stage 3 ontario

These are the regions now in Stage 3 in Ontario along with the new guidelines in place

If you reside in York, Durham, Hamilton, Halton, Lambton, Niagara or Haldimand-Norfolk, then congratulations: you are officially now in Stage 3 of reopening as of Friday (sorry Toronto, Windsor-Essex and Peel).

Those in the seven above public health units, along with the 24 that were permitted to wade into Stage 3 back on July 17, can now enjoy things like gym sessions, indoor drinking and dining, concerts and other live events, movie theatres and playgrounds (yes, those were still closed in Stage 2).

Team sports, casino gambling, getting a facial or having your eyelashes done, hitting up an arcade or escape room, and larger gatherings for work or play are also now allowed under this next phase, which the provincial government has called "Recover" (as opposed to Stage 2, "Restart").

But, of course, there are a number of rules and restrictions in place to keep everyone safe from potential virus exposure and spread, and businesses are being encouraged to come up with their own workplace safety plans to help.

Under its reopening framework, Ontario has asked businesses to abide by a whole slew of new protocols, including ensuring employees and customers keep a physical distance of at least two metres from one another and that personal protective equipment is used if this is not possible (or of it is mandated by local government), disinfecting surfaces and objects more regularly, and contacting the relevant public health unit if an infection has been discovered.

Employers are also being asked to screen workers for symptoms of COVID-19 and encourage them to stay home if they feel sick, and to promote good hand hygiene among their staff. 

Gathering limits — which for Stage 3 are 50 indoors and 100 outdoors — must also be strictly enforced. These numbers apply to entire buildings or outdoor settings (so 50 people for an entire movie theatre facility, not for one theatre, or for a whole recreational sports league), and capacities must be limited with this in mind. Scheduling things by appointment, if possible, is recommended (like GoodLife Fitness is doing).

In restaurants and bars, all guests must be seated, as standing room is no longer permitted. Tables must be arranged so that patrons can remain at least two metres apart from others not in their party (plexiglass or other physical barriers may be installed in lieu). Buffet-style service is a no-go. Directional flow of traffic (one entrance, one exit) should be implemented if possible.

Plexiglass must also be installed between some performers, such as singers or those who play woodwind instruments, and attendees at a concert or other event.

Essentially, Stage 3 includes a lot of things that the population has already gotten used to at this point: social distancing, ramped up cleaning practices, symptom monitoring, small groupings and PPE.

While it seems that virtually all businesses will be allowed to resume somewhat normal operations, things like steam rooms, saunas, water and amusement parks, private karaoke rooms, dancing and clubs, contact sports, and table games at casino establishments are still not yet deemed safe.

What also hasn't been deemed safe is expanding operations past Stage 2 limits in the three public health units that remain held back today — a decision Doug Ford today delayed until next Wednesday at the earliest.

Lead photo by

Tony Mo

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