Local health unit provides clarification on when businesses can reopen

The Echo has received several questions in recent weeks, asking when local businesses will be able to reopen. Bernie Mayer, manager of health protection with the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit offered these answers.

Q) Initially, businesses were to be able to reopen on Jan. 23 after the Dec. 26 lockdown measures – is that still possible, or does the state of emergency/stay-at-home order trump that?
Currently, we are dealing with a number of different pieces of provincial legislation and orders. All work in combination to help control the spread of COVID-19, and each must be complied with.

Most of the orders under the Reopening Ontario Act (ROA) are extended to Feb. 19. This legislation first came into effect last summer and includes measures on how different businesses can open and operate during the pandemic.

The province implemented a COVID-19 shutdown on Dec. 26, given a worrying rise in COVID-19 cases. On Jan. 12, the Ontario government further declared a State of Emergency (including Stay-at-Home Order) due to the continuing – and alarming – increase in COVID-19. These measures were put in place to:

Keep people at home as much as possible and save lives; stop the spread of COVID-19 in communities; prevent the hospital system from becoming overwhelmed; and protecting vulnerable populations and those who care for them

According to the province, the enhanced public health and workplace safety measures introduced as part of the shutdown and state of emergency (including the stay-at-home order) “are anticipated to be in place until at least Feb. 11.” The province also indicates “the results of these measures will be evaluated throughout the provincial emergency to determine when it is safe to lift any restrictions, or if they need to be extended.”

As to when the orders may be lifted, the health unit has not heard anything otherwise. Typically, we are not given prior notice from the Ministry.
For a full list of current public health measures and restrictions in Ontario, visit the provincial government website.

Q) If so, at what point – based on what we know right now – will businesses be able to reopen – Feb. 11?
During the state of emergency, essential businesses are allowed to stay open to customers (with COVID-19 restrictions in place). Many non-essential businesses are still allowed to operate – albeit in modified format with restricted hours, curbside pickup/delivery only, etc. Other businesses/venues (like movie theatres, performing arts centres and ski hills) have had to close during the state of emergency.

When we get back to normal is really the province’s call. The Ontario government will review all measures based on COVID-19 cases and transmission rates, and will ultimately decide when the State of Emergency is lifted and businesses can resume normal operations.

Currently we know the Reopening Ontario Act is extended to Feb 19, while the state of emergency (including stay-at-home order) is in effect until Feb 11. There is still the chance these could be further extended.

Q) Some people have heard that our area is opening sooner, and some (Sir Sam’s ski hill) have said our area is opening later – Feb. 19 or 20.
As mentioned previously, the health unit can’t speculate on when it will be back to business as usual. Lifting COVID-19 restrictions and the state of emergency is a provincial decision, and the Ontario government is the one that will make the final call.