Toronto’s top doctor says the city is not ready to enter the red zone of the province’s COVID-19 reopening framework yet.
Stay-at-home orders were lifted in Toronto on March 8 and the city entered the province’s grey-lockdown zone — which permits non-essential retail stores to open with capacity limits, among other allowances.
In the city’s daily COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday, Dr. Eileen de Villa said she does not recommend any further lifting of restrictions.
“At this time, it is my view, the data do not support the kind of reopening that would be provided for under the red zone designation,” she said.
However, similar to Peel region, the city is in discussions with the province about modifications to the grey-zone restrictions, particularly in regards to outdoor activities which are lower risk for transmission of COVID-19.
Dr. de Villa said the city has expressed “openness to a modest expansion of the options open to people in Toronto.”
“Everyone sees the exhaustion within the city as it relates to all the limitations COVID-19 has forced upon us,” she added. “This is why modest steps forward in the realm of outdoor activity are a good proving ground at this time.”
Mayor John Tory said some of the activities being discussed include outdoor dining and outdoor fitness and exercise — areas where the city has some past experience in keeping people safe.
But Tory stressed the discussions are currently underway and nothing has been finalized, but officials want Torontonians to know that talks are ongoing.
“Changes to the grey zone, of course, would have to be made by the province,” he said.
“No one should start making changes, no one should start making plans or placing orders right now.”
De Villa also added that the changes would be incremental and very cautious. Should any changes lead to an increase in cases, especially as the city grapples with the spread of variants of concern, she will not hesitate to call for actions to reverse course.
“We all need to understand what might happen at any point as we move ahead in the next stretch of time,” she said. “Even small steps forward, permitting additional outdoor activities, do not signal that the threat has been reduced to an extent that we can let our guard down when it comes to self protection,” given that VOC continue to spread.
De Villa said there have been no clear statements from the province about exactly what should or should not reopen under continued grey-lockdown restrictions, but said the city was involved in a “collaborative discussion around what makes sense given the unique circumstances in Toronto.”
The province is expected to announce its decision on Friday.