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Toronto moves into next stage of reopening but residents told to remain vigilant|BCI CANADA

Toronto Mayor John Tory says the city has moved into Stage 2 of the province's COVID-19 reopening plan because of sacrifices made by all front-line workers and the vast majority of residents who heeded public health guidelines, but vigilance is needed as the pandemic continues.

Tory told reporters at a city hall news conference on Wednesday that Stage 2 means the restart of many businesses and services. Peel region has also moved into the next stage.

"You can visit a patio and you can go to the mall and you can get a haircut and get your nails done and you can even get a tattoo, if that's what you have been waiting for. You can bring your kids to play in a splash pad and soon to an outdoor pool," Tory said.

"We are reopening because the vast majority of Toronto residents and businesses did the right thing, difficult as many times that might have been. And now, it is important that we keep doing the right thing."

Tory said reopening comes with the risk that the virus could flare up again, as has happened in other jurisdictions, and he urged people to continue following public-health guidelines.

"We do not want that to happen here," he said.

Toronto residents 'protecting' friends, families, loved one

Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city's medical officer of health, agreed.

De Villa said that means people should keep six feet, or two metres, apart from those who are not part of their social circle, wear cloth face masks in public spaces when physical distancing is not possible, and continue to wash their hands frequently.

She said they should also keep in mind that being in close contact with others, especially in indoor settings, poses a significant risk for the spread of the virus.

"We are making good progress in reducing the spread of COVID-19 in our city," de Villa said. 

"This is the result of your continued hard work and commitment to our public-health measures. Together we are protecting our friends, our families and our loved ones and making sure our health-care system is available for those who need it."

A total of 1,061 people have died of COVID-19 in Toronto, as of Tuesday at 3 p.m. A total of 253 people are in hospital, with 63 in intensive care units and 50 on ventilators.

City reports 73 new COVID-19 cases

De Villa reported that the city has 73 new cases. A total of 12,061 people have recovered from the virus, an increase of 101 since Monday. The city has a cumulative total of 14,029 cases.

According to the city's COVID-19 monitoring dashboard, key indicators remain in the yellow zone. De Villa said the city continues to see a decline in the number of hospitalizations and people in intensive care units.

"While today marks an important day for us, we need to continue to be careful so we can keep moving forward," she said.

"We also know from the experiences in other jurisdictions that we can expect to see an increase in cases as more people are connecting, mixing and moving around in our city. And until a vaccine or treatment is available, we must continue to be careful and to take care of each other," de Villa added. 

"We need to keep assessing our local circumstances each week. Otherwise, we run the very real risk of losing our progress."

De Villa noted that Toronto's Board of Health is scheduled to meet virtually next week.

She will recommend that city council ask the city manager talk to the Public Health Agency of Canada, Public Health Ontario and the Ontario ministry of health "to support Toronto Public Health's work on the establishment of a volunteer isolation/quarantine centre system — as well as other methods to achieve effective isolation for individuals who are unable to safely and effectively isolate at home."

Stage 2 means thousands of businesses reopening

Businesses permitted to reopen on Wednesday for modified services, with appropriate public health measures in place and subject to conditions, include:

  • Close to 8,000 restaurants and bars for delivery, takeout, and outdoor dining only, including more than 1,400 restaurants with existing licensed patios, sidewalk cafés, or parklet permits.

  • Close to 3,500 personal service settings such as barber shops, hair styling, nails, tattoos and aesthetic services (but not for care of a patron's face, such as facials and beard trims).

  • Drive-in cinemas and drive-thru concerts, theatrical productions, performance or artistic events.

Many recreational and cultural spaces are also permitted to reopen, subject to conditions:

  • Water recreational services, including 140 splash pads by June 27, 100 wading pools, which start to open  location-by-location starting July 1, and 56 outdoor swimming pools by June 27.

  • Community centres for a very limited number of modified uses, including certain outdoor sports and recreational activities, day camp, pools, splash pads, spray pads and wading pools, and indoor activities and services other than non-aquatic indoor sports and recreational fitness activities.

  • Campgrounds, museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos and heritage institutions.

  • Libraries with limited on-site services.

Fire chief to 'transition back' into previous role

Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg, who also spoke at the news conference, said he will now "transition back" into his role as fire chief and general manager of emergency management.

In March, he was asked by the mayor and City Manager Chris Murray to lead the city's response to COVID-19.

"In short order, I assumed the COVID-19 Incident Commander role on a full-time basis, beginning what has been a demanding, yet rewarding journey," he told reporters.

"Together, we built and operated the largest incident management system in our city's history. I will forever be proud of the way in which Toronto has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic," Pegg said.

"I will be transitioning back into Fire Services, while continuing to work closely with our Office of Emergency Management and while continuing to directly support our ongoing restart efforts."

Pegg thanked Tory and de Villa, among other officials, and said about de Villa: "Thank you for simply being awesome. You have been a calm and steady voice, in a world of uncertainty, fear and anxiety.

"We lived away from our families for more than two months straight, and together we have reviewed, planned, calculated and responded. You are a caring, compassionate and consummate professional, and we are more than fortunate to have you here, leading us all though this pandemic."

More bike lanes in works, mayor says

Tory also announced on Wednesday that two major downtown ActiveTO "cycling network connections," on parts of University Avenue and Queen's Park Crescent and Bloor Street, will be ready before the weekend.

The city has now 2.3 kilometres of new, separated bike lanes along University Avenue and Queen's Park Crescent, between Adelaide Street West and Bloor Street West.

By Friday, there will be 1.45 kilometres of separated bike lanes nearly completed along Bloor Street, between Avenue Road and Sherbourne Street. One kilometre of new bike lanes was created on Dundas Street East, between Sackville Street and Broadview Avenue, earlier this month.

Design and planning, meanwhile, are underway for cycling routes along Brimley Road, between Lawrence Avenue and Kingston Road, and Huntingwood Drive, between Victoria Park Avenue and Brimley Road, as well as Wilmington Avenue-Faywood Boulevard, between Finch Avenue and Sheppard Avenue, and Bayview Avenue, between River Street and Rosedale Valley Road.

The city expects that new bike lanes on Brimley Road will be installed next week. 

As well, all Quiet Streets locations are now in place and they include more than 60 kilometres along neighbourhood routes.The city said staff are monitoring all locations, based on neighbourhood use, and have been returning to locations to address issues. 

According to the city, Quiet Streets are shared space to allow residents to maintain physical distancing, while getting around. Signs and temporary barricades are placed at intersections to encourage local vehicle access only.

CBC News

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