stage 2

Ontario is on track to enter Step 2 soon and here's what will reopen

It's Step 1 of reopening in Ontario and the living is notably more enjoyable than it was under months of stringent lockdown, with residents now able to enjoy dining on patios, taking part in outdoor fitness classes, hanging outside with nine other friends and shopping at stores that aren't supermarkets or pharmacies.

Even though we're only days into the province's new three-step roadmap, given how long we lived without so many basic activities, it's not uncouth to wonder when we'll be progressing into the next level, allowing more businesses and sectors of the economy to resume operations.

Though the steps are largely based on vaccination rates among the province's population, it quickly became apparent — when we surpassed the goal of administering at least one dose of vaccine to at least 60 per cent of adults but still didn't move into Step 1 — that this isn't the only factor being taken into account.

Premier Doug Ford said at the end of May that key health indicators such as daily case counts, ICU capacities and per cent positivity among those tested for COVID-19 were being assessed when considering graduating the province into the first step.

And though officials have yet to specify certain figures they want us to get to in these regards, Ontario seems to be on track for Step 2, announcing a nine-month-low of only 296 new cases of the virus on Tuesday.

Per cent positivity has meanwhile fallen to around 2.5 compared to a high of over 10 per cent in April.

More than 11.5 million doses of vaccine have been administered across the province and more than 65 per cent of residents (and counting) have received one, while more than 13 per cent are fully vaxxed and appointments for second doses continue to open up to more and more groups earlier than expected.

These are all good signs that should mean we can enter Step 2 as planned at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, July 2 — the date that is the requisite minimum 21 days after we entered Step 1, which it appears the province is being pretty strict about.

As part of Step 2, which is slated to happen when at least 70 per cent of Ontarians 18 and over have had one immunizatioon and at least 20 per cent have had two, capacity limits for stores will increase along with gathering limits and new types of businesses can resume operations.

For get-togethers in Step 2, there will be new maximums of 25 outdoors and five indoors, up from the current 10 outdoors and ongoing ban on indoor visits.

Both "essential" and "non-essential" retail stores will be able to let more customers in their doors, too: 50 per cent of their listed capacity for the former, up from 25 per cent, and 25 per cent of listed capacity for the latter, up from 15 per cent.

Businesses offering personal care services — yes, that's right, salons and barbershops — will be able to reopen to some extent, as will outdoor cinemas, outdoor meeting and event spaces, public libraries, indoor religious services, and more.

Even amusement parks like Canada's Wonderland will be allowed to kick off their season, as will fairs and other exhibitions of that nature with capacity limits (perhaps the CNE was cancelled prematurely?).

Other smaller details will also change: Diners on outdoor patios can sit six to a table instead of four, horse racing and motor speedways can host spectators again, and outdoor tour and guide services, as well as outdoor sports and leagues, can resume.

With all of this possible in just a few weeks' time, hopefully the public's excitement for a more normal existence this summer will mean that we all continue to get vaccinated as soon as we are eligible to do so and continue to follow the ubiquitous health and safety rules of masking up, washing our hands and physical distancing.

So far, it seems that we're doing pretty well.

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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