Premier Doug Ford announced the launch of the third part of Phase Two of the provincial economic restart plan July 13. Stage Three will operate on a region-by-region basis guided by the success of local regional health units in controlling the spread of COVID-19.
“Our success in reducing the spread of COVID-19 and getting Ontario to a place where we are ready to reopen most of the province is a testament to the hard work of business owners, individuals and families right across the province,” stated Premier Ford during a provincial media session. “So many have stepped up and played by the rules, demonstrating that we can restart our economy safely and responsibly. Small actions can make a big difference, and now, more than ever, we must continue to follow the public health advice to preserve the progress we have made together.”
Hawkesbury Chamber of Commerce President Marc Lecompte was very happy with the news. “I am excited about hearing about this,” said Lecompte, during a phone interview July 13. “It will be a great step in the right direction, always remembering that safety has to come first.”
Eastern Ontario opens up
Stage Three will follow a region-by-region schedule similar to that for the previous Phase Two stages. Each region is assessed for its success in containing the spread of COVID-19. That success includes following the demands of regional public health units for use of masks in public, social distancing, self-isolation of anyone who tests positive for the virus, and other public health precautions.
The Eastern Ontario region, which includes the Ottawa, Leeds, Grenville and Lanark, Renfrew County and District, and the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, will be one of the first regions allowed to move on to Stage Three and the more relaxed guidelines for business operations and community activities. That takes place midnight July 17.
The third stage includes an increase in the size of public gatherings allowed, from up to 50 for indoors and up to a maximum of 100 for outdoor events. That means indoor dining at restaurants may be possible, but social distancing between tables and other public health pandemic guidelines will still apply.
The third stage also includes an increase in the number of children that municipal and large-scale private childcare centres are able to accept. Starting July 27 the maximum of children allowed at large-scale daycare increases from 10 to 15, provided the centre is able to maintain public health safety needs for the children.
Some businesses and activities will still not be allowed yet under Stage Three because of the risk of crowd sizes too large or situations too difficult to maintain social distancing and other public health safety demands.
These include amusement parks and water parks, buffet-style food services, overnight stays at camps for children, private karaoke rooms, operation of commercial saunas, steam rooms, bath houses, and oxygen bars, and table games at casinos and gaming rooms. Also dancing is not allowed yet at restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, unless it involves professional dancers hired to entertain onstage. Most contact sports may not be allowed yet under Stage Three.
More details on the Stage Three guidelines are available at www.ontario.ca/reopen. The Eastern Ontario Health Unit is also reviewing the government guidelines and will provide its own detailed information on its website on how Stage Three will work in the region.