Premier Doug Ford and his cabinet are considering moving Ontario into Step 2 of the government’s reopening plan next Wednesday, two days ahead of schedule.
Sources with knowledge of the discussion said Premier Ford and cabinet are meeting this afternoon. If approved, the announcement is expected to be made tomorrow.
The sources spoke to CBC News on the condition of confidentiality because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.
At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Premier Ford said provincial officials are currently reviewing data and are “working hard to get to Stage 2 as quickly as possible, and Step 3 as soon as it’s safe after that.”
Health Minister Christine Elliott will have an announcement on the matter “very shortly,” Premier Ford said while crediting vaccine uptake with the province’s progress.
All but one of Ontario’s 34 public health units entered Step 1 of the reopening plan on June 11, with the move to Step 2 currently scheduled for July 2.
The second stage further loosens public health restrictions, with indoor, masked social gatherings of up to five people allowed. Similarly, up to 25 people would be able to attend outdoor functions, while as many as six people could dine together on a patio.
Personal care services like hair stylists and nail salons would also reopen, as long as masks are worn at all times.
Meanwhile, capacity limits on essential retail will move to 50 per cent, up from 25 per cent in Step 1, while non-essential retail capacity increases to 25 per cent, as opposed to 15 per cent.
News of cabinet’s deliberations comes as Ontario surpassed its vaccination targets for Step 3 of the plan, which is not supposed to happen until July 23 at the earliest.
Public health units collectively administered 227,318 doses of COVID-19 vaccines yesterday, a new single-day high. Just over 87 per cent of those shots were second doses.
As of Tuesday night, more than 13 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been given out in the province. About 76.5 per cent of adults have had at least one dose, while nearly 26 per cent of Ontarians 12 and older have had both shots.
The thresholds for Step 3 were 75 per cent of adults with partially immunized, and more than 25 per cent of adults with both shots.
Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s outgoing chief medical officer of health, had repeatedly suggested it is unlikely that the province would enter Step 2 earlier than planned.
The ultimate effects of moving into Step 1 and loosening some public health restrictions will not start to show themselves in the data until next week, and so Williams has cautioned against proceeding too quickly. He is slated to retire from his post as chief medical officer in Ontario on June 25.
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