Waterloo region allowed to enter Stage 3 of reopening on Friday
Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph area also allowed to enter Stage 3
Waterloo region is among the Ontario municipalities allowed to enter Stage 3 of the COVID-19 recovery plan, the province has announced.
More businesses will be allowed to open at 12:01 a.m. Friday including dine-in restaurants, gyms, playgrounds, performing arts and movie theatres, casinos, live sports and tour guide services.
Regional Chair Karen Redman called it great news for the region's businesses, because now nearly everyone can plan to reopen.
"Our region is part of entering [Stage] 3 at the beginning because our community has bought into the public health guidelines that have been consistent throughout the pandemic," she said shortly after Premier Doug Ford made the announcement Monday.
"It's the recognition that people in Waterloo region have tried to be good community citizens and I anticipate they'll continue to do that."
Size of permitted public gatherings grows
She said it was also fitting the news came on the same day of the region's new bylaw requiring masks or face coverings in indoor public spaces and on transit.
Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, the region's acting medical officer of health, also called the announcement "welcome news" for the region, but noted people should remember the novel coronavirus continues to be spread in the community.
"As more businesses and settings reopen, we continue to have a collective responsibility to protect each other — we must move forward with the utmost vigilance and I ask all residents to please continue to follow the public health measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community," Wang said in an emailed statement.
The areas covered by Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health will also be allowed to enter Stage 3; however, Toronto, areas around Toronto, Hamilton, Windsor and Haldimand-Norfolk have not been permitted to move on to Stage 3.
As part of Phase 3, people will also be allowed to gather in groups of 100 outdoors and 50 indoors.
The province says that at all times, people must continue to keep a physical distance of two meters from those not in their social circles or bubbles. Social circles, the group of people that a person can physically interact with, remain at 10 people.
Child care a concern
One area of concern as more businesses reopen is access to child care. Redman said the region's child care centres are permitted to run at 90 per cent capacity with children in groups of 15. It's a challenge, not only for the centres, but for parents in the region, she said.
"I know there are parents that worry about sending children back to child care and whether or not they might end up with COVID," Redman said.
Green Party of Ontario Leader and Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner said in a statement the province needs to focus on education and child care.
"Securing a safe place for kids to be Monday to Friday should be a higher priority than allowing people to crowd into bars and restaurants," Schreiner said.
"A failure to invest in childcare and education solutions will dampen the recovery and hurt women the most."
No waterparks, buffets
Some businesses, including amusement parks, waterparks, overnight camps and buffet restaurants, have been left out of Stage 3.
Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic says he's happy with the reopening plans, but he has concerns for local businesses that cannot open, including Bingemans, which operates a waterpark.
"Other public pools and pools at trailer parks have reopened with new restrictions, so that's one where I plan on advocating with the province because it would make sense to allow that business to open up their swimming amenities," he said.
Movie theatres are limited to 50 people in a building, no matter the number of screens they have, which could make opening up cost prohibitive, said Vrbanovic.
"That creates some challenges and potentially requires some additional clarification, Vrbanovic said.
'Let's do this right'
Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworksy said in an emailed statement the move to Stage 3 is "good for business and hopefully we can avoid another shutdown down the road."
"Nothing is more important than keeping everyone healthy. Let's do this right and as safely as possible," he said.
Cambridge Mayor Kathrine McGarry echoed that in an email, saying people are "anxious to move towards economic recovery" but urged people to continue to take COVID-19 seriously.
"Although many people feel they are done with the COVID-19 pandemic, the virus is not done with us and we cannot afford to go backwards," she said.
She also encouraged businesses to take their time reopening, and not to rush, asking people to be patient as business owners take time to open safely.