BY CLOVER STERLING AND ALEX GREGORY
Patio season in Peel is shaping up to be a new experience this summer, as the region is finally reopening. Local municipalities have received the greenlight to reopen restaurants, salons, malls and more in response to a provincial directive. Local restaurants and bars throughout the region have received approval to temporarily expand their outdoor seating sections, while representatives in Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga said that municipal buildings would slowly reopen over the coming week.
However, the province quickly changed its tune last week after COVID-19 cases decreased for a period of nine days straight. At a news conference on Monday, Premier Doug Ford praised the obedience of residents in the region. “We are beating the virus and everyone’s effort is paying off,” said Ford. “We are seeing the trends go the right way, we are hitting our markers, we are taking a cautious approach and this is helping Ontario move forward,” said Ford. The region has seen its overall caseload reduce significantly since a peak in mid-April, with only 17 confirmed cases reported since Monday morning. Ford said that the province would continue to work closely with municipal partners and public health units to ensure that the entirety of the province could enter Stage 2 safely, noting that, “We are watching the public health trends carefully, (and) we are consulting daily with our Chief Medical Officer of Health for the best available medical advice.”
“As we move into (the second stage of recovery) and our restaurants open up their patios, we want to ensure we support them in expanding their spaces quickly to maximize their service potential while ensuring they follow physical distancing guidelines from Peel Public Health and the province,” Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said Wednesday during the city’s regular press conference regarding COVID-19 updates. Peel Region and Toronto were left back last week after the province announced that most other cities and areas in Ontario could move to Stage 2 of a previously-outlined recovery framework.
“When we see people acting responsible following the public health advice and when we see businesses acting responsible adopting our workplace safety guidance, trust in each other is built so that we can all be confident going back to work or visiting our favourite local business,” Williams continued, noting that it was a “reflection of togetherness” that has helped the province make progress. Despite that optimism, local health agencies still urge caution. Peel Public Health issued a Media Release earlier this week reminding residents that COVID-19 is still a health risk and is urging everyone to do their part to limit contact with the virus, including the wearing of face coverings, using hand sanitizer and getting tested if they think they may have the virus.
The announcement was also welcome news to Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie – but she cautioned residents to stay vigilant as shops reopen. An employee serves a customer at Colossus Restaurant in Port Credit. (PWN File Photo) “We may be done with the pandemic, but it is not done with us,” Crombie said Wednesday. “If we all do our part, we will keep our city safe and continue our steady progress to return to normal.” Even though some malls, like Square One in Mississauga, have been given the greenlight, not all shops will be open, Some will still offer curbside pick up, while takeout and delivery shoppers will see vast changes with signage that reads, “Entry Only,” “Exit Only,” “Don’t Walk This Way” and “Stay 2- Meters Apart.” Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams says he had the opportunity to visit a few businesses in the community that have already moved to Stage 2, and he was pleased with what he saw. “I was very reassured to see how seriously they are taking the public health guidance and how they are innovated to keep people safe as they reopen for business,” Williams said last week. “(They are) wearing provided personal protective equipment, practicing physical distancing and using signage sheets to help with contact tracing.”
Dr. Lawrence Loh, Interim Medical Officer of Health for the Region of Peel, emphasized that the three municipalities are at a “pivotal moment” in the pandemic “The more citizens follow these steps, the more likely we will recover quickly and avoid future outbreaks or closures. COVID-19 has already taken so much from us,” Loh said. “Committing to these steps will go a long way to stop it from taking more from our communities.” As businesses are now viable for reopening, city officials expect that all establishments will allow room for physical distancing and the use of face coverings as they allow patrons to return and support.