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Coronavirus: What can I do in Ottawa under Stage 2 reopening?

People enjoy the warm weather at Mooney's Bay Park in Ottawa, on Saturday, May 23, 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Ottawa is among the first cities in Ontario to be allowed to progress to the second stage of reopening during the novel coronavirus pandemic, but confusion remains around exactly what will be open or closed to the public on Friday morning.

One of the things contributing to the confusion is that just because the Ontario government has said cities can reopen certain services, doesn’t mean they will right away.

It can take weeks for Ottawa’s administrative services, child-care centres and recreation facilities to work back up to full operation with new measures in place to enable physical distancing.

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The City of Ottawa put nearly 4,200 employees on emergency leave when the pandemic first set in, many of whom will now need to be safely phased back into work.

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City manager Steve Kanellakos told council on Wednesday that the city is targeting July 6 to restore many municipal services but might do so earlier depending on how quickly it can ramp up operations in various parts of Ottawa.

As for non-public services, such as getting a haircut or enrolling in private daycare, it depends on whether the business has put in place sufficient measures to meet provincial requirements for reopening.

READ MORE: Ontario reopening Stage 2: Groups of 10 allowed, places of worship to reopen amid coronavirus pandemic

So while hair salons, tattoo parlours and other personal services have been given the all-clear to open up, call ahead before assuming your favourite barber has a chair open.

When services do reopen, Ottawa Public Health still recommends keeping two metres apart from others when possible, isolating when sick, regular handwashing and wearing a mask when physical distancing isn’t possible. And as of June 15, masks are also mandatory to ride public transit.

Here are the services that will be ready to open in Ottawa Friday morning and, where available, rough timelines on when those that remain closed might be ready to welcome the public back.

Can I sit down to eat at a restaurant?

Yes, but it’ll have to be outdoors on a patio.

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The city has been flooded with patio applications ahead of the summer season, and council moved to waive the annual fees to operate a patio this year to help restaurants bounce back from the impacts of the coronavirus.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario also said earlier this week it would let licensed establishments set up a new patio or expand an existing one without needing an application or a fee.

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Council also approved a motion Wednesday letting businesses apply to set up a pop-up retail space or expanded patio on the street adjacent to their storefront to provide more space for patrons to shop or eat while physically distancing.

You’ll still be able to use the restrooms indoors, which Ottawa Public Health is recommending restaurants clean twice a day.

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Public health experts have told Global News that the risk of spreading the virus on an outdoor patio is relatively low, assuming physical distancing is respected.

Can I put my child in daycare?

Ottawa’s 10 city-run child-care centres are expected to be fully reopened by mid-July, Kanellakos said Wednesday.

Private daycares will need to demonstrate they’ve met provincial standards before offering up child-care spots to the public.

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Can my parents come and look after my children while I’m at work?

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With the reopening of public and private-run daycare centres, many parents are wondering if they can instead rely on grandparents to help fill the void of child care in the home.

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It’s an instinct that Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health, understands, but she cautions families that the risk of transmission still exists.

Older adults remain especially vulnerable should they contract the virus.

READ MORE: Ottawa’s coronavirus recovery heading in the right direction, Dr. Etches says

Bringing grandparents into the child-care strategy is a decision that ultimately falls to each family, but the reality remains that the fewer contacts an individual has, the lower the risk of transmission, Etches said during Wednesday’s council meeting.

“These are the things that individual families will need to take a look at the risks.”

Can I make an appointment with the city?

The City of Ottawa will be reopening counter services as of July 6 at City Hall and Ben Franklin Place for anyone looking to get a parking permit or a marriage licence, as well as anyone needing to swear to an affidavit/declaration under oath.

These services will be available by appointment only.

You’ll also be able to drop off any documents with the city’s employment, social services and housing office as of July 6.

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The city expects training courses for CPR and using defibrillators to resume in small groups in early August.

Can I swim at a public pool? What about at the beach? Can I take my kid to a splash pad?

Reopening indoor and outdoor pools will require time to get up and running, Kanellakos told council on Wednesday.

He’s hoping pools will be ready before July.

Though the province gave pools the OK to reopen, the city is still waiting on specific instructions for what measures need to be in place.

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Dan Chenier, the city’s recreation manager, said this week he expects there might be restrictions on pool capacity for each swimming session, for example.

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When pools do reopen, they will likely come online in phases, with efforts to get facilities open in each area of the city.

The city is targeting a reopening date of July 6 for swimming at Mooney’s Bay, Petrie Island and Westboro beaches. Ottawa needs to rehire lifeguards and test the water at each of the city-run beaches before swimming here is allowed.

On the question of splash pads, the city is still awaiting provincial guidance on how to safely open these for public use. The city expects them to be up and running by mid-June, however.

Swimming and splash pads are unlikely to spread the coronavirus, public health experts say.

The droplets that carry the virus would likely be washed away or sufficiently diluted in bodies of water, reducing the risk of transmission. The risk is greater, however, with windy days at the beach, where droplets can carry farther from person to person.

Can I visit a museum or art gallery?

Not yet.

Ottawa’s city-operated museums and galleries are in the same boat as indoor pools and community centres, Kanellakos said, with reopening dates hopefully before July.

The Museum of Nature is still working on reconfiguring its infrastructure and exhibits to allow for physical distancing, and isn’t expecting to reopen until September.

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READ MORE: Ottawa’s Parkdale, ByWard market vendors to open week of June 15

The National Gallery of Canada told Global News in a statement it hopes to open by late July or early August, but couldn’t confirm an exact date.

Ingenium, the organization that manages the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, the Canada Science and Technology Museum and the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, says its museums will remain closed until further notice.

The Canadian Museum of History across the river in Gatineau is also shut down. The same corporation manages the National War Museum, which, you guessed it, remains closed.

A spokesperson for both museums told Global News that the organization is in the early stages of planning outdoor activities and possible architectural tours of the two sites for this summer.

Can I play sports with my beer league?

Also not yet.

While most recreational facilities were reopened to the public for casual use on May 19, the city is still awaiting provincial orders on when baseball diamonds and other sports fields are permitted for team use.

The city expects sports fields to be reopened for training purposes only sometime in mid-June, with wider use of the amenities for recreational and league play expected in early August. It will take about two weeks after the province gives the green light for competitive play to resume before these facilities are reopened.

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Can I go to the mall?

Yes! But which stores inside are ready to open will be on a case-by-case basis.

The Rideau Centre, the St-Laurent Shopping Centre, Place D’Orleans and the Bayshore Shopping Centre have all confirmed plans to reopen to the public as of 11 a.m. on Friday.

Food courts in Ontario malls will be allowed to serve food for take-out only.

Can I take my kid to play in the park?

Yes, but playground equipment is still off-limits.

The city is still waiting on provincial approval before it’s allowing kids to get back on play equipment in city parks. It expects an announcement on this by mid-July, and with about four days needed after getting Ontario’s go-ahead to prepare playgrounds for use.

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Can I hang out with friends?

This is a tricky one, with an announcement from the Ontario government on Friday further complicating the matter.

As gathering limits increased to 10 people, Ontario also introduced the concept of a “social circle” which would allow households to combine members without the need for physical distancing.

This presents an opportunity for close contact with friends, provided you all commit to joining the same social circle, but these circles should not overlap.

While hanging out over the upcoming weekend with people not in your social circle physical contact should still be limited whenever possible.

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Additionally, outdoor socializing is better than gathering indoors.

Hanging out with a different 10 people every day also increases the risk of wider community transmission.

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So in short, yes, but keep your distance if you can.

What’s included in Ontario’s general list for phase 2 reopening:

  • Outdoor dine-in services at restaurants, bars and other establishments, including patios, curbside, parking lots and adjacent properties;
  • Select personal and personal care services with the proper health and safety measures in place, including tattoo parlours, barbershops, hair salons and beauty salons;
  • Shopping malls under existing restrictions, including food services reopening for take-out and outdoor dining only
  • Tour and guide services, such as bike and walking, bus and boat tours, as well as tasting and tours for wineries, breweries and distilleries;
  • Water recreational facilities such as outdoor splash pads and wading pools, and all swimming pools;
  • Beach access and additional camping at Ontario Parks;
  • Camping at private campgrounds;
  • Outdoor-only recreational facilities and training for outdoor team sports, with limits to enable physical distancing;
  • Drive-in and drive-through venues for theatres, concerts, animal attractions and cultural appreciation, such as art installations;
  • Film and television production activities, with limits to enable physical distancing
  • Weddings and funerals, with limits on social gatherings to 10 people.
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