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Toronto will be allowed to enter the second stage of Ontario's reopen plan Wednesday, Premier Doug Ford announced Monday.
Most of the province began stage two earlier this month, reopening restaurant and bar patios, along with personal care services like hair salons, which were shuttered in mid-March as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. Toronto, the Peel region and Windsor-Essex were left out, however, and have remained in the first stage.
Starting Friday, Toronto and Peel can ease a long list of restrictions, though Ford said residents must still practice physical distancing.
"We’re winning the fight, but it’s not over," Ford said at his daily COVID-19 update.
Transmission of COVID-19 in Toronto and Peel appears to be dropping, Ford added, and those regions have managed to keep testing numbers high while leaving hospital capacity open.
Meanwhile, new cases in Ontario have been on the decline for several weeks, with the province reporting 161 new cases — the lowest number seen since late March — even as testing numbers remain above the target of 20,000 per day.
Joe Cressy, a Toronto city councillor and chair of the city's board of health, said he was optimistic about the reopening but cautioned that "we are not out of the woods yet." Until there's a vaccine, he said in a statement, risk remains.
"We will experience new outbreaks, and we will, sadly, see deaths," he said. "This is inevitable."
Windsor-Essex is now the only region to remain at stage one.
Health Minister Christine Elliott has previously said the area had to wait longer because it's close to the Canada-United States border, where workers transporting essential goods continue to go back and forth. And in recent days, the region has struggled to manage a spike in cases among foreign workers, who often live in close quarters that allow the virus to spread easily.
"The threat of this virus in Windsor-Essex is still too great," Ford said.
Toronto and Peel are entering stage two of Ontario's COVID-19 reopening on Wednesday. #onpoli
The province and the federal government will begin joint inspections of farms with temporary foreign workers, Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said. Ford blamed the jump in cases on farmers, who he said "aren't cooperating."
"They aren't sending out the people to get tested," he said. "It is not fair to the people of Windsor."
Editor's Note: This story was updated at 2:28 p.m. to include more details from the announcement.