TORONTO – What do monkey bars and dine-in restaurants have in common? As of today (July 17th), both will no longer be off limits as the provincial government announced Monday that 24 areas will enter Stage Three of Ontario’s COVID-19 re-opening plan.
Eastern Ontario, which includes the Eastern Ontario Health Unit area, along with Ottawa Public Health, Leeds, Grenville, and the Lanark District Public Health areas are part of this re-opening area.
The announced areas for the initial Stage Three mirror the first opening under Stage Two. It will have been four weeks to-the-day since this region entered Stage Two.
“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 Ontario,” said premier Doug Ford during the July 13th announcement.
“Now more than ever, we must continue to follow the public health advice to preserve the progress we have made together.”
Under the Stage Three reopening plan, indoor gathering limits will increase to 50 people maximum, outdoor gathering limits will increase to 100 people maximum.
Physical distancing requirements remain in effect. There has been no change to the size of a social circle or “bubble”, it remains at 10 people province-wide.
Deputy-premier and health minister Christine Elliott told reporters at Queen’s Park that within Stage Three, social circles and gathering limits may be adjusted upwards at a later time.
Under the province’s plan, most businesses that were not already open in Stage Two can open.
This includes restaurants that offer dine-in service, and bars. Those businesses are limited to 50 people maximum occupancy, which does not include business staff. There is no change to outdoor patio operation for restaurants and bars. Dancing in those businesses will not be allowed, other than by performers who are hired by the business. Buffet-style food services will not be allowed under Stage Three as well.
Daycares will see an increase in operating capacity on Friday. Before July 18th, capacity caps set one caregiver for a group of 10 children. That cap increases to 15 children, which according to education minister Stephen Lecce will bring operating capacity to 90 per cent of pre-COVID-19 levels.
“Providing child care for parents is critical so that, as more Ontarians return to work, they can do so with confidence in knowing that their children are being safely cared for,” said Lecce.
Outdoor playground amenities like monkey bars, swing sets, and jungle gyms will be allowed to be used, so long as children maintain physical distancing measures and practice safe hygiene.
Sports programs and day camps can resume programming which include incidental contact like baseball, basketball, soccer, and hockey. Competitive league play cannot restart, but house-league play can begin.
Sports that require prolonged physical contact like wrestling, boxing, and martial arts cannot restart.
Businesses not opening in Stage Three include amusement parks, water parks, table games at casinos and private karaoke rooms.
Overnight stays at camps for children are not allowed as well.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams and public health experts advised that those types of businesses could not reopen due to challenges in maintaining proper cleaning or keeping crowd sizes to current guidelines.
Businesses that cannot open under the Stage Three regulations can prepare an individual business plan for reopening and submit to provincial health authorities to get approval to reopen.
Areas not included in this initial move into Stage Three include Toronto, York, and Peel regions, along with Windsor-Essex, Hamilton, and Niagara.
Those areas will gradually move into Stage Three once the areas reach the four week mark in Stage Two.