Waterloo Region residents will join the rest of the province in Step 2 of the provincial government’s COVID-19 reopening plan on Monday, the region announced on Thursday.
“Our community has made a remarkable effort to protect each other. We’re working together to push back against the Delta variant, stabilizing our case rates and hospitalizations, while increasing vaccination rates,” medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang stated.
“Continuing to build on this momentum puts Waterloo Region on track not only to move to Step 2 on Monday but will help keep us on track for Step 3.”
When the province provided its daily COVID-19 update on Thursday, Waterloo Region remained atop the charts, producing the most new COVID-19 cases despite its relatively small size compared to places like Toronto, Peel Region, Hamilton and Ottawa.
Wang said that the indicators show we are headed in the right direction.
“For some perspective, when we were at the height of our pandemic rates in Waterloo Region, it was during the second wave, we were at approximately 200 cases per 100,000 per week,” she explained. “We’re now at approximately 50-55 cases per 100,000 per week.
“So while it’s it’s definitely much higher than we’d like it to be at this time, it it is still showing that we are exerting downward pressure on Delta because we did rise earlier last month to close to 80 cases per 100,000 per week.”
It allows for people to go for haircuts or get their nails done by appointment, hold indoor gatherings and larger outdoor gatherings.
There will also be increased capacity for Weddings, funerals and religious services or ceremonies as well as larger gatherings on restaurant patios.
Stores inside of malls can reopen while outdoor sports leagues can also resume.
On June 24, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that the province would be moving into Step 2 on July 2, but within hours of the announcement, Wang said the region would remain in Step 1 for the foreseeable future.
On Tuesday, Wang told the board of health that once the region joined the rest of the province in Step 2, it would follow along the path set out for the rest of Ontario.
Exact details of the public health restrictions that will take effect under the next stage of Ontario’s reopening plan are in the works, Health Minister Christine Elliott said Wednesday morning as municipal leaders called for clarity on the rules.
Mayors and chairs from the largest municipalities in the Toronto and Hamilton areas called for clear guidance on Step 3 earlier in the week so that businesses and organizations can plan effectively for the changes.
“The guidelines themselves, even in draft form, are needed on an urgent basis for planning purposes and we know the province understands the needs of these hard-hit businesses and individuals,” the group said in a statement.
Waterloo Region chair Karen Redman hopes the region will continue to improve so it stays in lockstep with the province
“Moving to Step 2 is great news, but let me be clear, our sights are now fully focused on entering Step 3 in line with the province,” she said.
She encouraged residents to get vaccinated to keep the momentum going.
Wang said the region will watch the same indicators it had before allowing a move into Step 2, to allow a move into Step 3.
“We had to continue to see signs that our situation is stable and not deteriorating and we need to continue to see a rapid increase in vaccination coverage in our in our community,” she explained.
“Those are the same factors that we look to see to move to Step 2. And that will be the same for Step 3.”
—With files from Global News’ Gabby Rodrigues and Nick Westoll