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Ontario unveils three-step reopening plan and resumption of outdoor activities

Thursday, May 20, 2021 @ 4:48 PM | By John Schofield

Ontario will allow outdoor recreational facilities to open effective May 22 at 12:01 a.m. as part of a newly announced three-step reopening plan determined in large part by vaccination levels.

Outdoor amenities slated to reopen include golf courses and driving ranges, soccer and other sports fields, tennis and basketball courts and skate parks. The reopening was originally not expected to happen until at least June 2.

But the government stipulated in a May 20 news release that no outdoor sports or recreational classes are permitted. Outdoor limits for social gatherings and organized public events will be expanded to five people, allowing the facilities to be used for up to five people, including with members of different households. All other public health and workplace safety measures under the provincewide emergency brake will remain in effect.

According to the news release, the first step of the so-called Roadmap to Reopen plan will focus on resuming outdoor activities with smaller crowds and permitting retail activities with restrictions. The new, loosened restrictions will allow outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people, outdoor dining with up to four people per table and non-essential retail at 15 per cent capacity.

Step 2 of the plan calls for a further expansion of outdoor activities and the resumption of limited indoor services with small numbers of people where face coverings are worn. That will include outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people, outdoor sports and leagues, personal care services where face coverings can be worn and with capacity limits, as well as indoor religious services, rites or ceremony gatherings at 15 per cent capacity.

Step 3 will involve expanding access to indoor settings while maintaining public health restrictions, including where there are larger numbers of people and where face coverings cannot always be worn. This includes indoor sports and recreational fitness, indoor dining, museums, art galleries, libraries, casinos and bingo halls, with capacity limits.

The government stated that the province will remain in each step for at least 21 days to evaluate the impact on key public health and health system indicators. The timing of each step will also depend on meeting certain vaccination levels, starting with 60 per cent of adults vaccinated with their first dose for step 1.

Moving to step 2 will require a first-dose adult vaccination level of 70 per cent and 20 per cent with two doses. And the transition to step 3 will hinge on 70 to 80 per cent of adults being vaccinated with one dose and 25 per cent being vaccinated with two doses.

The government said it expects the province will be able to enter step 1 of the roadmap the week of June 14, based on current trends in key health indicators and the provincial vaccination rate. The timing will be confirmed closer to the expected start of step 1, it said.

In the meantime, the release noted, the provincial stay-at-home order will continue until June 2 and provincewide emergency brake restrictions will remain in effect while the government assesses when the province will move to step 1 of the roadmap.

Publicly funded and private elementary and secondary schools in the province will coninue to operate with teacher-led remote learning, the government said, adding that data will be assessed on an ongoing basis to determine when in-person learning may resume.

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said the province has reached the point where it can begin preparing to exit the provincewide stay-at-home order.

“We must remain vigilant however, as the fight against COVID-19 is not over and our case counts, ICU capacity and hospitalizations are still concerning,” he said in the news release. “It remains critical that all Ontarians continue to follow all public health and workplace safety measures currently in place to help further reduce transmission and save lives.”

On May 20, Ontario reported a daily increase in new COVID-19 cases to 2,400, up significantly from the 1,588 new cases reported on May 19. However, the rolling, seven-day average of new cases declined to 2,131, down from 2,183 on May 19. Another 27 virus-related deaths were confirmed on May 20. The average number of daily deaths edged down to 25, down from 27 on May 13.

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