stage 2 ontario

Here's what needs to happen before Ontario moves into Stage 2 of reopening

It's been just three days since Ontario entered Stage 1 of its economic reopening plan, and already many are anxiously awaiting the news that we're moving on to Stage 2. 

But with the alarming increase of COVID-19 cases in the province in recent days as well as the fact that Friday marked the fifth day in a row that Ontario fell short of its own testing benchmark, it seems we still have a long way to go before meeting the criteria necessary to further reopen the economy. 

According to the province's Framework for Reopening the Province, Stage 2 of reopening — which is only to begin "if the initial loosening of public health measures is successful" — includes opening more workplaces, outdoor spaces and allowing some larger public gatherings.

It also includes continued protections for vulnerable populations and the continued practice of physical distancing, hand washing and respiratory hygiene, and significant mitigation plans to limit health risks.

The document indicates that public health officials will carefully monitor each stage for two-to-four weeks in order to determine if it is necessary to change course to maintain public health, which means we likely have at least a few weeks to go before anything changes in Ontario. 

In addition, the framework explains that Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams will carefully consider virus spread and containment, health system capacity, public health system capacity and incidence tracking capacity while advising when the province can begin to ease additional public health measures. 

And based on the status of cases and testing in the province, it's unlikely that Dr. Williams would determine that we're ready for Stage 2 anytime soon. 

In fact, he's previously expressed some concern and caution around starting to reopen in the first place. 

Meanwhile, Premier Doug Ford said on Thursday that he wouldn't hesitate to roll back or halt Stage 1 reopening plans if things don't improve soon.

"I'm relying on our chief medical officer and the health table to give me that advice," he said when asked about what it would take to shut down reopening plans. "I always have been and always will rely on medical advice and the science, always."

Ontario's Minister of Health Christine Elliott made a similar comment Thursday, adding that it's too soon to tell whether the increase in numbers has anything to do with the reopening of select businesses and services this week. 

"We will be watching this very closely as we get into next week, where we're going to really start to see what the effect is on public health from the changes that have happened as the result of Stage 1," she said. 

The province's framework specifies that this is the very reason for remaining in each stage for two-to-four-week periods: to allow for close monitoring of any impacts or potential resurgence of cases.

After each period, Dr. Williams will advise to either reapply or tighten certain public health measures in response to a surge in cases or outbreaks, maintain status quo and continue close monitoring of impacts, or progress to the next two-to-four-week stage.

"As public health measures are lifted and as economic activity resumes, the public will need to continue to maintain physical distancing and hand washing, along with self-isolation when experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Remote work arrangements should continue where feasible," the document notes.  

"By taking this incremental approach, the government can ensure there are appropriate measures in place to reopen the province safely and limit any risks to people and public health. Each stage requires careful assessment and monitoring to know whether to adjust, tighten or loosen measures."

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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