Toronto planning for Stage 3, but de Villa urges cautious, gradual steps


Toronto’s top doctor said Monday that plans are in development to eventually take Toronto to Stage 3 of reopening, but stressed that people need to remain cautious as new freedoms are granted.

Premier Doug Ford announced Monday that much of the province will move to Stage 3 on July 17. However Toronto and a number of other areas in the Greater Golden Horseshoe region will only proceed to Stage 3 at a later date.

Speaking at a news conference on Toronto’s progress in battling the COVID-19 pandemic, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said it makes sense to look at Toronto separately because the city is much larger and has complex needs.

“We continue to monitor and learn from the experiences of other jurisdictions as they move through this pandemic,” de Villa said. “Our data shows that our public health measures have been working, however the experiences in other cities reinforces that we need to reopen with caution.”

Many jurisdictions have seen a dramatic spike in cases following widespread reopenings that critics called premature.

“Some cities which had modest outbreaks are now reporting spikes, whereas others are reporting sudden and alarming surges of infections,” de Villa said. “It is for this reason that I am concerned that we will see more COVID-19 transmission in our city if we are not careful. 

“This virus continues to spread in our community and as more people mix, unless we are vigilant, we will see more COVID-19 activity as we ease our public health measures.”

De villa said that in order to keep making progress against the virus, people will need to keep up with infection-prevention measures such as physical distancing, frequent hand washing and staying home when sick, even as more spaces reopen.

“This is what we all must do if we want to safely move into stage 3 with others in our province,” de Villa said.

Stage 3 allows for indoors dining, the reopening of gyms, and indoor gatherings of up to 100 people. In Ontario, 24 out of 34 public health units will move to Stage 3 at 12:01 on Friday.

While Toronto will not be among them, de Villa said there are a number of encouraging signs in terms of the city’s progress, including Toronto’s inclusion as an NHL hub city.

“Not only is this great news for our local economy, it also demonstrates the NHL’s confidence in the people of Toronto and our collective commitment to public health measures and keeping each other safe,” she said.

Toronto confirmed 120 new COVID-19 infections over the past three days. There are currently 13 known active outbreaks of the virus in the city. That compares to 108 active COVID-19 outbreaks at the peak of the pandemic.

De Villa said she plans to share more details soon about what Stage 3 will look like in Toronto.

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