Ontario might finally exit Step 3 of reopening next week
It's been nearly four months since Ontario graduated to Step 3 of the provincial government's Roadmap to Reopen, a system designed to progressively lift lockdown restrictions at increments of 21 days (or less... or way, way more.)
Thanks to our speedy achievements in hitting vaccination targets, Ontario left both Step 1 and Step 2 ahead of schedule, but Step 3 — the last and final stage of this particular reopening framework — has been another beast entirely.
Between shifting vaccine thresholds, regulatory tweaks, the emergence of a Delta-driven fourth wave, and a rather nebulous concept of what comes after this third step (the province has assured that there will be no Step 4), many people have stopped trying to keep track.
Soon, we may no longer have to: Doug Ford and his cabinet are reportedly now considering a further easing of pandemic restrictions that could see us leave Step 3 at long last next week.
Multiple news outlets are reporting that an announcement could come as soon as Friday, and that Ontario could exit the roadmap as early as this coming Monday.
The Ontario government will not lift all public health measures and "pretend the pandemic is over," the official said. "We've watched and learned lessons from other provinces that moved too quickly to open up." #COVID19Ontario https://t.co/NgxF9GpKT0 https://t.co/orqM5o3mFc— Mike Crawley (@CBCQueensPark) October 14, 2021
"The easing of pandemic measures will include ending capacity limits in all locations where proof-of-vaccination requirements are in place, such as restaurants, bars and gyms, a senior official in Ford's government said Wednesday," reported CBC's Mike Crawley, who was first to break the news last night.
"The official said it's now time to unveil a 'revised pandemic plan' that takes into account the province's success in getting the population vaccinated against COVID-19, while also keeping a lid on the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus."
The official told Crawley that a plan has been in the works for months and that it is now being finalized.
It's worth noting that Ontario reported its lowest number of new infections (306) since August yesterday, and that the province is now well beyond its initially-stated vaccination targets for leaving Step 3.
More than 87 per cent of all Ontarians have now received at least one dose of a Health Canada-approved vaccine for COVID-19, while 82.5 per cent are considered fully-vaxxed.
In Ontario, 22,119,312 vaccine doses have been administered. 87.1% of Ontarians 12+ have one dose and 82.5% have two doses.— Christine Elliott (@celliottability) October 13, 2021
242 people are hospitalized with #COVID19. 209 are not fully vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination status and 33 are fully vaccinated.
We already know that indoor masking and several other public health restrictions will remain in place beyond Step 3, but it has not yet been revealed what else will stay the same.
The government's website still indicates, as it did when the roadmap was released, that "the majority of public health measures in effect under Step 3 will be lifted" when we move on.
Reports similarly suggest that capacity caps will cease to exist everywhere — not just at large-scale events, for which limits were lifted last week — once the government's forthcoming plan is put into place.
This means that restaurants, bars, gyms and other places of business where patrons must show proof of vaccination will be able to function at full capacity for the first time since before the pandemic.
As of right now, gyms and recreational fitness facilities have indoor capacity limits of up to 50 per cent of normal levels, as long as every person present can maintain at least two metres from one another.
Restaurants don't have specific limits but must keep a physical distance of at least two metres between all groups unless barriers are present. Indoor food or drink establishments with dance facilities, such as nightclubs and restobars, can only operate at 25 per cent capacity or 250 people, whichever is less.
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