Windsor-Essex excluded from Stage 3 of reopening as Toronto and Peel move forward
Ontario Premier Doug Ford will make the announcement at 1 p.m. today. (The Canadian Press)
WINDSOR, ONT. -- Windsor-Essex has been excluded from Stage 3 of reopening as Toronto and Peel move forward.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford made the announcement on Wednesday. He said the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit region will stay in Stage 2, while the other two remaining regions can advance on Friday.
“For our friends in Windsor-Essex, we’re asking for a little more time and patience,” said Ford. “I am confident we will get Windsor-Essex there very soon.”
Ontario will continue to monitor local trends of key public health indicators in the Windsor-Essex region and move it into Stage 3 "when it is safe to do so," said a statement from the province.
Government officials said they continue to address the needs of the region, in partnership with other levels of government, through measures such as on-farm testing, the deployment of mobile testing units and the adoption of new public health guidance for positive asymptomatic workers for all workplaces.
“While public health trends across the province are positive, we continue to closely monitor Windsor-Essex so that we can move the community into Stage 3 when the time is right,” said Minister of Health Christine Elliott. “No matter which stage a region is in, everyone needs to continue to follow public health advice to protect themselves, their families and community."
Businesses that are unable to open or resume full activities due to Stage 3 restrictions, or businesses that have ideas to safely amend Stage 3 restrictions or requirements, can visit Ontario.ca/reopen to submit a reopening proposal for consideration.
Government and public health officials say they will review proposals and contact businesses for feedback or clarification and provide an initial response within 10 days.
Ford’s message to Windsor-Essex businesses was there’s a raft of different areas for support, such as rent subsidies and loans.
The premier said he recently talked to mayors in Windsor, Kingsville and Leamington.
“Our number one key issue is to reduce the cases,” said Ford, adding the government is doing everything they can to help the region get through this. “I’m just going to the wall for them.”
“We’re a week behind there and it might take another week,” added Ford.
Ford says he’ll be making a trip to Windsor-Essex again in two weeks.
Toronto Public Health and Peel Public Health regions will advance on Friday, July 31 at 12:01 a.m. They join the 31 public health regions, including Chatham-Kent, that entered into Stage 3 on July 17 and 24.
"While more restaurants, theatres and businesses can hang up their Open for Business sign, we're asking everyone to follow public health advice and act responsibly," said Ford. "We have made tremendous progress that allows us to return to something a little closer to our normal lives this summer, but we are not out of the woods yet. This virus is still among us and we have to be extra cautious to avoid sparking a surge or an outbreak. I strongly urge everyone to continue following public health protocols."
Stage 3 includes the reopening of gyms, indoor dining at bars and restaurants and many facial services. The size of gatherings moves to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. Physical distancing is still required.
The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit reported 30 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday and one new death.
WECHU said Friday that Windsor-Essex had the highest number of cases in the province per 100,000 population, at 484. The provincial average is 257. Toronto was second highest per capita at 448.
The majority of the Windsor-Essex cases have been in the agri-farm sector. There are six outbreaks in farms in Kingsville and Leamington and four outbreaks in manufacturing facilities.
The health unit says there's been over 1,000 positive cases in agri-farm workers in the region.
Windsor-Essex was also the last region in the province to advance to Stage 2, with Leamington and Kingsville advancing on July 7. Windsor, Lakeshore, Amherstburg, Tecumseh and Essex moved to that stage on June 25.