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COVID-19: Ontario Moving to Stage 3 of Regional Re-Opening

The Premier of Ontario has announced that most regions in Ontario, excluding the Greater Toronto Area and other specific exclusions, will move forward to Stage 3 of re-opening as of July 17, 2020 at 12:01 a.m.

Under Ontario’s three-step Framework for Reopening our Province, Stage 3 involves loosening public health restrictions and permitting nearly all businesses and public spaces in qualifying regions to re-open. Gathering limits will also increase at Stage 3 to 50 people for indoor gatherings and 100 people for outdoor gatherings, with social distancing measures in place.

Which Regions are Entering Stage 3 of Re-Opening on Friday?

Ontario is continuing with its regional approach to re-opening. All regions except those covered by the following public health units will proceed to Stage 3 this Friday (July 17) (the “Excluded Regions”):

  • Durham Region Health Department
  • Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
  • Halton Region Public Health
  • Hamilton Public Health Services
  • Lambton Public Health
  • Niagara Region Public Health
  • Peel Public Health
  • Toronto Public Health
  • Windsor-Essex County Health Unit
  • York Region Public Health

Most of the Excluded Regions only recently entered Stage 2 of the province’s re-opening framework, with the Municipality of Leamington and the Town of Kingsville remaining at Stage 1.

When Will the Excluded Regions Enter Stage 3?

The Minister of Health has declined to provide an expected date for the Excluded Regions entering Stage 3, but suggested that four weeks of public health data is required to determine whether an Excluded Region is able to safely move from Stage 2 to Stage 3.

At the beginning of each week, the province will assess local trends in public health indicators, including rates of transmission, hospital capacity, progress on testing and contact tracing, to determine if additional public health unit regions can progress to Stage 3. The Government will provide regional re-opening updates each Monday.

Which Businesses Can Re-Open at Stage 3?

Unless specifically covered by one of the following exclusions or restrictions imposed by the Province, all businesses may re-open at Stage 3, subject to compliance with existing public health guidance.

Excluded Businesses:

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

Restricted Businesses:

  • Casinos will be allowed to reopen but table games are banned.
  • Nightclubs are still banned from reopening, except for the purpose of serving food or drinks.
  • Gyms and fitness studios can reopen with safety protocols and capacity restrictions in place.
  • Convention centres, meeting and event spaces can re-open subject to physical distancing measures and gathering limits, which apply to the entire facility.
  • Organized sports can resume, with the exception of contact sports. Leagues must contain no more than 50 participants total. Spectators at all sporting events, including professional sports, will be subject to gathering limits and physical distancing measures, with assigned seating where possible.
  • Playgrounds, community centres and libraries will fully re-open.
  • Concerts, artistic events, theatrical productions, performances, and movie theatres may resume operations, including rehearsals, with restrictions.
  • Indoor recreational attractions and businesses can fully resume, along with recreational courses and instruction, subject to gathering limits, physical distancing and restrictions.
  • Tour and guide services may resume operations, subject to gathering limits and physical distancing.
  • All personal care services that tend to a customer’s face will now be permitted, subject to applicable face-covering and PPE requirements.

When Will the Excluded Businesses Move to Stage 3 of Re-Opening?

There are currently no plans for re-opening the Excluded Businesses. The province has announced its intention to work closely and collaboratively with Excluded Businesses, as well as those qualifying business that are experiencing significant challenges opening with restrictions in Stage 3.

Excluded Businesses may submit Re-Opening Proposals to the Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee for further consultation. These Proposals should consider whether they can safely resume operations while implementing public health and workplace safety guidance. Submissions can be emailed to [email protected] or completed using the government’s online form and should include:

  • a description of the business;
  • a URL to the business’ webpage;
  • the sector of business;
  • the estimated number of employees;
  • the full name, email and phone number for a contact person; and
  • the re-opening proposal.

The Re-Opening Proposal should detail how the Excluded Business and/or others in its sector would implement public health and workplace safety guidance, including but not limited to:

  • elimination controls (e.g. signage);
  • engineering controls (e.g. physical distancing measures and physical barriers);
  • administrative controls (e.g. admitting fewer patrons at a time, increasing sanitation, managing the flow of people, staggering business hours, and implementing contactless payment options); and
  • following provincial advice or local requirements on the use of face coverings.

The Government will confirm receipt of Re-Opening Proposals and contact the business within 10 days to provide a status update.

Increased Gathering Limits at Stage 3 of Re-Opening

Gathering limits are being increased at Stage 3. Indoor gathering limits will increase to a maximum of 50 people and outdoor gathering limits will increase to a maximum of 100 people in qualifying regions. The new gathering limits apply to organized gatherings such as community events, concerts, live shows, festivals, conferences, sports and recreational fitness activities, fundraisers, fairs, festivals or open houses. People at their place of work do not count towards gathering limits. Gatherings in Excluded Regions will remain limited to 10 people.

Social or public gatherings may include different social circles – groups of up to 10 of the same people who can interact with one another without physical distancing - but are subject to the gathering limits and physical distancing of at least two metres. Social circles in all regions will be kept to a maximum of 10 people, regardless of stage of re-opening.

Health and Safety at Stage 3

Though Stage 3 means that qualifying businesses are permitted to open in applicable regions, the Premier has urged businesses to re-open only when they can do so safely. In order to re-open at Stage 3, businesses must follow public health advice and workplace safety guidance in order to operate safely. The Government, in partnership with health and safety associations, has released over 170 guidance resources to help employers in multiple sectors keep workers and customers safe.

The Government strongly encourages businesses to continue to allow people to work remotely wherever possible to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Businesses are also encouraged to review and update their COVID-19 safety plan.

Several municipalities and local medical health officers have implemented specific restrictions and requirements, such as mandatory face coverings in commercial establishments and all indoor places (e.g. see here for Toronto’s mandatory mask or face covering by-law). These local requirements are not affected by Stage 3 and continue in force.

What Happens Next?

Beyond Stage 3, the government has acknowledged that further loosening of restrictions will depend largely on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, which could be months away. However, there may be recommendations to loosen or tighten measures, within the context of the government’s three-step re-opening framework, based on future public health developments.

Our group will continue to monitor these developments and provide updates as information becomes available. Please watch our COVID-19 hub and our McCarthy Tétrault Employer Advisor blog for further updates. If you need assistance, please reach out to any member of our National Labour & Employment Team whenever you need to.



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