As the number of active cases goes down and the number of vaccinations continues to rise, Ontario will be heading into Step 2 of its Roadmap to Reopen plan a few days earlier than anticipated.
As of 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, June 30, Ontario will loosen more COVID-19 restrictions. Previously, the government had planned to implement step two on Friday, July 2.
The move to Step 2 means people will once again be able to host indoor gatherings of up to five people, meet with up to 25 people outdoors, and book personal care services such as haircuts.
Outdoor performances and team sports can also resume, and outdoor attractions such as water parks will be allowed to reopen.
“Because of the tireless work of our healthcare heroes, and the record-setting success of our vaccine rollout, we are able to move to step two ahead of schedule,” said Premier Doug Ford. “We are proceeding safely with the reopening of our province and will continue to work around the clock until the job is done.”
Before Ontario could advance, 70 percent of all adults needed to have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 20 percent fully vaccinated for at least two weeks. By June 23, over 76 percent had had their first shot, and over 29 percent had their second.
As of June 25, it is estimated 72 percent of Chatham-Kent’s adult population (18+) have received at least one dose, and 30 percent have received at least two doses. Additionally, 42 percent of youth aged 12-17 have received at least one dose.
According to Dr. David Colby, Chatham-Kent’s Medical Officer of Health, the numbers justify the decision to move into Step 2.
“The numbers justify it. The numbers are there,” said Colby. “Those were the criteria that were set out from the beginning, and they include very substantial immunization targets, which provide a tremendous cushion in society from the virus spreading.”
Colby added when it’s all said and done, he would like to see 90 percent of the eligible population vaccinated against COVID-19, understanding some people are strongly against getting vaccinated.
“There are people who are philosophically opposed to vaccination,” said Colby. “It’s not a way of thinking I understand. I always look to science and not try and base opinions on ideology, but people are free to form their own ideas. That’s part of being human.”
While Ontario has already surpassed vaccination targets set for entering Step 3, but may stay in Step 2 for 21 days so public health officials can monitor the impact of loosening the rules.
Colby said he supports the decision to move into Step 2, while holding back from Step 3, as did the Medical Officers of Health from Ontario’s other health units on a conference call held last week, he said.
“We all advise caution about moving into Phase 3. We’re a cautious bunch,” said Colby. “Our job is to keep the people of Ontario safe. We really just want to take a pause for a second and not move too quickly.”
Here’s a look at what’s permitted under Step 2.
• Outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people.
• Indoor gatherings of up to five people.
Retail, dining and indoor services
• Essential retail stores can open to 50 percent capacity.
• Non-essential retail stores can open to 25 percent capacity.
• Stores in shopping malls can open.
• Personal care services such as salons can open to 25 percent capacity if masks can be worn at all times.
• Outdoor dining expands to six people per table, with exceptions for large households.
• Public libraries can open up to 25 percent capacity.
• Religious services and other ceremonies like weddings and funerals up to 25 percent capacity.
• Outdoor fitness classes with three metres of distance between people.
• No-contact outdoor sports, with no limit on the number of people or teams.
• Overnight camps for children.
• Outdoor concerts, theatres, cinemas, sports facilities, horse racing and motor speedways up to 25 percent audience capacity.
• Outdoor water parks, fairs, festivals and amusement parks up to 25 percent capacity.
Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News