Published Wednesday, March 3, 2021 10:06AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, March 3, 2021 5:13PM EST
Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa shared her recommendation during a briefing at city hall on Wednesday, calling it a “modest step towards more flexibility in daily life.”
If approved by the provincial government the designation would allow non-essential retail stores to reopen across the city, including those located in shopping malls.
“Based on the data in front of us it is clear that reopening widely such as under the red category of the provincial framework is not advisable at this time given our case counts,” de Villa said, noting that the number of samples that have screened positive for a variant of concern in Toronto have doubled over the last week. “Moving out of the stay-at home order is a reasonable course of action for Toronto although I will add that while there are evident reasons for a change in status there remains reasons or risks that underscore how moving back into grey status is, or will be, a delicate balance.”
The province lifted its state of emergency order last month and began gradually moving regions back into its framework, with the exception of Toronto, Peel and North Bay which have remained under an extended stay-at-home order.
As part of Toronto’s potential move back into the grey zone, de Villa has issued a Section 22 order that will establish a series of additional requirements for workplaces with active outbreaks, including the mandatory wearing of masks at all times by employees.
De Villa said that she has also asked the Ministry of Labour to conduct a “workplace inspection blitz” in the city.
“Returning to the province’s framework represents a modest step towards more flexibility in daily life which can be taken because we all worked to limit the spread of COVID-19 but it is important that we all act in ways that do not squander these hard earned small steps forward,” she told reporters. “It is a question of preserving what we have gained.”
Wednesday was Toronto’s 100th consecutive day under a lockdown but the recommendation made by de Villa could represent a slight loosening of restrictions for the first time since this summer.
Of course, restaurants and bars will remain takeout-only and other businesses like gyms and hair salons won’t be able to reopen for at least two weeks.
Indoor gatherings of people from different households will also continue to be prohibited, though outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed.
“I am very sympathetic to those who will not be able to reopen going into grey but I think the best way in which we can avoid that further lockdown later on, which I think everybody to a person says would be the worst case scenario, is to take these cautious steps one at a time and to follow public health advice and keep doing what we have been doing in many respects and then the day may not be too far down the road where we can do more,” Mayor John Tory said during Wednesday’s briefing.