Ontario recently announced Stage 2 of the province’s Framework for reopening Ontario (“Framework”). This announcement was made in response to positive trends in key public health indicators at the local/regional level in certain designated areas, including lower transmission rates of COVID-19, sufficient health system capacity, local public health capacity and a significant increase in testing provincially.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, Ontario is expanding the regions that can participate in the Stage 2 reopening.
The regions served by the following Health Units are scheduled to move into Stage 2 of the Framework on Friday, June 19, 2020 at 12:01 a.m.:
- Durham Region Health Department;
- Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit;
- Halton Region Health Department;
- Hamilton Public Health Services;
- Lambton Health Unit;
- Niagara Region Public Health Department; and
- York Region Public Health Services.
The above regions are in addition to the 24 regions which entered Stage 2 on June 12, 2020.
The province has confirmed that regions served by the following Health Units will not enter Stage 2, therefore remaining in Stage 1 until further notice:
- Peel Public Health;
- Toronto Public Health; and
- Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.
These regions will undergo ongoing assessment until public health indicators demonstrate a readiness to move into Stage 2. The Premier has expressed that if public health trends continue to show day-by-day improvements across the province, the remaining regions will enter Stage 2 in the very near future.
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The following are key takeaways for employers:
- The province has indicated that public health remains the government’s top priority and experts will continue to closely monitor this evolving situation. Testing is being administered on an unprecedented basis, and increased testing capacity has been instrumental in determining which regions can/should reopen.
- The province has reserved its right to modify and adjust its plans, as necessary, to best deal with the continuing risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- While the growth rate of new COVID-19 cases continues to decline, the province has not formally committed to any further reopenings, whether related to the remaining Health Units or to other designated businesses (including but not limited to “office workplaces”) that were listed under Stage 2 of the province’s Framework.
- Whether reopening under Stage 2, or preparing to reopen at some point in the near future, employers must meet their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”). In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is (necessarily) a moving target. We encourage employers to refer to our recent article discussing health and safety compliance under Stage 2.
Because compliance requirements in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic are consistently changing, employers are strongly encouraged to seek legal advice with respect to any matters relating to the Framework, Stage 2 or reopening generally.