THUNDER BAY – The province on Friday moves into Step 1 of its reopening plan.
That's great news for many businesses in Thunder Bay.
Joshua Dowback, manager of The Foundry, said he’s looking forward to Friday’s reopening, which will allow his restaurant to start serving clients, albeit no more than four at a time per table and only out of doors.
It’s a start, he said, with summer’s arrival just 10 days away.
“We’re really excited to be back this year. Obviously we’re all hoping we’re seeing the end of this pandemic at this point. We’re going into it sticking with our old protocols and making sure that we’re going to be safe,” Dowback said.
The phones have already started ringing off the hook, he added.
“We’ve booked up this weekend. We are booking into next week. The support from the community is amazing. We felt it coming. I think all of us sensed it was imminent, so we’ve been preparing well. We have lot of staff who are excited to get back to work and lots of new food items,” Dowback said. “It’s not been too hard because we’ve done it before.”
Thunder Bay Mayor Bill Mauro, however, would like to see Ontario’s plan pick up the pace a bit, especially in regions like Thunder Bay and elsewhere in Northwestern Ontario, where case counts remain relatively low.
Under the new roadmap, which replaced the colour-coded framework, outdoor social gatherings are permitted for up to 10 people and outdoor dining for up to four people per table is allowed. Essential retailers are capped at 25 per cent capacity, while non-essential capacity is limited to 15 per cent. However, only stores in malls with street-facing entrances are allowed to reopen to in-person shopping. The rest must remain closed for at least three more weeks, the earliest the second phase can be rolled out under current regulations.
Mauro said it’s great news for some, but terrible news for others.
“I think that people have been waiting for this for a very long time. They’re small steps, but they’re steps that people will take and are encouraged by,” Mauro said. “I still remain where I’ve been for a couple of months that clearly I feel that regionally the time had come some time ago.”
The mayor said most small businesses have felt Thunder Bay was ready to reopen some time ago, after a massive spike in cases in March brought the active case count to 470, only to see it drop as low as 17 last month.
“We are where we are,” Mauro said. “What is happening is a good sign and making it seem like we’re getting closer.”
Asked if the province might consider hastening the move to Step 2, which would allow the return of personal-care services, Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province plans to take a cautious and careful approach and not rush the reopening plan.
Elliott said the chief medical officer of health is still advising three weeks between stages is still necessary, even though the province learned more than seven million additional Moderna vaccine doses will be arriving in Canada in June, unexpectedly.
“Things are doing very well so far. We have over 11 per cent of our population that has been double vaccinated. We need to get to 20,” Elliott said.
She didn’t rule an early move to Step 2 completely out, however.
“We’re reviewing it on a daily basis," Elliott said.
What’s permitted under Step 1:
- · Outdoor social gatherings for up to 10 people
- · Outdoor dining for up to 4 people per table
- · Essential retail capacity at 25 per cent
- · Non-essential retail at 15 per cent
- · Religious services, rites and ceremonies indoors at 15 per cent capacity, outdoors with capacity limited to permit physical distancing of two metres
- · Outdoor sports, fitness and personal training up to 10 people
- · Day camps
- · Campsites and campgrounds
- · Overnight camping at Ontario Parks
- · Outdoor horse racing and motor speedways
- · Outdoor pools and wading pools