With the first stage of Ontario’s reopening plan set to begin on May 19 – and the spread of COVID-19 remaining a threat – many Torontonians, including businesses allowed to open, have been left wondering what these changes will mean as social distancing measures continue.
Some retailers will be able to open, along with seasonal services and public spaces – “if they’re ready,” according to Premier Doug Ford. Domestic workers, including housekeepers and cooks, will also be able to resume work. Ford had originally listed four criteria that needed to be met ahead of reopening.
But Toronto councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam says “there is still some dispute as to whether those criteria have been met,” as well as uncertainty among business owners about how to accommodate physical distancing measures.
In fact, the province’s chief medical officer of health David Williams told the CBC that the province has yet to meet the criteria, which includes ongoing testing of suspected cases to detect new outbreaks quickly.
“I think we’re getting closer, but if it was already there, I would have already recommended it,” Williams says.
In a statement released Friday, Wong-Tam urged businesses and members of the public to “err on the side of caution.” She echoed the advice of Toronto’s medical officer of health Eileen de Villa to avoid contact with those outside your home wear a face mask or covering when in public.
“While we have much to be optimistic about, we cannot take our progress for granted,” says Wong-Tam. “We need to continue to monitor our data and we need to be ready for the potential of a second wave of the virus to appear.”
Not all businesses that can open will be reopening.
In an Instagram post on Saturday, the team behind retail shop Likely General wrote, “We won’t be reopening May 19th. We’ve no judgement for those that do, but for us, it isn’t the right time to do so – we don’t feel ready. There’s a ton more I’d like to talk about with you and fellow shop owners, but today calls for a deep breath, clear quiet focus and contemplation of next steps.”
The Handwork Department and Imelda will also not be reopening. In a similar Instagram post, the latter wrote, “We are not interested in being sacrificial lambs for this harmful, foolish, completely unsafe and unprepared rushed reopening.”
All three shops, like many other small businesses who have been struggling to pay rent and bills, will continue to offer curbside pick-up for online orders and delivery.