optical stores ontario

These are the rules for optical stores in Ontario right now

Retail stores across Ontario may be reopening tentatively but the bad news is if you're trying to buy some new frames — optical stores don't count. 

We're about a week into Stage 1 of the province's reopening plan, and while shoppers can now walk into select stores to shop for clothes, furniture, games, and shoes, there's no news yet as to when we'll be able to to the same for eyewear. 

That's because optical stores fall under the category of health providers, and are dictated by the Ministry of Health's Directive #2.

Those rules, which also apply to dentists, family doctors, opticians, optometrists, and other providers, haven't changed since they were first issued in mid-March. 

"Regardless of the government re-opening retail, dispensing of eyewear is a regulated act and falls under this directive," says Fazal Khan, the CEO of the College of Opticians of Ontario (COO)

"Until this changes, patients will not be able to purchase new eyewear, only access urgent and essential care like repairs." 

Though stores selling glasses are considered part of the retail sector, they also house many practicing opticians, who are the ones handling, fitting, and dispensing your glasses for you.

If you've got an eye-related emergency that requires urgent care (like critical glasses repairs, replacing broken or lost eyewear, and contact lenses refills) Khan suggests checking out the COO's directory of opticians currently providing those services in the province. 

"Urgent care services are particularly important for front line workers who have high prescriptions and are without eyeglasses or have run out of their contact lens supply," says Khan. 

Optometrists and opticians will then assess whether you need an in-person visit — in which case stringent sanitary measures set out by the Public Health and COO must be met — or if your needs can be met through virtual or telephone consultations. 

That being said, large retailers like Bailey Nelson have announced that they've reopened across Canada. Technically, they're only allowed to serve urgent care cases, but the brand has made no indication of that on their social media or websites. 

Call into a Bailey Nelson store near you and you'll be advised to make an appointment for the following week, without much interrogation about what kind of emergency you're experiencing. 

According to the sales team, you must also choose five to six frame styles before coming in, so they can have them ready and sanitized for you when you arrive. 

Other larger Canadian brands like BonLook have yet to announce opening their stores for any urgent care services, while Dresden Vision says it's only doing curbside pick-ups. 

"Its very difficult to speculate when non-urgent care will resume," says Khan. "But the province seems to be moving along with its multi-step plan on easing workplace restrictions and opticians are preparing for the eventual re-opening of prescription eyewear.

And when health care providers are allowed to move beyond urgent care, they should follow a strict Return To Practice guideline set out by the COO.

That includes the use of PPE by staff, signage, Plexiglass barriers, and enhanced sanitation of the space and frames.

They're also recommending that opticians refrain from performing initial contact lens fittings, since that requires close physical contact for prolonged periods of time, and is pretty much impossible to do while using adequate PPE. 

In the mean time, opt for wearing your glasses instead of your precious contact lenses, and try not to sit on your frames while spending all this time at home. 

Lead photo by

Jesse Milns

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