Toronto's top doctor recommends moving city into grey zone next week
Toronto Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa announced today that she is officially recommending moving the city into the grey zone of the province's colour-coded framework when the extended shutdown and stay-at-home order expire next week.
Dr. de Villa made the announcement during the city's COVID-19 press briefing Wednesday afternoon, in which she reported 290 new cases of the virus and indicated that 1,468 have screened positive as likely variants of concern while 126 have been confirmed as variants following labratory testing.
"Overall, case counts at present call for a cautious approach that will allow us to reopen and to do so as safely as possible. Based on the data in front of us, it is clear that reopening widely, such as under the red category of the provincial framework, is not advisable at this time given our current case counts," she said.
"Moving out of the stay-at-home order is a reasonable course of action for Toronto. Although I will add that while there are evident reasons for a change in status, there remain reasons or risks that underscore how moving back into grey status is and will be a delicate balance."
The doctor said this change is only possible because of how hard residents have worked to curb the spread of COVID-19, and it will be up to individuals to continue making responsible choices as the city reopens.
She added that she sincerely believes the many businesses that shut down in Toronto ahead of those in other parts of the Ontario helped to limit the spread across the province.
Not much will actually change if the city reenters that stage on Monday as it's the most restrictive phase of the framework, but in-person shopping would once again be permitted for all retail outlets thanks to an update to the framework made by the province in February.
Supermarkets and other stores that primarily sell groceries, convenience stores and pharmacies would have to limit in-store capacity to 50 per cent of normal, and all other retail outlets — including big box stores — would have to face capacity limits of 25 per cent.
The limit for outdoor organized public events and social gatherings would also increase to 10 people as long as physical distancing can be maintained.
"We are on the cusp of taking a much-wanted step toward a little more flexibility in our daily lives, but, and until we've brought COVID-19 well under control, there will always be, there must always be a but, but the steps for self-protection are more valuable and vital than ever," de Villa said.
"It's now a question of preserving what we've gained. The case counts are down but the variant cases are up. What may be possible can only come from a continued decline in cases, from arresting the spread of the variants, from delivering vaccinations and from continuing, for now, to stay at home and stay apart as much as possible and in as many ways as possible."
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