The Return of This Sweet Old World

We have, at long last, a well-thought-out re-opening plan that gives us much to look forward to. Because the hope is matched with the science, there’s a strong possibility that our progress will be sustainable this time.

That would mean a gradual, return to parts of our lives that we perhaps once took for granted, but hopefully never will again. Things like being able to share special occasions with friends and family, or to hug grandchildren again – and, with realistic timelines over which we, collectively, have some control. The Province’s plan, announced yesterday, has three stages, each related to specific vaccination targets and with a minimum of three weeks in between.

Step 1: to begin when at least 60% of Ontario adults have been vaccinated with at least one dose, tentatively around June 14.  The initial focus is on resuming activities outdoors, where there is far less chance of transmission, along with a slight loosening of restrictions on non-essential retail.

  1. Outdoor gatherings: up to 10 people

  2. Outdoor dining: up to four people per table

  3. Non-essential retail: 15% capacity

  4. Day camps, camp sites, Ontario parks, splash pads and swimming pools, cottage, cabin and resort rentals: open

  5. Religious services: Outdoor ceremonies like funerals and weddings (but not receptions) can take place with no restriction on numbers, provided that physical distancing can be maintained.

Step 2: can begin when 70 per cent of adults have received at least one dose and 20 per cent are fully vaccinated; this would likely start in early July. Outdoor activities are expanded and limited indoor services resume with small numbers of people and face coverings.

Gatherings increase to 25 people outdoors; indoor gatherings with up to five persons outside your household can begin. The number of people at a table in restaurant patios increases to six.

Other things opening up include organized outdoor sports and leagues, overnight camps, personal care services where face coverings can be worn and with capacity limits, indoor religious services at 15 per cent capacity.

Step 3: can begin when 70 to 80 per cent of adults are vaccinated with one dose and 25 per cent with two doses, likely beginning late July. There is a greater expansion of what’s allowed both indoors and out, with some continued but as yet unspecified restrictions on indoor capacity and physical distancing. For full details, visit:

Until the Province announces otherwise, all existing measures remain in place, presumably until the start of Step 1 – except for the lifting of restrictions on many outdoor activities, as has been long recommended by health advocates, including doctors.

As of tomorrow, Saturday May 22, all golf courses, basketball and tennis courts, soccer fields, baseball diamonds, and lawn bowling greens are open. The same with picnic tables and shelters, outdoor fitness equipment, BMX and skate parks and dry pads located at outdoor artificial ice rinks.

Team sports still cannot be played or practiced, and recreational classes are not permitted. As someone who has been frequently critical of the provincial government’s response during the pandemic, I should note that yesterday’s announcement appears to strike the right balance and has been applauded by members of Ontario’s science table, whose advice it took.

Meanwhile, the number of new daily cases have fallen to less than half of what they were a month ago, but are still extremely high. To make any re-opening plan work, numbers need to drop much further, to the point where contact tracing can be effective in reducing the creation and spread of more transmissible and deadly variants. ICU numbers have improved but also remain dangerously high, causing a continuation of surgery cancellations which in itself is causing a serious risk to many lives.

But a combination of careful mask wearing and distancing, limited exposure outside your household, and the continuation of a successful vaccine rollout will get us to a much happier place this summer. Please write in to tell me what you are most looking forward to.

Today’s music video is my favourite song on that subject:” the breathe from your own lips, the touch of fingertips, a sweet and tender kiss; the sound of a midnight train, wearing someone’s ring, someone calling your name, somebody so warm cradled in your arms”. Up first is a live performance by the songwriter, Lucinda Williams, followed by a hauntingly beautiful studio version by Emmylou Harris and Neil Young.

– John