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On July 13, 2020, Premier Doug Ford announced that 24 regions of Ontario will be allowed to proceed to Stage 3 of the province’s reopening plan as of this Friday, July 17.

The regions not yet allowed to proceed to Stage 3 include regions in the Greater Toronto Area, Hamilton, Niagara, Haldimand-Norfolk, Lambton and Windsor-Essex, which will remain in Stage 2 for now. The provincial government will provide an update every Monday on new regions that may be allowed to reopen the following Friday. The Minister of Health indicated that the remaining regions which moved to Stage 2 earlier are also likely to move to Stage 3 earlier than the others. The government has not provided a timeline for how long Stage 3 will last, suggesting that Stage 3 will be the “new normal” for the foreseeable future.

The Ontario government also announced further details about what Stage 3 will look like. Under Stage 3, limits on social gatherings will increase to 50 people in indoor spaces and 100 people in outdoor spaces, subject to physical distancing requirements. Meanwhile, social circles, within which individuals can be in close physical contact, remain at a maximum of 10 people, regardless of the region’s stage.

Stage 3 will also allow almost all businesses and services, including indoor dine-in restaurants, gyms, movie theatres, and playgrounds, to reopen with strict health and safety measures in place.

The government has flagged certain businesses and activities which are not yet safe to reopen. These places and activities not yet allowed to reopen include amusement parks and water parks, buffet restaurants, dancing at bars, private karaoke rooms, saunas, and table games at casinos.

With many more organizations permitted to reopen in Stage 3, employers across the province should begin preparations to comply with their enhanced health and safety obligations. Employers in regions that will not immediately move to Stage 3 should ensure they begin return-to-work preparations as well, including conducting risk assessments of their operations, communicating with staff and putting measures in place to ensure they are ready once their region moves into Stage 3.

Childcare Centre Cohort Sizes Can Increase to 15 on July 27

Separate from the announcements about Stage 3 above, the Ontario government also announced that, as of July 27, 2020, all childcare centres across the province (regardless of stage) will be permitted to increase cohorts to 15 people, up from the current cap of 10. This change will mean up to 15 combined staff and children can remain together throughout each day of operations. This increase should ease some of the significant burden facing childcare centres that have been struggling to adapt to meet the current cohort cap of 10 staff and children.

This blog is provided as an information service and summary of workplace legal issues. This information is not intended as legal advice.