Hamilton allowed to ease COVID-19 restrictions as of Friday
The city will enter Stage 2 on Friday, as will Niagara, Halton and Haldimand-Norfolk
Hamilton will enter Stage 2 of the province's plan to lift COVID-19 restrictions as of Friday.
Halton, Haldimand-Norfolk and the Niagara region will also reopen.
Premier Doug Ford made the announcement to media on Monday.
"We want to get more people back to work and back to their lives as quickly as possible," he said.
"If we keep looking out for one another, if we have each other's backs, we'll rebuild what we lost and more."
That means on Friday, residents in those areas can get haircuts, tattoos and piercings, go to malls and movie theatres and spas, among other businesses.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said continuing to physically distance and follow public health protocol led to Hamilton and others being able to reopen.
Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, the city's medical officer of health, told CBC News daily rates of transmission in the city are half of what they were two weeks ago. The rates of spread among people in their 20s, which saw an uptick last week, are also already going down.
"The summer is a good time to be opening back up because we can be outside, ventilation is great, we have sunlight which helps to kill the virus off on any surfaces, so it's a good time to go forward, we just have to remember things aren't going back to the way they were, we're living in a world with COVID-19," she explained.
"It's very much a part of the world we have to live in at least for the next 18 months to two years."
Before the announcement, it was unclear how long the city would have to wait before seeing more restrictions. During the closure, businesses have struggled and a number of city services shuttered. Brant County, a neighbouring region, was able to open last Friday, prompting concerns Hamilton residents may visit the area to access services.
Fred Eisenberger, Hamilton's mayor, told CBC News he didn't know for sure if the city had approval to lift restrictions until Ford made the announcement.
"Did we speculate on that? Sure. Did we hope we could have our numbers at a point where we could carefully and safely open? That was the hope, and the Premier confirmed that today," he said.
Eisenberger explained the city's COVID-19 response won't change in light of the good news, and the opening will be "methodical," but it may help counteract the "dramatic" loss in revenue during the pandemic.
"Our additional costs as a municipality continue to increase … there is not an end just yet to the costs municipalities are bearing, but it certainly will begin to reduce the revenue loss we've been facing. We're opening up transit more and collecting in the fare box again, when we're allowing shops to open and they can pay their bills, that starts to lessen the load," he said.
"I expect for the municipality, it's going to be a better scenario going forward than it has been for the last three or four months, but there will still be an additional cost to bear in the future."
The city has since renewed its calls for emergency financial support from federal and provincial governments.
But Eisenberger also said he was thrilled business owners may get a semblance of normalcy again.
"I'm optimistic that they're going to put all the proper protections in place so we can continue to relax the rules even more so they can prosper."
CF Limeridge is eyeing a Friday opening and Niagara Falls Tourism has launched a campaign to kickstart its reopening on Friday. The campaign highlights new rules related to accommodations, attractions, dining and shopping.
Swimming pools and splash pads, wading pools can be open to the public, so long as they aren't connected to slides, climbing structures or are amusement-style pools (e.g. wave pools and water parks).
Low-contact attractions and activities like paintball, mini-golf, archery ranges and go-cart tracks can open. Indoor recreational activities aren't permitted except for indoor driving ranges and rod and gun clubs. Playgrounds, play structures and outdoor fitness equipment are also not open yet.
Ontario Parks campgrounds and private campgrounds can also open for recreational vehicle, car camping and all other types of camping so long as people are physically distancing. A limited number of people can also visit beaches.
Outdoor team sports can also resume, if physically distanced, for training only and with no scrimmages or games.
Hamilton's waterfalls also remain closed.
Dr. Richardson said the more patience people practice, the sooner they'll get to enjoy more of these activities.
"We do look in good shape, the numbers and trends have gone down, but as we talked about all along, this is in all of our hands. We're the ones that determine this together and we need everyone together to keep those numbers down as we go forward."
Zeko Yaqo, owner of Zeko's Barbershop, said he can't wait to start cutting hair again after being closed for three months.
"I'm feeling very excited, we were closed for three months, it's time to get back in there," he told CBC News.
But getting a haircut won't be the same.
Yaqo will likely only be able to fill four or five of his eight chairs. The price of cuts has also increased due to additional costs. And customers and staff will have to wear masks.
Those who have booked an appointment will have to wait outside in their vehicles and confirm they've arrived before entering.
Also, they must come in alone, which means kids who can't sit in the chair without their parents won't be able to get a cut. Any facial procedures like eyebrows and beards are off limits.
"It's going to be challenging … they have to be patient with us," Yaqo said. "Every barber in the town is going to feel a lot of pressure, they procedures are going to take longer … but we will be there for them."
Maison Fritz Salon and Spa is operating similarly with an appointment-only set up and cleaning after each customer. They also aren't allowing anyone to bring in food, guests or drinks.
"During your blowdry service we ask that this be a quiet time with no talking to avoid speaking over the noise, masks and reduce any chance of any droplets," reads a notice on the website.
Eisenberger said his barber called him and offered to cut his hair first thing on Friday — he's still mulling that offer over.
Hamilton has 111 active cases as of Monday morning. A total of 769 people (762 confirmed, seven probable) had been infected with the virus. COVID-19 has killed 42 people, but 616 (79 per cent) of the cases are resolved.