Local health unit provides clarification on when businesses can reopen

The response has received several questions over the past few weeks as to when local businesses can reopen. Bernie Mayer, manager of health protection for the Haliburton District Health Unit, Kawartha, Pine Ridge, provided these answers.

F) Originally, companies should be able to reopen on January 23rd after the lockdown measures of December 26th – is that still possible or does the state of emergency / ordering at home trump that?
We are currently dealing with a number of different state laws and regulations. All are working together to contain the spread of COVID-19 and all must be complied with.

Most orders under the Reopening Ontario Act (ROA) are extended through February 19. This law first came into force last summer and includes measures to open and operate various businesses during the pandemic.

The province implemented a COVID-19 shutdown on December 26th as the number of COVID-19 cases rose worryingly. On January 12, the Ontario government also declared a state of emergency (including the stay at home order) due to the continued – and alarming – rise in COVID-19. These measures have been taken 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 improved public health and safety measures (including the stay-at-home order) introduced as part of the shutdown and state of emergency are “expected to be in effect by at least February 11”. The province also states that “the results of these interventions will be evaluated throughout the province’s emergency to determine when it is safe to lift restrictions or whether they need to be extended.”

When the orders can be lifted, the health department has heard nothing else. We are usually not notified in advance by the ministry.
For a complete list of current Ontario public health measures and restrictions, please visit the provincial government website.

Q) If so, at what time – based on what we currently know – can companies reopen – February 11th?
During the state of emergency, key stores are allowed to remain open to customers (with COVID-19 restrictions). Many non-essential stores are allowed to continue operating – albeit in a modified format with restricted hours, roadside pickup / delivery only, etc. Other stores / venues (such as cinemas, performing arts centers, and ski slopes) had to close during the state of the emergency.

If we go back to normal, that really is the province’s call. The Ontario government will review all measures based on COVID-19 cases and transmission rates and ultimately decide when the state of emergency will be lifted and companies can resume normal operations.

We currently know that the Ontario Reopening Act will be extended to February 19, while the state of emergency (including the stay at home order) will last until February 11. There is still a possibility that these will be extended further.

Q) Some people have heard that our area will open earlier and some (Sir Sams Skiberg) have said that our area will open later on February 19th or 20th.
As mentioned earlier, the health department cannot speculate about when it will be back to normal. Lifting the COVID-19 restrictions and state of emergency is a province decision, and the Ontario government will make the final decision.

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