How COVID-19 restrictions will lift across eastern Ontario
Parts of eastern Ontario are stepping out of the stay-at-home order and back to their colour scale this month
The seemingly never-ending stay-at-home order is now lifted for parts of eastern Ontario where many non-essential businesses will be allowed to open again.
The province is expected to end the stay-at-home order for three more areas in our region next week when, again, some businesses will be allowed to reopen — but maybe not as many as in the regions where the restrictions are being lifted this week.
On Monday, the province announced that it would begin to lift restrictions that have been in place since Dec. 26, as well as the stay-at-home order that began three weeks later.
But officials are easing restrictions gradually, returning health units to the previous — but slightly changed — five-colour COVID-19 restriction scale, just not all at the same time and not with the same rules.
Here's what is going to happen.
Shedding provincial orders
Starting Wednesday, the three health units west of Ottawa will have the stay-at-home order lifted and they will move into green: Hastings Prince Edward Public Health, Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health and the Renfrew County and District Health Unit.
This means most of their non-essential businesses can reopen.
Starting Tuesday, it's expected the province will lift shutdown and stay-at-home orders for the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit and Ottawa Public Health.
The colour level that health units are moving into has not been announced yet, which means it's not yet clear which businesses can reopen and under what rules.
It's not a done deal that restrictions will be lifted next week — if pandemic trends rapidly worsen, the reopening will be delayed. And the province has said it's ready to quickly tighten rules if a region's case or hospitalization numbers are troubling.
Here's what is allowed in the adjusted COVID-19 colour scheme, from the most to the least restrictive:
Grey: An outdoor distanced gathering limit of 10 people; religious ceremonies, including weddings and funerals, could have up to 10 distanced attendees inside or outside; drive-in movies and performances; non-essential retail and ski hills can reopen with restrictions.
Red: Everything allowed in grey, plus casinos, gyms and restaurants can bring up to 10 people inside at a time; personal care services can reopen as long as clients can stay masked.
Orange: Everything allowed in red, plus indoor private gatherings of up to 10 people and outdoor ones of up to 25; organized, staffed events can have up to 50 distanced people inside and 100 people outside; religious ceremonies can also fill up to 30 per cent of an indoor space; karaoke outside of private rooms makes its return, so do sports without physical contact, movie theatres and performing arts spaces, with limitations.
Yellow: Everything allowed in orange, plus restaurants can lift their capacity limits as long as tables are distanced or have a barrier between them, and no more that six people are sitting together; multiplex theatres may be allowed to have 50 people per screening room, not 50 just people across all screens.
Green: Everything allowed in other levels, but no limits on restaurant hours or how many people can sit at one table; nightclubs still limited to serving food and drink, buffets are banned, team sports can't have physical contact and steam rooms and saunas are closed, among other restrictions.
Hastings Prince Edward Public Health is borrowing two yellow rules for now: the six-person table limit and a ban on music so loud people have to lean in and speak louder.
People from other regions that haven't moved to the scale and are there for non-essential reasons won't be allowed to get a restaurant table, room to stay or personal care appointment.
There's often nuance to these rules and people should follow the advice of their local health unit if there's any confusion.
No matter which of the five colours they're under, Ontarians are still asked to stay home as much as possible, limit close contacts to people they live with, wear masks as required and only travel for essential reasons, especially when going from a higher-level area to a lower one.