The Ontario government has announced it will be moving to step two of the province’s reopening plan as of 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday (June 30), two days earlier than originally scheduled, despite having exceeded the benchmarks it set to move to step three.
In step two, the maximum number of people who can gather together increases, more outdoor activities are allowed to resume, and more indoor services are allowed to reopen. The changes in step two include:
- Outdoor social gatherings and organized public events with up to 25 people
- Indoor social gatherings and organized public events with up to 5 people
- Essential and other select retail permitted at 50 per cent capacity
- Non-essential retail permitted at 25 per cent capacity
- Personal care services where face coverings can be worn at all times, and at 25 per cent capacity and other restrictions
- Outdoor dining with up to 6 people per table, with exceptions for larger households and other restrictions
- Indoor religious services, rites, or ceremonies, including wedding services and funeral services permitted at up to 25 per cent capacity of the particular room
- Outdoor fitness classes limited to the number of people who can maintain three metres of physical distance
- Outdoor sports without contact or modified to avoid contact, with no specified limit on number of people or teams participating, with restrictions
- Overnight camps for children operating in a manner consistent with the safety guidelines produced by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health
- Outdoor sport facilities with spectators permitted at 25 per cent capacity
- Outdoor concert venues, theatres and cinemas, with spectators permitted at 25 per cent capacity
- Outdoor horse racing and motor speedways, with spectators permitted at 25 per cent capacity
- Outdoor fairs, rural exhibitions, and festivals, permitted at 25 per cent capacity and with other restrictions.
For more details on the province’s reopening plan, visit ontario.ca/page/reopening-ontario.
To proceed to step two, Ontario needed to have vaccinated 70 per cent of adults with one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 20 per cent with two doses.
As of Wednesday (June 23), the province had already exceeded these benchmarks, with 76 per cent of adults having received one dose and over 29 per cent having received two doses.
Ontario has already met the benchmarks the province set for moving to Step Three, which would allow for even larger social gathering and events, retail operating at capacity where people can maintain two metres of physical distance, performing arts venues and cinemas, and more.
Despite surpassing step three benchmarks, the government says Ontario is not proceeding immediately to step three.
“While the province has surpassed Step Three vaccination targets, Ontario may remain in Step Two for a period of approximately 21 days to allow the most recent vaccinations to reach their full effectiveness and to evaluate any impacts of moving to Step Two on key public health and health care indicators,” states a media release. “When it is determined to be safe, the province will promptly move to Step Three of the Roadmap to Reopen.”
Ontario has also seen continued improvement in key public health and health care indicators, including hospitalizations, ICU occupancy, and weekly case incidence rates. From June 11 to 17, the provincial case rate decreased by 24.6 per cent. As of June 22, the number of patients with COVID-19 in ICUs is 305, including 10 patients from Manitoba, as compared to 450 two weeks ago.
With the adjusted step two schedule, step three would begin on Wednesday, July 21st — although the province may decide to move to step three at an earlier date.
“Vaccination markers are one of the metrics,” said Dr. David Williams during a media conference on Wednesday at Queen’s Park — his last media conference as Ontario’s chief medical officer of health as he retires and Dr. Kieran Moore takes over.
“While we might say we’ve blown past (the targets), most over the 20 per cent (of people receiving two doses) have got that in the last week and a half, so they have another week and a half to build up immunity til they’re ready to go, and we know that they’re immune and just not vaccinated in that point.”
Dr. Williams also pointed out the province is also considering other metrics, including the relatively high number of people in hospital intensive care units and outbreaks of the delta variant in regions such as Waterloo.
“Opening and closing is very disturbing to people and so, while everybody’s in a hurry, we’d rather be taking slow strides forward than trip going out the door,” he added. “Be patient.”
“The other issue we’re following is the delta variant that’s in Ontario now,” said incoming chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore, noting the variant is now making up around 50 per cent of new cases. “We’re seeing that it’s spreading rapidly in certain areas of Ontario now, including the Waterloo region.”
“We’ve followed also what’s going on in England and, as Dr. Williams said, in other areas of the globe where, even despite high immunization rates, they’re having resurgence of activity. And that’s one of the last things we want to see happen in Ontario, so I do believe a slow and cautious approach is warranted.”