Ontario Government Announces Beginning of Stage 3 of Provincial Reopening

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On May 19, 2020, Ontario officially entered Phase 2 (Restart Phase) of the gradual and phased reopening process detailed in its Framework for Reopening our Province. Almost two months later, the Ontario government announced that in light of current public health indicators, a majority of public health regions in the province would soon be permitted to enter Stage 3 of Phase 2, being the final step in the Restart Phase. More specifically, as of 12:01 a.m. on July 17, 2020, all public health regions in Ontario except the following will be permitted to enter Stage 3:

·       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

Essentially then, all public health regions in the North West, North East and East of the province – including Ottawa Public Health – as well as many throughout the Central East, Central West and South West will be permitted to proceed to Stage 3. For the time being, the excluded public health regions listed above will remain at Stage 2, though this will be re-assessed at the beginning of each week based on available public health data and trends for each area.

Stage 3 will see almost all businesses and public spaces reopening with appropriate public health and workplace safety measures and restrictions in place. Additionally, current public gathering limits applicable to both indoor and outdoor events including but not limited to community events or gatherings, concerts, live shows, festivals, conferences, sports and recreational fitness activities, fundraisers, fairs, festival or open houses will be increased. More specifically, indoor public gathering limits will increase to a maximum of 50 people and outdoor gathering limits will increase to a maximum of 100 people. Of course, all public gatherings will remain subject to strict physical distancing protocols and individuals throughout the province will continue to be expected to maintain a social circle of no more than 10 people.

In addition to the announcement regarding Stage 3, Premier Doug Ford also announced that beginning on July 27, 2020, child care centres will be allowed to operate with cohorts of up to 15 children, as opposed to the current 10. This change is expected to bring capacity within the child care sector to approximately 90% of its pre-COVID capacity in Ontario, and will provide significant assistance to parents who will be returning to work in accordance with Stage 3.

Despite the news regarding Stage 3, the Ontario government has determined that it currently remains unsafe to operate certain businesses and public spaces as a result of the likelihood that large crowds will gather, the difficulty enforcing physical distancing or the challenges related to maintaining the proper cleaning and sanitation protocols required to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19. These include, for example:

  • 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, and
  • Table games at casinos and gaming establishments.

In order to assist those operating the above businesses or public spaces, the Ontario government has expressed a desire to work collaboratively in order to develop reopening proposals that would enable them to safely resume or increase their operations. Affected businesses or sectors can visit www.Ontario.ca/reopen for more information.

 

In Our View

As more employers are permitted to re-open in accordance with Stage 3, many important considerations should be at the forefront of their mind including developing a reopening plan, returning employees to work, preparing the workplace to ensure appropriate COVID-19 prevention, dealing with any anticipated work refusals, and managing any anticipated leave or accommodation requests, just to name a few.

Emond Harnden LLP will continue to monitor and to report on important developments related to the reopening of the province. For further information or advice on your rights and obligations as an employer when dealing with COVID-19 and similar issues, please contact Paul Lalonde at 613-940-2759Sébastien Huard at 613-940-2744J.D. Sharp at 613-940-2739Colleen Dunlop at 613-940-2734 or Jennifer Birrell at 613-940-2740.