|Toronto and Peel Region will move into Stage 3 of Ontario’s COVID-19 recovery plan on Friday, the provincial Ministry of Health said this morning, as the province reported its fewest number of new cases since March 23. Windsor-Essex, the only other area of the province that is still in Stage 2, will not be permitted to proceed to the next phase at this point.
Stage 3 allows for activities such as indoor dining in restaurants, live performing arts shows and the reopening of movie theatres and playgrounds. It also permits larger gatherings of people, though social distancing requirements remain in place. In a news release, the Ontario government said the decision was made because of “positive local trends of key public health indicators” in Toronto and Peel, including consistently lower new daily cases, hospital capacity and an ability to contact trace confirmed cases of COVID-19. “We have made tremendous progress that allows us to return to something a little closer to our normal lives this summer, but we are not out of the woods yet,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said.
In a series of tweets this morning, provincial Health Minister Christine Elliott noted that just 76 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Ontario between 4 p.m. ET Monday and 4 p.m. ET Tuesday, the 24-hour timeframe the province uses in its daily reports. The number of patients in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of the illness declined down to 91, the fewest since the province began reporting hospitalization figures on April 1. The number of those patients being treated in intensive care units and with ventilators also declined.
Toronto and Peel, Ontario’s two most populous areas, have both seen steady declines in new daily cases over the last week. In this morning’s provincial update, Peel confirmed four new infections of the novel coronavirus, while Toronto was listed as “-13,” likely the result of double reporting of cases at some point this week. CBC News has reached out to the Ministry of Health for clarification. Despite the apparent progress in curbing the spread of the illness, Toronto Mayor John Tory has asked the province to implement additional measures that would be applied to bars, restaurants and indoor dining settings in the city.
Meanwhile, the province said it will continue to monitor trends in Windsor-Essex in the coming days and weeks. The areas of Kingsville and Leamington are still experiencing localized outbreaks among temporary farm workers who often live in cramped conditions. Two cities currently in Stage 3, Ottawa and Sudbury, have seen new cases of COVID-19 emerge in recent days, but Ford said Tuesday there are no plans to roll back the reopening in any areas.