Premier Ford outlines 3-stage plan to gradually re-open economy

The provincial government will need to see a consistent decrease in new COVID-19 cases over the course of two-to-four weeks before they loosen pandemic restrictions. Ontario Premier Doug Ford released framework Monday for the gradual reopening of the province. It’s a three-stage plan. Ford continuously called it a “roadmap” and not a schedule.

Ford was clear the province won’t be releasing a timeline, saying the plan will happen over the coming weeks and months. The document released had few details about when that will start to happen.  

A Framework for Reopening our Province is as follows, with each stage lasting at least two to four weeks.

  • Stage 1: Open select workplaces and allow some small gatherings.
  • Stage 2: Open more workplaces and outdoor spaces, and allow some larger gatherings.
  • Stage 3: Further relax restrictions on public gatherings and open all work places “responsibly.”

Ford said health experts believe Ontario is in the peak of the curve right now. “We’re in the position to set the stages of re-opening the economy.” Ford doesn’t think things will ever return to exactly where they were, saying (coronavirus) has changed society forever.

A state of emergency has been extended several times since the province first declared the order on March 17.

Ford was asked about a return to sports. Prefacing his comments with “I don’t have a crystal ball” the Premier believes that when sports do come back – they won’t come back to a full stadium anywhere in North America, “I think there will be empty stadiums at the beginning,” said Ford.

On Saturday Premier Ford criticized demonstrators (calling for an immediate end to the lockdown) outside the Ontario legislature as “yahoos.” A state of emergency has been extended several times since the province first declared the order on March 17.

Today’s announcement by the premier received mixed reviews from Kelly McKenna, executive director of the Downtown Business Improvement Area (BIA).

“I think it was disappointing in one area. Everyone wants to know a date(for re-opening).” said McKenna.

She believes what is happening now will be the new normal and businesses will have to do things differently. McKenna said there is a lot of consideration from downtown businesses as to what those regulations will be.

The BIA has had virtual town hall meetings with its members. Depending on the sector, whether it is retail or restaurants, McKenna said there has been nothing released from various associations about best practices.

They are watching what is happening elsewhere, such as in Georgia where some retailers are opening.

McKenna said retailers are dealing with COVID and construction. She said many have become creative in using technology, citing an example of one retailer who did a Facebook live session with about 18 customers.

While the premier offered no calendar as to when retailers, bars and restaurants could open their doors again, the question looms whether some can hold out until the green light is finally given.

“Everyone has an individual financial case. It runs the gauntlet from going to go bankrupt to pivoting and doing really well.” said McKenna.

The BIA recently did a survey and the number one concern was financial. What impressed McKenna was health and safety was number two, reflecting the concern for staff and customers.

McKenna was pleased to hear the premier was going to send his MPPs to consult with local communities and sectors. She said the City of Barrie has already been doing this.

“What’s needed is a Barrie plan.”