Ford says economy won’t open until COVID-19 cases drop for two to four weeks

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Premier lays out conditions to get people back to work and how it might happen; but it will take months

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the plan to reopen the economy is road map, not a time line.

But even without giving any dates, it seems likely things will be far from normal throughout the summer.

Ontario’s economy will open slowly in three stages, but it won’t begin to happen until the number of new cases of COVID-19 slows consistently for two to four weeks.

Ford and a number of his ministers took questions from the media about the plan which gives general guidelines on opening workplaces. It gives no specific time frames nor does it say which businesses will be among the first to open.

Finance Minister Vic Fedeli wouldn’t not even say whether employers would have to limit the number of employees in their businesses when things started to open.

He says the province wants to provide “clear guidance for workplaces; this guidance will come as soon as it is available so employers can begin to prepare.” Fedeli added “we need to create an environment in Ontario where customers feel safe.”

So far, the province says it will first allow some workplaces to open if they can meet current public health guidelines, essential gatherings will be allowed with limited numbers of people, and some outdoor spaces, like parks, will be opened. Hospitals would also begin to offer some non-urgent and scheduled surgeries, and other health care services. The second stage will allow workplaces to open who have “significant mitigation plans,” more public spaces will open and larger gatherings would be allowed. The final stages would open the rest of the workplaces, and relaxing restrictions on public gatherings.

The government document also adds there will be continual protection of vulnerable populations.

To reopen the economy, Health Minister Christine Elliott says there must be a consistent two to four week decrease in the number of new COVID-19 cases, enough acute and critical care capacity including personal protective equipment and ventilators, and public health units have to be able to notify people of positive test results and isolate them in one day to stop community spread.

Ford says the province is being cautious. “We aren’t going to be rushed into anything,” he says. “We don’t want to go out there and start setting dates, and then we see a spike (in new COVID-19 cases) and we have to start slowing things down. Let’s just get it right.

“I don’t think our lives will ever be the same…our lives have changed,” says Ford.
“As soon as we flatten the curve we can get back to semi normal.”

When Ford was asked if the framework could mean Ontario isn’t open until September, he said he doesn’t have “a crystal ball.

“If we all keep doing what were doing were going to see positive results.”

And he was non-committal to the idea of attending summer festivals, concerts and sporting events. “

“I don’t believe when sports come back there will be a full stadium anywhere; they’ll start with empty stadiums everywhere.”