COVID-19: Brampton mayor wants Step 3 of Ontario reopening to be moved up

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown speaks at a press conference on Wednesday, July 7, 2021. Global News

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown is calling for Step 3 of Ontario’s reopening plan to be moved up, noting improving health indicators and “very impressive” vaccination rates in Peel Region.

Brown made the remarks during a COVID-19 briefing Wednesday morning.

He noted that a few months ago, the positivity rate in Brampton was 22 per cent and has since dropped below two per cent. He said Brampton Civic Hospital “was the busiest hospital in the country when it came to COVID” and now has just three COVID-19 patients, one of whom is in intensive care.

Read more: Doug Ford says next steps in Ontario’s COVID-19 reopening plan to be announced within 3 weeks

“These positive trends do speak to the fact that our sacrifices have worked. But I’d add to that: I think it’s time we show the public some more goodwill. I have been advocating that we can move up the Stage 3 reopening,” Brown said.

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“I was on a call with GTHA mayors where there appeared to be a consensus that reopening could happen sooner. I know many felt that it could happen a week earlier. I’m even comfortable saying it could happen before then.”

Ontario as a whole reported 194 COVID-19 cases Wednesday and no new deaths for the first time since mid-October. Overall, daily COVID-19 case counts have decreased significantly in Ontario in recent weeks and health indicators have improved, though there are still 220 people in intensive care due to the virus.

On June 30, Ontario moved into Step 2 of the reopening plan, which expanded outdoor activities and settings began the opening of indoor settings.

Under the plan released on May 20, a minimum period of three weeks is supposed to be in place before Step 3 could come into effect. Based on the published criteria, the earliest Ontario could enter Step 3 would be July 21.

During his first press briefing as the province’s chief medical officer last week, Dr. Kieran Moore said he expected the province to be in Step 2 for 21 days before entering Step 3.

Read more: Ontario reports 194 new COVID-19 cases, zero deaths for the first time since last year

Brown noted Wednesday that the vaccination thresholds required to enter Step 3 have been met.

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Between 70 and 80 per cent of eligible adults must have received their first vaccine dose and 25 per cent their second dose. As of Wednesday, provincial figures showed 78.5 per cent of residents aged 18+ have received their first shot and 49.2 per cent their second.

“If you look at the targets for Stage 3, we have exceeded all those vaccination thresholds and I really want to get our economy going. I want to get Brampton going again,” Brown said.

“It pains me to think that we still have sectors that are not allowed to be open. It pains me to know that in the middle of a heatwave, we’ve got indoor recreation facilities that our kids can’t use. We’ve got indoor pools that kids can’t use.”

During Moore’s press conference last week, however, he said hospitalizations, and other metrics are also considered when moving into different steps, though the exact thresholds for those weren’t released.

Read more: Restrictions loosen at Ontario long-term care homes

When asked if Peel Public Health supports calls to move up Step 3, Dr. Lawrence Loh, the region’s medical officer, said during Wednesday’s briefing that the region continues to recommend following the advice of provincial officials.

He said that the vaccine thresholds identified previously were made in the face of the Alpha variant, not the Delta strain.

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Loh also said that the province is vaccinating around 200,000 to 250,000 people per day and every day reopening is advanced, “we are essentially leaving 250,000 doses of coverage on the table.”

Loh said he understands that there have been many sacrifices made, but officials want this reopening to be the last by having as high second-dose coverage as possible.

Read more: Ontario top doctor calls for COVID-19 vaccine push among young people ahead of school return

Both Brown and Loh also pushed for more people to get both their first and second vaccine doses as soon as possible.

Health Minister Christine Elliott was asked during an unrelated press conference Wednesday morning if the province was considering moving up Step 3.

“We have just recently moved into Step 2 and as you know the Delta variant is still out there, it is still very active and that is why we really need to take a very cautious approach to opening up further,” she said.

In the Step 3 guidelines, there are general statements that speak to a variety of sectors but unlike Steps 1 and 2, there aren’t specifics in certain areas. Provincial officials have said further details will be released in advance of moving into Step 3.

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Click to play video: 'Doug Ford says next steps in Ontario’s COVID-19 reopening plan to be announced within 3 weeks' Doug Ford says next steps in Ontario’s COVID-19 reopening plan to be announced within 3 weeks
Doug Ford says next steps in Ontario’s COVID-19 reopening plan to be announced within 3 weeks – Jul 5, 2021

Here’s a high-level look at what will change in Step 3:

– large indoor, outdoor gatherings allowed and indoor dining reopening
– greater expansion of capacity for retail businesses
– larger indoor religious services, rites and ceremonies allowed
– indoor meeting, event spaces reopening
– indoor sports, recreational facilities reopening
– indoor seated events, attractions, cultural amenities reopening
– casinos and bingo halls reopening
– other outdoor, Step 2 activities will be allowed to operate indoors

— with files from Nick Westoll

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