July 13, 2020, Premier Doug Ford announced the details of Stage Three of Ontario’s economic reopening plan, which will permit nearly all businesses and public spaces to reopen. Twenty-four of the province’s public health regions will move into stage three this Friday, July 17, at 12:01 a.m.

Premier Ford was joined by Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott, Minister of Finance Rod Phillips and Minister of Education Stephen Lecce.

Stage Three Announced

Stage three will enable the majority of businesses and public spaces in Ontario to reopen, including dine-in service at restaurants, bars, gyms and fitness centres, most personal care services, live shows, performing arts and movie theatres, casinos, recreational facilities and activities, team sports, live sporting events, and tour and guide services.

Businesses will be required to follow health and safety measures such as gathering limits, physical distancing measures, and cleaning protocols. Workplace-specific health and safety measures can be found within Ontario’s framework document on stage three.

Minister Elliott explained that Ontario is expected to remain in stage three for the foreseeable future, likely until a vaccine for COVID-19 is developed. She added that health professionals will continue to monitor the situation and advise the government on when certain public health measures, such as the maximum size of gatherings, can be loosened.

Regions Permitted to Enter Stage Three

Due to a continued decline in COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations, 24 of the province’s 34 public health regions will be permitted to enter stage three this Friday, July 17th, at 12:01 a.m.

Regions which were later to enter stage two, including the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and several regions bordering the U.S., will not be permitted to enter stage three until four weeks worth of stage two data can be analyzed by the Chief Medical Officer of Health. Regions that will remain in stage two include: Durham, Haldimand-Norfolk, Halton, Hamilton, Lambton, Niagara, Peel, Toronto, Windsor-Essex, and York.

All regions will continue to be assessed on an ongoing basis and a determination on whether additional public health units can move to stage three will be made at the beginning of each week.

New Gathering Limits

For regions entering stage three, public gathering sizes will be permitted to increase to a maximum of 100 people outdoors and 50 people indoors. For all gatherings, individuals are required to maintain physical distancing of at least two metres with people from outside of their household or social circle.

Gathering limits apply to higher risk settings and activities where people congregate, such as organized or spontaneous indoor and outdoor events, casinos, concerts and live shows, convention centres, gyms, movie theatres, sporting events, and touring services.

People gathering indoors for religious services, rites or ceremonies, and wedding ceremonies or funeral services can continue to occupy up to 30 per cent of the capacity of the particular room, as introduced in stage two.

Gatherings in regions which remain in stage two will continue to be limited to 10 people, both indoors and outdoors. Social circles will also be kept to a maximum of 10 people province-wide, although Minister Elliott said that this number is likely to be expanded as the province moves through stage three.

Places and Activities Remaining Closed

Certain high-risk places and activities are not yet safe to open, even if a region has moved to stage three, due to the likelihood of large crowds congregating, difficulties maintaining physical distancing or challenges with cleaning and sanitation. These places and activities include:

  • Amusement parks and water parks;
  • Buffet-style food services;
  • Dancing at restaurants and bars, other than by performers hired by the establishment;
  • Overnight stays at camps for children;
  • Private karaoke rooms;
  • Prolonged or deliberate contact while playing sports;
  • Saunas, steam rooms, bathhouses and oxygen bars;
  • Table games at casinos and gaming establishments.

Premier Ford and Minister Phillips expressed the government’s commitment to working with businesses and sectors not yet able to reopen or who are experiencing challenges reopening due to stage three restrictions. These businesses are invited to visit Ontario.ca/reopen to submit a proposal for reopening safely to be reviewed and approved by the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Increased Child Care Capacity

Minister Lecce announced that child care centres will be permitted to operate with cohorts of 15 children, beginning July 27, 2020. This represents an increase from the current child care cohort cap of 10 and will bring the child care sector to approximately 90 per cent of its pre-COVID-19 operating capacity.