stay at home toronto

Toronto is no longer under a stay-at-home order and here's what that means

Today, for the first time in more than three months, Toronto residents can legally enter non-essential retail stores to purchase such things as clothing, books, gifts, stationary, grooming supplies and shoes (the kinds that aren't already available at Walmart or Costco.)

Stay-at-home orders were officially lifted at 12:01 a.m. this morning in the last three Ontario public health regions that had still been subject to strict provincewide shutdown rules.

Toronto, Peel and North Bay-Parry Sound have thus joined the rest of the province to enter the government's "Strengthened COVID-19 Response Framework."

North Bay returns to the framework at the "Red-Control" level, while both Toronto and Peel are once again in the Grey-Lockdown" zone of reopening (where outdoor gathering limits have been upped from five people to ten!) 

Not a whole lot will change for Toronto and Peel as we transition from one form of lockdown into another, but residents of both regions are nonetheless thrilled to see some progress after one of the longest blanket COVID-19 business closures in North America.

You see, in many parts of the province, bars, restaurants, gyms, hair salons and retail stores only closed down on December 26, 2020, amid spiking rates of the coronavirus across Ontario.

Toronto and Peel, however, had been under these restrictions since November 23, when both regions were moved into the old version of "Grey-Lockdown" that mandated all stores to close aside from curbside pickup and delivery.

Rules for the new, modified grey zone we enter today permit non-essential retail stores to reopen — with strict capacity limits in place.

Pharmacies, convenience stores and supermarkets must keep crowds maxed at 50 per cent of normal capacity, as has been standard for months, while all other retail outlets (including liquor and big box stores) will now be capped at 25 per cent capacity.

With stay-at-home orders lifted, residents can once again feel okay about leaving their homes for non-essential purposes (though public health officials still recommend you stay home as much as possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19.)

First put into effect on Thursday, January 14, at 12:01 a.m., the order required "everyone to remain at home with exceptions for essential purposes, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, for exercise or for essential work."

Businesses were also tasked with ensuring that any employee who could work from home did work from home, and limit outings only to essential trips.  

As for when everything else (read: restaurants, gyms and salons) can reopen, that all depends on how the province's COVID-19 command table feels about our numbers when it's time to reevaluate where in the framework Toronto and Peel belong.

These indicators will "generally be assessed based on the previous two weeks of information," according to the province, though "movement to apply measures will be considered sooner than two weeks if there is a rapidly worsening trend" thanks to a new "emergency brake" provision.

On top of that, local medical officers of health (such as Toronto's Dr. Eileen de Villa) still have the ability to issue Section 22 orders under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, adding additional restrictions into the mix based on specific threats to any community.

While Toronto has yet to see much of this aside from new restrictions for workplaces with active outbreaks, things could change at any time based on key public health indicators as new variants of the virus spread.

Lead photo by

A Great Capture

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