Ontario Government Announces an Earlier Start to the Re-opening Schedule

It’s the news that people all around Ontario wanted to hear: With vaccination rates going up, and COVID case counts going down, the Provincial government announced that they’re moving up the first phase of re-opening by three days. As of 12:01 am this Friday, all municipalities in Ontario will be able to come out of lockdown with more retail, outdoor dining, and slightly bigger outdoor gatherings all allowed.

“Thanks to the ongoing success of Team Ontario’s vaccine rollout and the ongoing improvements in public health trends, we are able to enter step one of the Roadmap and begin to safely and cautiously lift restrictions,” said Premier Doug Ford in a statement. “As we begin to enjoy the benefits of the first step in our roadmap like meeting friends on a patio or visiting your favourite local store, please do so safely by continuing to follow all public health guidelines.”

The milestone to initiate phase one has not only been reached, but exceeded. On Sunday, 72 per cent of all adults over 18 have received at least one dose of one of the three authorized COVID-19 vaccines.  According to the three-step plan released by the Province last month, the initiation of phase one on June 14 depended on, among other things, 60 per cent of Ontario adults having received at least one dose. On Friday, 64.3 per cent of people eligible to get a vaccine in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph had received one dose.

“Since Friday, we’ve actually had one of our biggest weekend’s of vaccination. In fact,  the number of people we vaccinated last week in our community is just under 25,000,” said Medical Officer of Health Dr. Nicola Mercer at Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting.

“If you were to go to the dashboard this morning on our website, you would see that we’re just under 70 per cent for those who are 18 to be vaccinated, and if you were to do it for 12-plus, which is our eligible population, that number is just over 66 per cent,” Mercer added. “So we are making progress, one vaccine at a time.”

The City of Guelph updated their COVID-19 restrictions in preparation for the phase one re-opening Friday, confirming that outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed, and that indoor religious services, as well as weddings and funerals, will be permitted at up to 15 per cent capacity of the venue. Outdoor fitness classes and sports training will also be allowed with up to 10 people three metres apart.

In terms of retail, essential stores can now allow 25 per cent capacity, while all non-essential retail can re-open with up to 15 per cent capacity. Still, all personal services businesses like nail salons and hair dressers must remain closed until phase two, while retail stores in malls that have no outside entrance must also remain closed.

In terms of the biggest change, the allowance of outdoor dining, the City of Guelph has confirmed that intersection at Wyndham and Macdonell Streets will be closed for the first weekend dining district of the year from June 11-13, exactly one-week earlier than originally intended. As approved by council earlier this year, the corner of Wyndham and Macdonell will be closed to all traffic, including Guelph Transit, every weekend until Labour Day.

According to the City, they’ve so far approved 20 different patios, but Dr, Mercer advises caution and that everyone observe the four-person per table limit to the letter. “I’m just going to encourage you to please don’t push the tables together,” she said. “We all want to do a great job, and we really want to get to step two and three, which is where we’re going to have a lot more close contact. So let’s just keep going.”

Mayor Cam Guthrie agrees.

“This is a great step forward in our COVID journey as we get back to some of the activities we have missed. I encourage everyone to support local patios and shops, and to get outside to enjoy parks and recreational amenities,” Guthrie said in a statement. “Please keep following all guidelines and, if you haven’t already, register to get vaccinated!”

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