Ontario, it's time. Premier Doug Ford announced on Monday, July 13, that most regions are now ready to enter stage three in Ontario. Ford confirmed 24 areas of the province will move into the next phase this Friday, excluding the GTA and some other regions.
Ford has teased last week that "great announcements" were right around the corner and that stage three should arrive before the end of July.
On Monday, he confirmed in his daily media briefing that stage three has now arrived.
"Today, we are ready to take the next step," said Ford.
The premier noted that 24 of Ontario's 34 public health unit regions will move into the next phase as of 12:01 a.m. on Friday, July 17.
That excludes Toronto, Peel, York, Durham, Niagara, Windsor-Essex, Haldimand—Norfolk, Halton, Hamilton, and Lambton, as was the case for stage two.
So what does that mean for the areas entering stage three of the province's reopening framework?
Well, more businesses and attractions can reopen. But day-to-day life will change again, too.
For a start, Ford noted bars may now return to offering indoor dining in these areas, as long as social distancing measures can still be in place.
However, large gatherings like sporting events with crowds, gigs, and large festivals, are still off the table for the foreseeable future.
As was the case with stage two, though, Ontario's main hubs of both population and COVID-19 cases, like the City of Toronto and Peel Region, will likely be among the very last areas of the province to reach stage three.
Health Minister Christine Elliott spoke on Monday of the importance of allowing a buffer period for the effects of entering stage three to be felt.
Staff reiterated again that high-density regions like Toronto pose far more problems and potential risks than much less-populated areas. Elliott suggested a minimum of four weeks will be needed before stage three in Toronto can be considered.
Ontario has been under a state of emergency since March 17, and that is expected to continue until at least July 24, although the Ford government said last week it expects that extension to be the last.
On Monday, the province reported 116 new cases of the virus, per CTV News, down from the updates recorded over the weekend.