Doug Ford says waiting on advice from top doctor whether Step 1 reopening can start sooner

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Ontario rolling out vaccine passport system on Sept. 22
Ontario rolling out vaccine passport system on Sept. 22

As case numbers drop and vaccination rates rise, it’s looking more and more likely that Ontario will enter Step 1 of the government’s latest reopening framework earlier than expected.

Premier Doug Ford just all but confirmed that we will be allowed to enter the framework ahead of June 14 — the date his team has been sticking to for weeks — if numbers continue to track in the right direction.

“I’m cautiously optimistic right now,” said Ford at a Wednesday afternoon press conference during which he also announced that schools would remain closed for in-person learning until at least September.

“We’re doing as well as a province can do, and that’s thanks to each and every one of you and the frontline healthcare workers, and I’m so hopeful that, as things are going, we may be able to enter Step 1 safely, earlier than June 14th.”

Ford said that his government is currently waiting to get the green light from Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams. Once Williams and his team say it’s safe to do so, the entire province can enter the government’s 3 Step Roadwork to Reopening framework.

The premier’s comments are particularly exciting considering that he had previously been cagey about promising or even hinting at a start date any earlier than June 14, despite the fact that vaccination rates are nearly at the threshold needed to enter Step 1.

Under the first step, outdoor dining (read patios) would be permitted with up to four people per table and non-essential retailers could open at 15 per cent capacity.

The outdoor gathering limit would be raised from five people to ten, outdoor fitness classes could resume, and people could once again camp at Ontario parks.

“As we see the numbers come down and are dropping rapidly, we’ve put forward to Dr. Williams and the medical team that option, about opening up earlier based on a cautious approach,” said Ford when asked following the press conference about his pre-June 14 reopening comments.

“We want to get to stage one, everyone wants to get to stage one, and then, three weeks after that, we get to go to stage two, and then, if we’re able to open up a few days later based on Dr. Williams’ advice, then we get to go to stage 2 before July 1,” said Ford, suggesting that getting to Step 2 before the Canada Day long weekend is a priority.

“I think that would be fabulous, based on the numbers based on being cautious. There’s no-one out there that wants this province to open up sooner than I do, but I want to do it cautiously.”

Minister of Health Christine Elliott said similarly that the government is reviewing factors such as new case counts, ICU numbers, the R factor and public health capacity daily to determine whether or not it’s safe to reopen.

“We are seeing the numbers going down, the vaccination rates are good,” she said. “As soon as we hit the levels that Dr. Williams and the team consider are safe, we will be able to move into stage one.”

Under Step 2 — which we can only enter after spending 21 days in Step 1, and if 70 per cent of Ontario adults have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine — rules will lift enough to allow outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people, indoor gatherings of up to five people, the resumption of outdoor sports leagues and “personal care services” including hair stylists and barbers.

In other words: The earlier Ontario leaves shutdown mode and enters the new framework, the earlier we can all get our hair done after more than half-a-year. Praise be!

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