
Toronto, Peel and Windsor Essex account for 78 of the 135 new cases of COVID-19 reported by the Ministry of Health this morning. Another 20 were confirmed in Ottawa.
The new cases mark a 0.4 per cent increase in total infections of the novel coronavirus in Ontario, slightly above what has been typical in recent weeks. They come after two days with more than 160 new cases each over the weekend.
Ontario has now seen a total of 37,739 cases of COVID-19 since the outbreak began in late January. Of those, about 88.8 per cent are considered resolved. Another 106 were marked resolved today.
Twenty-eight public health units reported five or fewer cases in the latest update, Health Minister Christine Elliott noted in a series of tweets. Of those 28, 18 public health units confirmed no additional cases at all.
There are now about 1,474 active cases of COVID-19 provincewide.
Meanwhile, Ontario's official COVID-19 death toll grew by one, and is now 2,752. A CBC News count, however, puts the actual number of dead at 2,785 as of Monday.
Areas moving into Stage 3 asked to note anything concerning
Dr. David Williams, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, said he is urging areas of the province moving into Stage 3 to monitor anything "that is particularly concerning" as restrictions ease.
Williams said if community transmission continues to be low in those areas, then the risk to schools when they reopen would also be low in the fall.
He added that Ontario residents in Stage 3 areas should continue to be vigilant and follow public health guidelines, such as maintain physical distancing with people not in your household, wearing a face mask where required in indoor public spaces, staying home when sick and getting testing when symptoms appear.
Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario's associate chief medical officer of health, said the majority of cases over the past three days have been in Toronto, Peel region and Windsor-Essex.
Ottawa has reported an increase in cases and the vast majority involve people in their 20s. She said the new cases are due to young people having private parties and ignoring public health guidelines.
"It's easy for people to forget that we're still in a pandemic," she said. "You will see the effect of that. The disease is still around, it will transmit. It may not be those young people who are severely affected, but it could be people around them."
Meanwhile, a hospital in Leamington, Ont. has increased its visitor restrictions after seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases in its assessment centre and emergency department over the past week.
Erie Shores HealthCare said in a statement that it has scaled back visitor access out of a "desire to keep our staff and patients as safe as possible during this uncertain time."
According to Williams, the increase is outside of a surge in cases among migrant workers in the area, which also flared up again over the weekend with more than 60 new infections reported.
Williams said provincial health officials are discussing how they can support the local health unit and hospital.
"We have put in place some steps to start to rectify, and to resource up, to make sure if it continues to accrue that we have enough people on the ground to respond in all fronts," he said.
Local leaders in Windsor-Essex formally requested the provincial government take charge of the pandemic response on local farms two weeks ago but have yet to hear back.
Mayors request additional public health measures
Meanwhile, the mayors of some of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area's largest municipalities released a joint statement Monday asking the province to consider adopting additional public health measures for bars, restaurants and gyms.
"We are all committed to moving forward into the restart and recovery in a safe way that is based on public health advice — we know this is the best way to continue to save lives, protect the health of our residents, and ensure that we can avoid having to return to more restrictive lockdowns," the statement said.
Over the weekend, Tory asked Ford to make masks mandatory inside restaurants and bars in Toronto when it eventually moves to Stage 3.
Ford said his COVID-19 command table is discussing bar rules, but said municipalities have the power to impose their own stringent restrictions on businesses.
At Monday news conference, Elliott urged people — especially young people — not to give in to "COVID fatigue" and continue to abide by physical distancing, stick to one social "bubble" and wear a face mask.
"As we're opening up the economy it's more important than ever before to please follow the public health rules," she said.
107 new COVID-19 cases in Toronto in 3 days
Over the past three days, there were 107 new COVID-19 infections in Toronto, Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city's medical officer of health announced Monday.
To date, 13,498 people have recovered from the virus, an increase of 121 since Friday.
De Villa said while the city is still seeing some fluctuations case counts, overall the numbers are moving in the right direction.
She also echoed Ford's call for patience as Torontonians await Stage 3 reopening.
"While some may be disappointed with this news, if we move to Stage 3 too quickly, we risk losing the progress that we worked so hard to achieve together," de Villa said.
"We need to move forward with caution and with care. We all need to try our very best to stop virus spread."