It’s the news everyone wanted to hear! (Sort of.) On the same day that most of Ontario’s school students returned to in-person learning, the Government of Ontario announced their intention to end the state of emergency and start the gradual re-opening of the province this week. Don’t celebrate yet though because all of this is still kind of tepid.
“Our number one priority will always be protecting the health and safety of all individuals, families and workers across the province,” said Premier Ford in a statement. “But we must also consider the severe impact COVID-19 is having on our businesses. That’s why we have been listening to business owners, and we are strengthening and adjusting the Framework to allow more businesses to safely reopen and get people back to work.”
It starts this Wednesday with the re-opening of three public health units at Hastings Prince Edward, Renfrew County and District, and Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington at 12:01 am. All the other public health regions except Toronto, Peel and York will re-open Tuesday February 16, the day after Family Day, while all the remaining regions will re-open on February 22.
But what does re-opening mean? Ontario will return to the old colour-coded system that was implemented last November, but with some amendments. Areas in Grey-Lockdown will now allow in-person shopping in a limited capacity of 25 per cent in most retail settings, plus there will be stronger public safety measures concerning face coverings and social distancing.
Before the province-wide shutdown went into effect on December 26, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph was in Red-Control. This level allows for 50 per cent capacity in all retail settings along with the standard regulations about masks, social distancing, and the screening of people both working and shopping in any indoor retail environment.
Still, the Province wants people to know that this is not a “getting back to normal” moment, but a cautiously optimistic moment.
“While we are seeing our numbers trend in the right direction, our situation remains precarious as the variants of concern remain a serious risk,” said provincial Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams. “This is not a re-opening or a ‘return to normal’ and we must continue to limit close contact to our immediate households and stay at home except for essential reasons. By continuing to follow all public health and workplace safety measures, we can continue to reduce the number of new cases and the strain on our health system.”
Naturally, Ontario’s opposition parties find the plan announced today a bit lacking.
“We all agree that Ontario’s small businesses need a safe pathway to reopening, but the Premier is setting us up to fail if he refuses to invest in the necessary safety measures and supports small businesses need,” said Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner. “This means ramping up testing, more contact tracing, implementing provincially paid sick days, providing additional financial support for small businesses and deploying rapid tests for essential workplaces to prevent outbreaks. If we want to have any hope of reopening the economy and keeping it open, we must make our workplaces safe.”
“When health experts say it’s time to reopen, let’s make sure we’re opening up for good this time by investing in public health measures that stop the spread,” added official opposition leader Andrea Horwath in her own statement. ““We’re all paying the price because Doug Ford keeps making the same mistakes.”
By the numbers, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health is almost at the point of crossing back over the red line of 40 cases per 100,000 in terms of confirmed COVID-19 cases. The 7-day moving average is now at 45.6 per 100,000, while the test positivity is still rather high at 3.6 per cent, but that number hasn’t been updated since early next week.
The post-weekend bump in new cases is 65, but the total number of active cases is now down to 217. There were also five additional fatalities since Friday to bring that total up to 86.