York Region, along with nine other regions in Ontario, remains in stage 2, the province announced this afternoon.
"York Region continues to follow the directions of the provincial government to ensure we can move into stage 3 at the right time," York Region medical officer of health Dr. Karim Kurji said.
"York Region is supportive of the jurisdictional re-opening of the province as the most effective way to balance economic challenges with the health and safety of the community."
York Region will remain in stage 2 until trends of key public health indicators demonstrate readiness to move into stage 3, he added.
That means in Newmarket and the rest of York Region, the existing gathering limit of 10 is maintained.
Social circles in all stages will also be kept to a maximum of 10 people provincewide.
The decision to hold the region back from entering stage 3 is a “prudent and wise” one, Newmarket Mayor John Taylor said.
“I support the staged regional approach to reopening, the centres outside of the GTA that have very low numbers can move ahead of us, and it’s also a way to test some of those steps to advance,” Taylor said. “I don’t think York Region is ready for gatherings of 100 people outdoors, or 50 indoors."
Taylor said he's still "very concerned" about the potential of a second COVID-19 wave in September or October 2020.
"I don’t want to see us have to move a stage backward. I think it’s fine to take our time a little bit,” he said.
The mayor said he understands there are people who want to see a full return to activity, and some businesses have told him they are anxious for that to occur.
“But I believe there’s greater economic risk in moving too quickly, it's not just about health,” Taylor said. “I want us to get this right, to move into the fall in a secure and safe position.”
“There’s no doubt in my mind that in order for the fall to go well, to avoid a significant second wave, every single person in our community has to take seriously the major guidelines like hand washing, staying six feet apart, and mask wearing,” the mayor said. “We need to take it as a duty and a responsibility. Frankly, if we don’t do it well, there will be businesses that will go under because we didn’t do everything we should be doing.”
Taylor said one needs only look to the U.S. or South Africa to see how badly a resurgence of COVID-19 can play out.
Ontario entered stage 1 of the reopening plan in May and then stage 2 in a staggered approach in June and early July.
York Region ventured into stage 2 on June 19, 22 days ago. And, despite occasional spikes of new cases, some resulting from small outbreaks at farms, the numbers of cases, institutional outbreaks, COVID-19 related deaths, and hospitalizations have steadily decreased.
As of yesterday, York Region had 312 active cases, and Newmarket had 13 active cases.
As part of the stage 3 reopening, Ontario will be increasing gathering limits for those regions entering the next stage to the following:
- Indoor gathering limits will increase to a maximum of 50 people;
- Outdoor gathering limits will increase to a maximum of 100 people;
- Gathering limits are subject to physical distancing requirements.
Neighbouring Simcoe Muskoka, as well as Ottawa, Brant County, Peterborough, Grey Bruce, Kingston, Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph, Sudbury and North Bay, are among the regions approved for stage 3, which allows for all businesses to reopen and restrictions further eased on the size of social gatherings.
Toronto, Peel, Durham, Halton, Hamilton, Niagara, Haldimand-Norfolk, Windsor-Essex and Lambton will also remain in the current second stage of reopening.
Large public gatherings, such as concerts and sporting events, will continue to be banned in stage 3.
The third and final stage of reopening means movie theatres, gyms, fitness studios, casinos, amusement parks, outdoor playgrounds, indoor dining and bars — which have been shut since the Ontario government ordered all businesses to close in March — can open their doors.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce said all child-care centres across Ontario can open with up to 15 kids per room as of July 27, so more parents can get back to work.
He also said the government hopes schools will reopen for students five days a week in September, but that remains fluid.
Monitoring changes in the Rt, or the effective reproductive number, will be crucial as regions move into stage 3, Newmarket biostatistician Ryan Imgrund said.
The number tracks infections attributed to one individual.
York Region's Rt value is 0.76 today, he said.
"Ideally, we would like Rt to drop when we enter stage 3, but any number less than 1.0 is tolerable. Personally, I’d like to see this number at 0.7 for a prolonged period of time," he said
"Phase three is simply that: Another phase. It does not mean a full reopening, where we can resort to being complacent. We have seen what has happened in other parts of the world. We need to continue being diligent," cautioned Imgrund.
~With files from Kim Champion